The impact of global warming is already being felt at Suffolk Yacht Harbour
PUBLISHED: 08:15 12 December 2018
When we dwell on the current impact of global warming, we tend to think of polar ice caps melting or Californian wild fires, both of which might seem a world away from sleepy Suffolk. But Jonathan Dyke, the managing director of Suffolk Yacht Harbour, says he can already see the impact of climate change on his harbour in Levington.
“We do see bigger tides now,” he says. “In the last three years, we’ve seen bigger surges which usually happen in a strong northerly gale, usually over a number of days combined with low pressure and high tides.
“The harbour is designed and constructed to withstand a tidal surge, but it is an increasing, significant concern. There’s no doubt we’re seeing more wind and more surges.”
Mr Dyke explains that there are steps he can take to alleviate the damage that might occur when a storm surge hits Suffolk. As well as ensuring that guide piles (the pillars which support the floating jetties) allow the pontoons to float so they remain captive, he has to make sure the gangways have enough travel so they can go from pointing down to pointing level, rather than sloping up, as has happened during the worst surges of recent years. “That is quite an alarming thing to see,” he says.
But it’s not all bad news when it comes to the ecological environment at Suffolk Yacht Harbour.
Thankfully, despite the scourge of plastic in our oceans, Mr Dyke claims that the River Orwell is “an awful lot cleaner” than he remembers is being 35 years ago when he first started working there.
“You see bass in the river now, which I didn’t used to see,” he says. “But we have to improve education process for the people who go on the water, as the wider marine environment is a concern.”
While Suffolk Yacht Harbour boasts a workshop for restoration of the old classic wooden boats, which Mr Dyke says have become more popular in recent years, he is also concerned about what will happen to the hundreds of fiberglass boats moored at his harbour when they reach the end of their life cycle.
“As these boats get older, they get cheaper, and unfortunately at the end of their life, they are owned by the person who has got the least amount of money to sensibly dispose of them, so they tend to get abandoned in boat yards,” he says.
While many of the components of such a boat such as the soft furnishings, engines, oils, cookers, electronics, wiring, aluminium, and steel, can be removed and go through a recycling processes, the actual fiberglass hull is very difficult to dispose of.
“There are ways it can be crushed and turned into road-fill used in road surfaces, but that process is very expensive and difficult,” he explains. “There is a company in Norway that has found a way to separate the fiberglass resin from the glass, but it’s a very expensive process which is very much in its infancy and is not yet economically viable.
“The other problem is that when we disassemble these boats, they’ve got to be moved, so there are transportation costs as well as the costs of the labour to break them down.”
In the same way that plans have been mooted to charge food packaging manufacturers to contribute towards the cost that local councils have to pay to process the waste, so too in the boating world, there has been talk about trying to get large boat builders making GRP (glass reinforced plastic) boats to pay a premium that would eventually enable the boats to be disposed of in a more environmentally friendly way.
“But it’s very difficult to make workable,” Mr Dyke admits. “And it pushes the price of the boat higher, which makes it uncompetitive and that is a massive challenge. “
His solution to the challenge is a simpler one – to get more young families interested in sailing.
“Its critical to keep young people interested in boats, to stop those boats from getting abandoned when the older generation of boat owners become less physically able to use them,” he says. “When you’ve got generations below who are interested in taking on that hobby, it’s not such a problem.”