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Hornblower Cruises & Events updates its San Diego yachts with copper-free paint

May 6, 2010

By applying copper-free paints to its seven San Diego-based yachts, Hornblower Cruises & Events is leading efforts to keep local waters clean and develop environmentally friendly technologies for the entire boating industry.

As part of an EPA-funded program administered by the Port of San Diego, Hornblower volunteered to test nine new copper-free paints on the hull of its San Diego-based Newport Hornblower in April 2009. This month, the company finished applying copper-free paints to all of its yachts docked at the Marriott Marina. All Hornblower boats, and all similar Coast Guard-inspected vessels, must be hauled from the water every two years; this is when new bottom paints are typically applied.

“The transition away from more toxic copper-based paint is accelerating, thanks to the efforts of the Port of San Diego, San Diego Bay marina owners, boatyards, participants like Hornblower and, most importantly, paint companies willing to step up developments in paint technology alternatives and affordable market pricing,” says Hornblower Cruises & Events vice president Jim Unger. “We are especially proud to announce that all of our boats berthed at the San Diego Marriott Marina are now copper free.”

Marinas often are heavily impacted by copper, which builds up over time due to inadequate tidal flushing as well as poorly managed hull cleaning practices. Studies suggest that overly aggressive bottom cleaning performed by divers at the marina slip can actually remove hull paint, which then settles and impacts water quality. Looking beyond paint chemistry and application research, Hornblower also seeks to reduce copper levels by advocating a new approach to cleaning.

“As part of our Respect Our Planet program, Hornblower is always honing environmental best practices. In this case, we’re encouraging divers to use gentler cleaning techniques that leave paint intact,” says Unger. “We have found that a small amount of biomass on the hull does not appreciably increase fuel consumption on our slower cruising charter boats, and the natural activity of our faster harbor tour boats seems to keep bottom growth down.”

Unger and his industry colleagues expect paint technology to improve quickly over the coming years, as demand for more environmentally friendly products increases.

“It is in the best interest of all maritime stakeholders to work together, using sound scientific applications and daily best practices, to support and sustain a healthy environment and successful businesses,” says Unger.


Hornblower Cruises & Events has been the leading charter yacht and public dining cruise company in California for 30 years. The company operates 32 vessels in San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Long Beach, Newport Beach, Marina del Rey and San Diego. The 1000 passenger Inspiration Hornblower is one of San Diego’s premier venues. In addition, Hornblower San Diego offers seasonal Whale and Dolphin Watching Adventures and year round Harbor Cruises. For more information visit: