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Navigating and living on the waterways of Continental Europe and news of canal developments. (Public)
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TOPIC: VNF - DT Sud-Ouest - User Group Meeting (CLU) 9 March 2021

VNF - DT Sud-Ouest - User Group Meeting (CLU) 9 March 2021 04 May 2021 16:21 #122892

  • Bob Marsland
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Further information in response to CLU delegates' questions received recently:

In original French:

Suite à vos interrogations, je vous précise les informations suivantes :

La mention des « activités de fret » est un raccourci imprécis, lié à la difficulté à faire un parallèle entre les règles liées au Covid et les différentes catégories d’usagers et d’activités fluviales. En tout état de cause, le rayon de 10 km s’applique dès lors qu’une dérogation n’est pas prévue. Un bateau de commerce (marchandises ou passagers) peut donc dépasser cette limite dans certaines conditions, notamment celle que vous mentionnez : sans passager à bord pour accomplir son activité (pour des besoins techniques par exemple).

Selon les annonces gouvernementales, cette limite des 10 km devrait être levée dès le 3 mai, une offre de service « normale » devrait être remise en place par nos services à compter de cette date. Toutefois, nous estimons que le trafic restera faible, et que nous souhaitons bénéficier des informations les plus précises possibles de la part des usagers pour pouvoir adapter notre organisation de telle sorte à poursuivre des activités de maintenance et d’entretien sur le réseau (notamment pour résoudre certains problèmes identifiés dans les remontées des usagers) en parallèle des activités liées au passage de bateaux aux écluses.
Nous vous ferons parvenir un mail spécifique permettant de nous faire remonter ces informations utiles, sur le modèles des échanges déjà mis en œuvre l’an passé avec les sociétés de location

In English:

Following your questions, I would like to provide you with the following information:

The mention of "freight activities" is an imprecise shortcut, linked to the difficulty of drawing a parallel between the rules relating to Covid and the different categories of river users and activities. In any case, the 10 km radius applies unless an exemption is provided for. A commercial vessel (goods or passengers) can therefore exceed this limit under certain conditions, in particular the one you mention: without passengers on board to carry out its activity (for technical needs for example).

According to government announcements, this 10 km limit should be lifted as of 3 May, and a "normal" service offer should be put back in place by our services as of that date. However, we believe that traffic will remain low, and that we would like to receive the most accurate information possible from users so that we can adapt our organisation in such a way as to continue maintenance and upkeep activities on the network (in particular to resolve certain problems identified in user feedback) in parallel with activities linked to the passage of boats through locks.
We will send you a specific e-mail to provide us with this useful information, based on the model of the exchanges already implemented last year with the rental companies

Bob

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Bob & Bobbie Marsland
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VNF - DT Sud-Ouest - User Group Meeting (CLU) 9 March 2021 26 Apr 2021 13:21 #122713

  • James Newcombe
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Just an aside - interesting that the waterway is still referred-to as the Canal Latéral à la Garonne and not the Canal de Garonne, which I understood to have been its name for about the last 10 years?
Is the C de la Marne à la Saône still so called, I wonder!

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VNF - DT Sud-Ouest - User Group Meeting (CLU) 9 March 2021 24 Apr 2021 17:16 #122698

  • Simon Lawson
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Thanks Bob. Indeed we have been navigating, with limited network along the Canal des Vosges. Now having a break in Port de Saône. With our pal Arunas on his solar house boat, the first two boats to complete the Vosges in over a year. Thanks to the VNF of DTNE - Épinal for their help and encouragement.
I’ll be writing to them and a fuller post here shortly.

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Simon Lawson
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VNF - DT Sud-Ouest - User Group Meeting (CLU) 9 March 2021 24 Apr 2021 14:56 #122697

  • Bob Marsland
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Since I know Simon is navigating and maybe has feeble internet access I am posting the compte-rendu (minutes) of the meeting both in the original French and in a machine translation into English.

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Best wishes,

Bob

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VNF - DT Sud-Ouest - User Group Meeting (CLU) 9 March 2021 27 Mar 2021 18:01 #122135

  • Simon Lawson
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“VNF – Direction territorial Sud-Ouest - Commissions Locales d’Usagers”
Notes on online meeting 9th March 2021 – Simon Lawson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) - Au port de Sampigny, France.

This audio only “Teams” meeting, was my second for DBA. I have to say that although I can follow French well face to face, or in video meetings, when I can’t see a person when they are talking it’s a challenge, and concentrating for 3 hours or more is tough. Especially so when the French is at time heavily accented and quite technical. So having made my excuses, apologies for the delayed summary notes. Full minutes will follow when they are sent.

