Spillproof Fueling - Sailors for the Sea

Spillproof Fueling

Filling up fuel tanks is one of the most common ways that we unintentionally pollute our waters. However, with care, boaters can take steps to mitigate the risk of accidently spilling oil or fuel.

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Filling up our tanks is the most common way that we unintentionally pollute our waters – even a tiny spill is toxic to our waterways, harming both animals and plants. The cost to prevent a fuel spill is significantly less than the cost to clean it up; so a little planning goes a long way toward keeping our environment clean. 

For proper fueling procedures, follow these steps:


  • Check fuel lines and tanks for any cracks, signs of corrosion or damage, and leaks. 
  • Know the capacity of your fuel tanks or portable container, and how much fuel you need.
  • Have absorbent bibcollar and a spill kit on hand to catch any potential drips or spills.
  • Know the capacity of your fuel tanks or portable container.
  • Consider installing an inline fuel/air separator that will prevent excess fuel from leaking out the tank vent by releasing air and containing any overflow.
  • Clean Way Fuel Fill has invented a device to capture fuel spills before they happen.

clean way fuel fill


  • Place an absorbent bib around fuel intake or a collar around the fuel nozzle to catch drips or any overflow.
  • Position yourself so you can see the deck fill and comfortably hold nozzle in contact with the edge of the fill.
  • Fill tank slowly and listen for a change in tone as it gets full. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends filling inboard tanks to 90% capacity to allow for expansion due to heat. Boat fuel tanks are not pressurized like car fuel tanks, so the pump automatic shut-off nozzle rarely works.


  • Wipe up any accidental spills and dispose of rags/absorbent fuel bib/collar as hazardous waste.

Portable fuel cans

The transportation and transfer of fuel with portable fuel cans (aka jerrycans) often leads to accidental fuel spills. All new jerrycans sold in the U.S. must meet a set of regulations to prevent spills and decrease fuel vapors being released into the atmosphere. Always fill jerrycans ashore on a level surface, where spills are less likely to occur and easier to clean up. The new jerrycans will fill more slowly; however, the lack of vapors escaping and minimized fuel spills makes the portable can a better product for the environment.

jerrycan, portable fuel can, gas

With care, recreational boaters can take steps to mitigate the risk of accidentally spilling oil or fuel while operating their vessel. If you have a spill, see the section on Oil and Fuel Spills for correct cleanup procedures.

Did you know?

  • Land-based runoff and recreational boats account for 64% of the petroleum that that enters North American marine waters each year (National Academy of Sciences).
  • According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an estimated 70,262 gallons of fuel is spilled by the use of jerrycans each year.