NYMPP: Section 4 - Fueling
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New York Sea Grant's
Marina Pollution Prevention Web Site

Section 4:
- Fuel Station Operation

Potential Environmental Impacts

Small spills associated with boat fueling can accumulate and become a much larger problem.
According to the EPA, complex hydrocarbon compounds in oil and gasoline are toxic to marine life, upset fish reproduction and interfere with growth and reproduction of bottom dwelling organisms. Oil and gas that are ingested by one animal can be passed to the next animal that eats it. In a marina, petroleum will also deteriorate the white Styrofoam in floats and docks, and discolor boat hulls, woodwork and paint. Gasoline spills are also a safety problem because of the product's flammability. A single pint of petroleum product released into the water can cover one acre of water surface area and can seriously damage aquatic habitat.

Best Management Practices

To the extent possible, locate fuel docks in protected areas to reduce potential for accidents due to passing boat traffic, and design them so that spill containment equipment can be easily deployed to surround a spill and any boats that may be tied to the fuel dock.

Store spill containment and control materials in a clearly marked and easily accessible location, attached or adjacent to the fuel dock. A rule of thumb is that you should have an oil absorbent boom three times as long as the length of the longest vessel that will be using the facility. For examples of spill containment product manufacturers, click here.

Keep oil absorbent pads and pillows available at the fuel dock for staff and customers to mop up drips and small spills.

Carry vent line whistles, vent cups, oil absorbent fuel collars and other fuel spill preventative devices in your ships store. For examples of recreational boat fuel spill prevention devices, click here.

Provide a stable platform for fueling personal watercraft, if your facility services significant numbers of them.

Routinely inspect and repair fuel transfer equipment, such as hoses and pipes.

Place plastic or nonferrous drip trays lined with oil absorbent materials beneath fuel connections.

Train fuel dock staff to handle and dispense fuel properly. Many drips and small spills originate at the fuel dock. Fuel dock staff should be trained to:

  • Fill tanks slowly and carefully
  • Prevent overfilling of gas tanks by listening to or keeping a hand at the air vent, if possible; a pronounced flow of air is emitted when the tank is nearly full
  • Remember that fuel expands in warm weather and to leave at least 5% of space in a fuel tank to allow for that expansion
  • Attach a container or absorbent pad to the external vent fitting to collect overflow, as a precautionary measure. Several products attach to the boat with suction cups

  • Keep an absorbent pad or pillow ready to catch spills, drips, or overflow
  • Put a drip pan under portable fuel tanks. If possible, fill portable fuel tanks ashore
  • Prevent spills as well as respond to spills
  • Give information and direction to customers. For sample text for a fueling sign click here.

Regulatory Issues

All marine service stations are subject to the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Automotive and Marine Service Station Code (NFPA 30A). (To view a copy of this section of the code on-line at the NFPA Web site, click here.) These requirements are adopted locally. Check with your municipal fire marshal for local requirements, or contact the State Fire Marshall's Office (In New York call (518) 474-6746 or e-mail at fire@dos.state.ny.us). The following requirements are listed in NFPA 30A as pertaining to marine service stations. (Note: this is not intended to be a complete list of all requirements):

  • Dispensing nozzles must be of the automatic-closing type without a latch-open device or holding clip [NFPA 30A, Section 10-4.2].
  • All marine service stations must be attended by an employee responsible for supervising, observing, and controlling the dispensing of liquids whenever the station is open for business [NFPA 30A, Section10-4.7].
  • At least one fire extinguisher with the minimum classification of 40- B:C must be located within 100 feet of each pump, dispenser, and pier mounted liquid storage tank [NFPA 30A, Section10-8.1].
  • Signs with the following legends printed in 2-inch (5cm), red block capital letters on a white background must be posted in the dispensing area of all marine service stations [NFPA 30A, Section 10-11.8]:

    a) Stop all engines and auxiliaries
    b) Shut off all electricity, open flames and heat sources
    c) Check all bilges for fuel vapors
    d) Extinguish all smoking materials
    e) Close access fittings and openings that could allow fuel vapors to enter enclosed spaces of the vessel

    (a) Maintain nozzle contact with fill pipe
    (b) Wipe up spills immediately
    (c) Avoid overfilling
    (d) Fuel filling nozzle must be attended at all times

    (a) Inspect bilges for leakage and fuel odors
    (b) Ventilate until odors are removed


If your facility stores 10,000 pounds or more of gasoline (about 1626 gallons), diesel fuel, and/or fuel oil (about 1390 gallons), either above- or underground for dispensing or for on-site use, you must report storage of that substance under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) [40 CFR 355, click here]. For more information on EPCRA requirements, click here.

Any petroleum product that is discharged to the waters of the state must be reported to the state (In New York call the NYSDEC Oil Spill Hotline at (800) 457 7362) For more information on spill response requirements, click here.

If any petroleum product discharged into navigable waters causes a visible sheen, it may also be necessary to report the discharge to the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802.

A hazardous waste determination must be conducted on any materials used to clean a spill to determine whether or not disposal of the materials is subject to hazardous waste regulations [40 CFR 262.11, click here]. For more information on New York hazardous waste testing requirements, click here. If they are hazardous, they must be managed as a hazardous waste. For more information on New York's Hazardous Waste Regulations and storage requirements, click here.

If there is a stormwater discharge from your facility you may have to register for a General Permit for the Discharge of Storm Water Associated with Industrial Activity ("Storm Water General Permit"). For more information on storm water permitting in New York, click here.