Agenda:
• Season dates
• Stoppages
• Investments
• Water management
• Navigation Concerns – response of User Groups
• Other matters

Following introductions and name checks, Ghislain Frambourt – VNF DTSO Dep. Director – reminded participants that the meeting was not to be recorded, and ask the person responsible for the “press leak” from December’s meeting to explain themselves. The background to this was that an unauthorised recording of the last meeting had been made, and a statement about employment plans of the VNF broadcast on Facebook and elsewhere – much to the annoyance of many other attendees. The person responsible – the E2F delegate (E2F entreprises-fluviales.fr – represents transporters freight and passengers) was unapologetic – which unfortunately set a poor tone on the meeting. This was a shame because the last meeting had been full of hope for collaboration and improvements to waterways in the region. Said delegate continued to act negatively and argue about almost every agenda item.

Season 2021
High Season 17 March – 31 October
Low Season 1 Nov. – 31 December
Closed days 1 Jan., 1 May, 11 Nov., 25 Dec.

• Canal Latéral à La Garonne – re-opened 9 March after some good maintenance work
• 89 Seasonal VNF workers already hired – for DTSO
• Health regulations (C19) from 9th March – pleasure boating allowed but “hotel” boats banned.
E2F – argued this was unfair, that pleasure boats can have more than 12 people etc….
VNF responded that they didn’t make the rules, National / Departmental Governments did. VNF’s job was to facilitate navigation not to stop it!
FIN – agreed that there were no restrictions on pleasure boating (hire boats), but supported VNF saying the it’s the prefectures that decide on opening and closing navigation for health regulations not VNF
Summary Feedback from User Groups on Navigation Concerns
• Financial resources – “under pressure”
• Concerns and uncertainties about – constraints on European Travel and the effect on the return of foreigners to French waterways.
• Planning for the season’s opening constrained by uncertainty – will the encouraging recovery of 2020 be maintained?
Discussion
• Restrictions on European travel has a huge impact on the pleasure boating industry.
• Why can’t hotel / passenger tour boats cruise if passengers are Covid Tested / Vaccinated? Age groups of vulnerable correspond well to clients.
• More discussion of unfairness of Hire boats with 12+ being allowed but hotel boats with less than 10 being banned - paradox
VNF agreed to help support and coordinate feedback to Prefectures about this.
• Need to have regular communications on the Public Health situation and coordinate with the prefectures.

Financial Measures – Headlines
• 65% reduction in annual fees for professional / commercial boaters
• 50% reduction of fees related to tourist activities
This represents €300,000 subsidy from DTSO, which impacts on their budgets for development projects.

Consultation on Proposals
Looked at:
• Modifying the scheduled closures – chomages – this related to a proposal to invert the chomages for Canal du Midi and Garonne. As reported in December’s meeting notes - Currently Nov/Dec for Canal du Midi and Jan/Feb for Garonne.
The effect on fish breading of doing this will be tested on a pound in the Midi this year and it’s possible that the swapping over will be tried out in 2022.
• Extending the High Season into November because of end of season demand for re-location etc. would also be trialled in 2022.
There were rather “testy” and detailed arguments on all this which were quite hard to follow.

Financial Investments
Detailed reports given – but most relevant was the 2018-19 had been tough because of floods, but now more money was going into replanting.

Water Management
• 2020 was a little difficult but reserves were refilling well and 2021 is looking good.
Weeds & Dredging
• Big concerns about Robine Canal – with insufficient dredging and weed removal – Weeds are particularly impacting hire boats.
• Bad sections on the Garonne Canal too
These problems are part of a VNF National Programme – under which Robine Canal is scheduled for work in 2023.

Then followed detailed discussions on the various feedback documents that the CLU members had submitted. As they were only shown on slides – I was only able to capture a few that seemed most relevant – but the details will likely be sent out with the minutes. As noted above – one individual argued with everybody, made it difficult to follow and generally spoilt the whole feel of the meeting. The agenda seemed to switch around quite a bit too, adding to the confusion.
Some key concerns noted:
• Towpath / dyke maintenance
• Pontoons / zones – for loading / boarding and waiting
• Water levels
• Rubbish disposal – VNF & Commune responsibility
• Lock closure during lunch breaks – leading to traffic jams (lunch is a serious labour issue in France!!!)

Questions / AOB
Two questions had been submitted on behalf of DBA from Bob Marsland:

• What is the latest information concerning getting boats from the Canal de Garonne to the river Lot and to the Baïse?
o Firstly, the pollution in the lock in Buzet alongside the old cellulose factory.
As far as I could gather (this was 3 hours into a testy meeting, and rushed in at the end) this is not happening – Yet anyway. Costs being the problem – apparently pollution from the Factory has to be cleaned up everytime the lock is used. – It may be worth contacting M. Bertrand Godineau of ARCAO This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details on this issue.

o And secondly The Garonne crossing itself. It has been suggested that it would be arranged for boats to be allowed to gain access to the Lot at the beginning of the season and return at the end of the season, at times when river flow allows.
• VNF – said ask the Lot people!

Disclaimer: I’ve tried to capture what seems to be the most useful gist of this meeting. Apologies if I have misunderstood and / or misrepresented the proceedings. As I said Official Minutes to follow when received.

Simon Lawson – Beatrix, Euville, Canal de l’Est, France. 26 March 2021.

Word copy attached.

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Simon Lawson
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