Department for Transport launch Consultation on the Disposal of Pyrotechnic Flares

05 Feb 21

The Department for Transport (DfT) has this week launched an open consultation to seek the views of the pleasure vessel community in the UK on the disposal of pyrotechnic flares. 

The consultation specifically focuses on the disposal of flares carried on-board  pleasure craft for distress alerting. The MCA recommends that pleasure craft carry 6 handheld flares, of which 4 should be red handheld flares and 2 should be orange smoke. This is a mandatory requirement for pleasure craft that are 13.7m (45feet) in length and over. By their nature, flares contain explosives and therefore careful and responsible disposal of out-of-date flares is imperative.   

As things stand, the current means of disposal is inconsistent and is far from convenient. The MCA currently offer a ‘last-resort’ service of receiving out-of-date flares at 18 designated and licensed sites. This service was initially offered by the MCA as a temporary solution and DfT are keen to find a practical alternative.     

The MCA are inviting comments on the following four possible options:

  • Allowing the current contract between the MCA and a commercial ordnance company that disposes of flares to expire with no further action.
  • Continuation of the existing disposal service offered by the MCA.
  • Creation of a fully regulated framework for disposal of flares which would track flares from production to disposal.
  • Creation of similar existing disposal arrangements by the pleasure vessel industry (DfT’s preferred option).

Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, said: “The RYA is acutely aware that facilities for the safe disposal of time expired flares are far from satisfactory, it remains to be seen if the preferred option will resolve that problem.

“We believe that pyrotechnics are inherently dangerous, unreliable and as the boating community knows only too well are difficult and expensive to dispose of properly. In 1972 when COLREG were written, pyrotechnics were the only practical distress alerting option available for most recreational boaters. Now modern technology provides safer, affordable and significantly more reliable alternatives. It is disappointing that this consultation does not consider removing mandatory carriage requirements as part of the solution”.

The RYA will be providing a detailed response to the consultation, but all recreational boaters are also encouraged to express their views on the proposed options by responding to the open consultation. 

The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 15 March 2021. You can respond by downloading the response form and emailing it to 

You can find further information on the ‘Future Arrangements for the Disposal of Maritime Pyrotechnics Consultation’ on the GOV.UK website.

If you are a RYA member and have any questions regarding flares or any other current affair issues, please visit the Current Affairs page on the RYA website or email: