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Almost 700,000 people in BC enjoy recreational boating today. With more joining in every year, it becomes even more important to minimize our marine footprint, and to protect the sensitive creatures that call water home. It starts with safe and careful refueling.

We talked to Mike Short, CMM, owner of Vancouver based False Creek Fuels, Marina Manager at Clean Marine BC Certified Vancouver Marina, and Boating BC Board member – about what every boater can do be safe and green when refueling. Marinas certified by the Georgia Strait Alliance's Clean Marine BC Program are committed to adopting environmentally sound management principles and operating practices like eliminating the release of contaminants into the ocean, minimizing pollutants and adopting waste reduction and recycling strategies.

“Just a half litre of spilled oil can cover an acre of surface water,” says Mike. “Owners are responsible for fueling their own boats, so it’s important to know how to refuel properly, and to follow all the regulations posted at marinas.”

According to Mike the most common mistakes boaters make - especially new ones - include not knowing which is the right port for fuel. their fuel tank capacity, and the flow rate their boat can accept. Most pumps accommodate the faster flow rates required to fill commercial vessels, and “kickback” or “burping” is a major source of fuel spills - so it’s important to go slowly. If it’s your first time refueling, review the rules, and ask the attendant for help.

He also emphasizes the importance of closing all doors and hatches to keep explosive fumes from blowing into the bilge, and making sure you get the correct type of fuel - to double verify - before you put it into your boat.

Clean Up

When you do have a spill - even a dribble - clean up it immediately and thoroughly. Most marinas have containment equipment such as hydrocarbon absorbing spill pads handy. Just make sure you dispose of any used spill materials as hazardous waste. And never use soap to clean up a spill: it is illegal, doesn’t work and is toxic to marine life.

Mike’s final word? Mistakes happen so pay attention, don’t rush through the process – and keep yourself and your marine environment safe.

For more tips on being a green boater, click here.

Safe Refueling Tips


  • Tie your boat securely to the fuel dock, and ask all passengers to go ashore
  • Turn off your engine, and close all hatches, doors and windows
  • Turn off all electrical equipment, and extinguish all flames (propane equipment, diesel furnaces, etc.)
  • Keep an absorbent rag, spill pad or fuel collar ready to catch any drips
  • Locate and select your fuel fill port (versus others like water and waste)
  • Double check: the type of fuel you need, and the capacity of your boat.


  • Start fueling slowly - fuel can dispense at rates too fast for your boat
  • Keep the fuel nozzle in contact with the fill port (or risk a static spark)
  • Listen: Once your fuel is near capacity, you will hear a change in sound, or a gurgling
  • Do not “top off” the tank, or risk a spill
  • Clean up any drops or spills immediately.


  • Start your blower, open the engine hatch to sniff for fumes, and check the bilge
  • Once the boat is safe and free of any explosive fumes, ask your passengers to reboard.

Note: Make sure you are on the shore when filling portable tanks, and when transferring fuel between tanks. Carry reserve fuel in a container that connects to your engine.

Did you know?

  • If every one of the 200,000 boats on the coast spilled just a half litre, the oil slick would cover over 800 square kilometres!
  • There have been studies in recent years suggesting that the small spills at marine fuel pumps result in as much - if not more - fuel residue in the waters than the commercial boating sector.
  • Chemicals present in fuel
 react with sunlight to become up to 50,000 
times more toxic.
  • Source: The Georgia Strait Alliance

 August 08, 2016