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Alternative Hull Paints

Copper from anti-fouling hull paints can be a significant source of water pollution in marina basins. Copper harms marine life by impeding or altering their development. As a result, boaters are beginning to convert to alternative hull paints that are better for the environment.    

Alternative hull paints are better for the environment because they do not contribute to copper pollution. Currently, there a number of alternative hull paints on the market, and several major paint companies are continuing to develop new products and technologies. The alternatives to copper hull paints include:

  • Zinc-based paints
  • Organic biocide-based paints
  • Other paints using pesticides-related compounds
  • Non-biocide coatings such as ceramic, epoxy, or silicone-based paints
  • Other non-paint technologies

The Port of San Diego has taken an active role in identifying alternative hull paints or other concepts that can reduce copper pollution in San Diego Bay marinas. Below are links to some helpful tools for converting your boat paint to a non-copper alternative.

 Alternative Hull Paint Testing in San Diego Bay

A 3-year study called “The Safer Alternatives to Copper based Antifouling Paints" (EPA-Funded Project, 2011) evaluated a variety of alternative hull paints. Of the paints tested, 21 performed well when compared to copper hull paints and 11 were further tested in real-life scenarios on boats. The study concluded that alternative hull paints are environmentally-friendly, cost-effective and are an effective replacement.

pdf (Study) Bibliography of Aquatic Studies on Copper and Antifouling Paints, 1980 - present (271 KB)

Helpful Tools for Boaters

Alternative Hull Paint brochure - A user-friendly guide was created based on the EPA-funded study findings. The guide presents key considerations to help boaters select the appropriate alternative product for their boat according to boat type, boat use, and other expectations, such as paint life and repainting frequency or cleaning needs.

The Alternative Hull Paint Information Packet  - The packet provides boaters information on currently available non-biocide hull paints and other innovative products from various paint manufacturers. It is not an exhaustive listing of non-biocide hull paints that are available on the market and the contents may change as new information becomes available. Please be aware that this information is to be used as guidance only and is not meant as a recommendation or endorsement by the Port for any particular product. Consult your boatyard representative or paint manufacturer for additional information on available products.

Hull Paint Cost Calculator - The cost calculator is designed to help boaters understand the costs of converting to alternative hull paints.

Relevant Links

University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Information on Non-toxic Antifouling Strategies

Hornblower Vessel Volunteers for Second Round of Copper-Free Hull Paint Testing

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Jerry Jerome, salesman for HullSpped High Performance Coatings, paints a Hornblower hull at Knight & Carver for the paint testing. (Courtesy: Dale Frost)If you spot the Newport Hornblower in San Diego Bay and are wondering about its distinctive multi-colored paint job, it’s standing out for a reason.

The vessel just began a second-round of testing for copper-free hull paints. In fact, since 2009, the Newport has served as a testing platform and has participated in the Port’s alternative hull paint testing and research efforts to find effective alternatives to copper-based hull paints.

Port Honors Boat Owners for Participation in Hull Paint Study

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Thirteen boat owners were publicly honored by the Board of Port Commissioners for their assistance with an alternative boat hull paint study. (Photo Courtesy: Dale Frost)Thirteen boat owners were publicly honored by the Board of Port Commissioners for their assistance with an alternative boat hull paint study. The owners volunteered their vessels and their time in the "Safer Alternatives to Copper-based Antifouling Paint" project that was designed to assist the Port with reducing the level of copper in San Diego Bay.

The goal of the project, funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was to evaluate alternative coatings to determine if they could be applied and cleaned in a manner similar to commonly used copper hull paints. The alternative coatings also had to be cost-effective.

EPA Grant Project Hull Testing Efforts in Full Swing

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The Port is underway in Phase two of its EPA Grant Project - testing alternative paints on boat hulls. Starting in April, ten of the top performing paints identified in the panel tests were applied to boat hulls. Currently there are 12 boats participating in the study, two boats are included as duplicates. 

thumb_EPA_2The paint application process was a success - largely in part to the efforts and contributions  of our local boatyards. The Project Team increased their understanding of the hull paint application process. A highlight of this was having the opportunity to see some new stripping technologies. EPA_3Additionally, we gained valuable insight into how tie coats, primers, and painting techniques, such as spraying and rolling factor into the overall cost of the alternative paints.  

Port Resolves to Reduce Copper Contaminants in San Diego Bay

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The Port District has committed to developing the policies and programs necessary to reduce copper inputs from recreational and commercial boats. (Courtesy: Stephanie Bauer)The Port of San Diego has taken a leadership role to eliminate the use of copper-based paint on the hulls of recreational boats in San Diego Bay. The goal is to preserve marine life and water quality in the bay.

The Board of Port Commissioners on December 1, 2009 passed a resolution stating its commitment to achieve reductions in copper levels within or in advance of regulatory requirements set by the Regional and State Water Quality Control Boards. Regulations call for an incremental copper reduction of 10 percent by 2012.

Port Seeking New Biocide-free Hull Paints

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The San Diego Unified Port District (Port) is seeking parties interested in assisting us in identifying options for addressing copper problems in San Diego Bay marinas which are associated with boat hull coatings. Specifically, the Port is seeking parties interested in: developing non-toxic boat hull coatings; submitting innovative replacements for copper-bearing coating; and/or recommending concepts that can reduce or eliminate copper leachate from impacting marine life in the area. The Port is requesting letters of interest from parties having experience with non-toxic hull coatings, hull coating application, or other experience related to non-copper hull coatings for recreational boat use. 

THE SUBMITTAL DEADLINE HAS CLOSED (due at 4:00pm PST on July 31, 2009). 

The complete Request for Information package is available.

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