How to get a Blue Flag certification? What are the criteria you must meet to get it? At Cancun Sailing, we are proud to have 29 Blue Flag 2021 certifications, and we are ready to go for more!
What is Blue Flag?
Blue Flag is an international certification program for beaches, marinas, and boats. It measures the correct management of resources to care for the environment. This program was born in the Netherlands in 1981 and has spread around the world, generating a positive impact and rewarding the excellence of companies, beaches, and marinas that comply with environmental care criteria.
By 2022, Mexico is positioned as the country with the most beaches, marinas and sustainable tourism vessels distinguished with Blue Flag Badges in the Americas and ranks No. 10 out of 50 countries in the world to participate in this program.
How to have a Blue Flag badge?
The Blue Flag badge is achieved after obtaining a score of 90% or higher during the evaluation of the Blue Flag criteria. To ensure this, Blue Flag Mexico performs an inspection twice a year: the first one between October and December and the second one between March and May.
Once we have the badge, maintaining it requires a continuous commitment by implementing actions and processes in favor of the environment and our community every day. To acquire and keep the badge, the company, beach, or marine must follow up with the implementation and supervision of all the actions previously evaluated.
Blue Flag Inspection
Here are the criteria and standards for obtaining and renewing Blue Flag certification for boats.
As mentioned before, this certification can be obtained on beaches, marinas, and boats. In the case of boats, Blue Flag considers 51 general criteria and 30 optional criteria. The selection of these optional criteria depends on the operation and type of vessel. For example, the standard for eco-tours that do whale, bird, or mammal watching do not apply to Cancun Sailing catamarans.
“Cancun Sailing is the only company in Mexico with Blue Flag certified boats.”
Criteria and evaluation
During the inspection, a representative of Blue Flag (in this case Blue Flag Mexico) attends the site where the vessels are located and review four aspects:
It is not only about informing visitors and spreading the word about environmental care but also about getting involved in a teaching and learning process with clients, employees, suppliers, and authorities.
Environmental talks to our visitors during the tours.
Screening of documentaries about the sea to children from nonprofits.
Bimonthly beach cleanings.
Audits to our facilities and boats.
The crew of each catamaran notifies about environmental talks to visitors.
This criterion qualifies how the company ensures that all waste and residues generated within its facilities are appropriately managed and disposed of.
Waste separation area.
Some examples of waste generated on ships and marinas are:
Inorganic waste (food wrappers)
Liquid waste generated in the bilge tanks*.
*The bilge is a space in the lower part of the vessel that serves to accumulate any oily and polluting liquids so that they do not fall into the sea. The liquids are filtered and pumped out of the ship when they reach the dock, then disposed of in the drainage system.
*Waste in bilge tanks consists of a mixture of seawater, cleaning water, oil, and fuel. It is produced during the operation, maintenance, and repair of ships. These wastes are classified as hazardous according to the Waste Classification.
Wastewater extraction system.
Unlike other sailboat and catamaran companies, Cancun Sailing has a wastewater extraction system to ensure responsible waste disposal so that it does not reach the sea. This practice is crucial for obtaining the Blue Flag badge, since regular ships usually throw waste into the sea.
We also have an area for separating and weighing garbage and agreements with different waste management companies such as Ecoliiks. They also generate eco-bricks to reduce waste in the offices and build sustainably.
Course: Creation of eco-bricks and responsible waste management by Ecoliiks.
3. Safety and services
During this criterion, auditors rate the company's ability to keep its personnel trained in first aid and the reaction during emergencies. They also measure the ability to detect the nearest points of help to which they can resort in the event of an accident.
At the time of the safety review, inspectors verify the existence and condition of first aid kits, life jackets, rescue buoys, and fire extinguishers on each vessel, as well as safety signage. Another element measured during this criterion is the ability to handle oil spills and contain them to prevent them from spreading at sea.
At Cancun Sailing, we make sure to comply with this section by keeping an updated inventory of first aid kits onboard each boat and training our staff in first aid. In addition, we provide monthly sponsorship to the Red Cross of Isla Mujeres for the operational expenses required during their services.
Auditors from Blue Flag Mexico checking a catamaran first aid kit.
The social responsibility criterion is measured through the altruistic actions and alliances that the company generates with civil associations, governments, and other companies in favor of social and environmental causes.
For example, in Cancun Sailing, we have formed alliances with nonprofits such as the community dining room Huellas de Pan, the foster home Cancun Pro Kids, and the association Manos de Apoyo y Vida that helps people in vulnerable areas of Cancun.
We are also proud to be part of The Code network that fights against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in the Context of Travel and Tourism (ESCNNA-VT). This certification allows us to identify, denounce and follow up on possible situations of Commercial Sexual Exploitation throughout our chain of services.
After the 4 criteria are reviewed comes the moment of evaluation. In this stage, the evaluators fill out a table with the score obtained during the reviews and assign a grade according to each criterion. To pass, the total score must be greater than 90%.
If the evaluated entity does not reach the required score to pass, the company has 30 days to correct its faults and be reevaluated.
Red Cross training for operational personnel.
Afterward, the evaluation goes to the FEE Mexico management office and then to the National Jury, who has the final word to decide if the beach, marina, or ship meets the criteria to receive or maintain the award.
Something important to mention is that the Blue Flag evaluators are also audited by the National Jury, to prevent and avoid fraud, bribery, or any infraction.
Blue Flag growing around the world
Although Blue Flag was born as a European initiative, it has gradually gained popularity in other parts of the world. For example, in the Americas, countries such as Mexico, Canada and Brazil have taken the lead in acquiring Blue Flag badges.
This has served as an inspiration for countries such as the United States, whose representatives visited our facilities and catamarans in Cancun to learn about the actions that led us to obtain the 29 insignias we carry.
Interview with Annie Mercer, representative of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.
We are proud to be a reference in the proper implementation of Blue Flag protocols! We will continue to work hard to maintain the standards that distinguish us as a Socially Responsible Company that is committed to our world.