A record number of South African marinas and boat operators have signed up for the global Blue Flag programme, according to the latest figures released this week.

Eleven boats have signed up for the marine programme, which promotes environmental sustainability by conferring 'Blue Flag' status on beaches, marinas and boats adhering to a code of environmentally-friendly conduct. The programme, started in France in 1985, targets government authorities and the tourism sector and last year formally admitted boats on the programme.

“South Africa was one of the first countries to bring boats onto the programme,” said Rob Slater, national coastal coordinator for The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa which is coordinating the programme. “And this year South Africa is ranked second in the world with the most boats (11). This number has grown since last year from eight boats. Marinas have also grown from five to seven this year,” Slater said.

“We hope that these numbers will continue to increase, especially with the boating operators as they start to catch wind of the initiative/award,” he said, adding that Cape Town's iconic Victoria & Alfred Waterfront had also shown interest in the programme and could join next year.

According to the Blue Flag programme's explanatory notes for boat operators, the programme sets out to “promote sustainable tourism development in freshwater and marine areas”.

“It challenges local authorities, beach operators and sustainable boating tourism operators to achieve high standards in the six categories of: water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services, social responsibility and responsible tourism,” the programme outline says.

“Over the years, the Blue Flag programme has become a highly respected and recognised eco-label working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels,” the outline says.