AN AMNESTY for mariners saw 2,000 flares handed in during the first event of its kind in Dorset.

Cobbs Quay was open to around 200 visitors with out-of-date and dangerous flares which were all handed over on Saturday.

Organised by Dorset Police’s marine unit, it was held in conjunction with Ramora UK and MDL Marina as part of a Sea Safety Day.

The event aimed to raise awareness about the dangers of expired flares.

Visitors could also watch safety demonstrations by the RNLI, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, Ocean Safety and Powerboat Training UK and Ocean Safety, with lifejacket checks, ‘man overboard’ and ‘fire aboard’ presentations and a display of emergency vessels. The disposal of out-of-date flares is a growing problem for boat owners, who face severe penalties if they fail to follow the correct procedures.

Dave Welch, senior explosives officer for Ramora UK, said they’d received 2,000 flares as a result of the event, having been visited by 40 people in the first half an hour of the day.

He said: “We do five or six of these every year and this is the biggest haul we have had in three years. And it’s the first time we have been in Dorset.”

When asked why he thought the haul was so large, he responded: “We used to do a lot of work in Hampshire. They have had the exposure but this, as the first time in Dorset, I don’t think anyone has had a route to dispose of them until now.

“With it being quite a boating area it just makes sense. It is difficult for boaters to get rid of them. Police stations were being given them but didn’t have anywhere to store them.

“Now we’ve been seeing them at recycling centres. The spread is much more diverse now and it’s not just limited to the coast now either. In the past we have had people come all the way down from West Bromwich because they have got no outlet.”

Mr Welch said that in some cases unused and out-of-date flares had been kept in sheds.

Each flare was assessed and those of more immediate danger to the public were due to be taken to a special burn site.

PC Lyn Parsons, of Dorset Police’s marine unit, said: “This means we will get these out of the public’s way which have previously been a danger.”