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Navigating and living on the waterways of Great Britain & Ireland and news of canal developments.
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TOPIC: Our friends in the National Associationof Boat Owners (NABO) - update

Our friends in the National Associationof Boat Owners (NABO) - update 01 May 2020 21:34 #115682

  • Andy Soper
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From NABO – a commentary on UK Waterway issues.

April Bulletin
Past events
NABO Council met by telephone conference on Saturday 26 April. Our previous experience of these conferences is paying off. We get through the business quickly and efficiently. They are still no substitute for a round table discussion. (Next DBA committee meeting in June will be effected by Zoom we have had a practice session to clear out the bugs!)
A key point was the Covid 19 lockdown and the impact on boaters and the wider canal business. As result we have written to CRT making a number of points. These in summary are towpath access for speeding cyclists and serious runners, increased financial difficulties for boaters, vacating marina moorings to the towpath to reduce costs, support to the marina industry, insurance situation of boats with a delayed BSS certificate, access to leisure boats for safety checks.
The current situation is that most waterways are closed to all but essential movement, usually defined as moving locally to get services – water, fuel and pump-out. Coal boats continue to provide a vital service especially with many marinas closed. Boaters are not allowed to visit marinas for routine checks on leisure craft. For CCers, there is no need to move every 14 days, but find a mooring where you are comfortable with the footfall. Towpaths are not closed, but access is restricted as per CRT signs. BSS has been extended for those due before 11th May, and we can expect this to be extended yet further. If you are concerned about BSS and relicensing, ring your navigation authority. Navigation authorities and licensing bodies will maintain a record of BSS extensions. CRT have extended private boat licences by one month, and hire craft owners get a rebate of three months. CRT tell us they want to hear from those in financial difficulties due to these circumstances, so do get in touch with them. Many marinas are now closed and leisure boat owners and third parties are asked not to visit.
Insurance. If you have a boat moored on the system, which you cannot get to because of Covid-19 restrictions, you may be concerned about your insurance cover. Our insurance broker thinks a boat should be regarded in the same way as a holiday property. Most property insurers have already extended the period of acceptable absence from 30 to 60 days with a promise to review after that. Boat insurers may already have issued a FAQ on their response to Covid-19 but, if not, his advice is to check your insurer’s web site in the first instance; if there is no information there, email your insurer. But given the restrictive circumstances, they would be unreasonable if they didn’t waive any such clause. If an insurer did say ‘no’ and you decide to visit your boat to check all is in order, get it in writing/email in case you need to show something to CRT/police to justify the journey.
Towpath access. The continuing poster campaign from CRT to encourage public not to exercise on the towpath seems to be largely ineffectual especially with regards to runners and cyclists. Mike Rodd (NABO Chair) has received reports that on the K&A some unfortunate conflicts where liveaboard boaters who are understandably very unhappy with some of the folks cycling or running along the towpaths and have taken matters into their own hands. However, there is a significant number of people who almost have no alternative but to use the towpath to get to work – including some working in Bath hospitals and care homes.
EA meetings. Mike Rodd reports that meetings with the senior management of the EA, relating to ensuring that their navigational responsibilities become less dependent on government funding and hence exploring becoming more commercially viable, have ground to a halt due to the present lockdown. This also appears to have happened with evaluating the tenders to oversee the management of all the EA's Thames moorings. We know there were two experienced bidders for the contract and they await a decision. Whilst this will only immediately affect boaters using the Thames, the underlying concept of outsourcing moorings management is of vital interest to all boaters and it is certain that CRT will be looking very closely at the approach!
Bridgewater docks CRT have stated that they will not continue to operate the Bridgewater docks although they will continue to run the Bridgewater and Taunton Canal.
Water shortages Following a wet February, both March and April have been very dry, particularly in the north. Due to this and some lower levels in reservoirs post Toddbrook, the Peak Forest, Macclesfield, Huddersfield and Leeds & Liverpool canals are closed for the foreseeable future. The aim is to save water so that when the system is reopened, we do have some water to play with.
CRT conference call. Mike Rodd and Mark Tizard had a conference call with CRTs Matthew Symonds on 20th April. Several of the points are covered elsewhere so they are not repeated here. These are few other snippets.
One third of CRT staff now furloughed and CRTs revenue from all areas is under pressure.
Matthew is now Head of Boating and Rachel Haywood is appointed his deputy. She has been with CRT some time and transfers from Customer Support.
With a few minor exceptions the winter stoppage programme has been completed.
Matthew said that that it was too early to understand whether the current emergency would impact on future government grant funding but it was hoped that the importance of the towpath for exercise and ‘wellness’ and CRTs management of its liveaboard customer base would be seen in a positive light.
The Middlewich breach report now delayed (again) until after the pandemic!
Mike commented that EA appeared to be adopting many of CRT practices and Matthew confirmed that CRT were offering advice in many areas where asked.
Mark said that the virus had showed how important towpath services were given that many marinas had closed (and some might be permanently). It was hoped that CRT would take this into consideration in current thoughts about the future of facility provision. The internal report on this which was due to be discussed has been delayed. The two tenders for the removal of waste and maintenance of facilities is due to be awarded shortly. This should lead to improvements in areas like recycling.
CRT volunteers and Waterways Chaplains are out contacting vulnerable and self-isolating boaters offering support and assistance.
BSS: There are no formal meetings, but review of paper documents on requirement updates has commenced. We continue to talk to the BSS office about developments on the Covid 19 lockdown and guide them on the key issue of the handling of examinations at this time.
CRT Boat count. CRT have announced this national count today. The licenced boat numbers are down 1.1% to 31,094. Licence take up is 96.2% a drop of 0.2% from last year. You can read the details here.
Navigation Advisory Group. David Fletcher called in on a marathon 4-hour conference, with the main subject being the Covid 19 response and plans for the future on the lifting of the lockdown, the ongoing need for short term and long-term maintenance and the personal and financial consequences of all of this. There is a good deal of brain power going into these extraordinary circumstances. There is talk of extensive work to be done on high risk assets included reservoirs following the learning from Toddbrook. The immediate effect is that a small number of reservoirs are reduced in level. All this will take many years and have a significant cost. On mowing regimes, CRT have revised web access to the maps for this and the link is here. This shows what CRT have told Fountains to do. Is it right in your area? Much more about this in the next NN.
Future events
We are all looking forward to the time this lockdown is lifted and we can safely escape to the waterways.
There are no face-to-face meetings planned. Tele conferences will be attempted as the situations arise.
Be sure that we as active as ever in these times. There is plenty of contact to be made and influence to be brought to bear, to represent boaters.

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Best Wishes
Andy Soper
DBA Director Representation and Treasurer
mv Neeltje
0044 (0) 303 666 0636

You don't need a barge to join - a dream of boating in Europe will do'. See www.barges.org
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