I’ve hired a 38’ motor cruiser on the inland waterways on many occasions (and have plenty of other experience of cruisers, narrow boats and sailing dinghies. I also hold the necessary Certificate of Com – petence etc. for VHF radio). This summer there were occasions when other hire boats tried to overtake between me and the nearside bank. I also observed hire boats hugging so close to their right hand bank as to brush through tree branches. Another was so close in that this moving boat brushed against all of a line of moored craft. Each occasion was on a wide river with no difficulty posed by opposite-direction traffic.
As to the inside-overtakes, one was at a river junction where I was about to turn right onto the main branch (so the overtaking craft would have been confronted with a view of my starboard beam directly ahead) and the other was where I was pulling more centrally into the river to pass the stems of craft that were moored stern-on to my right (so the overtaking craft would have gone straight into the port beam-end of the nearest of these).
The Broads Authority was invited to comment on the report and in so doing CHIRP was pleased to note good practices which we believe are worth sharing with a wider audience, This should include boat hirers and the regulators of inland waterways.
It is also useful guidance for hirers, explaining the level of safety training they can expect when hiring from a responsible leisure boat operator.
The Broads Authority Act 2009 has provisions to licence boats let for hire to the public. Formerly the Authority had no control over operators or their boats other than the general Navigation, Speed and Registration Byelaws.
Through consultation with the local trade body the Authority developed a number of conditions for their new hire boat licensing scheme. Introduced in 2010, the scheme was well received by the industry as they had actively been involved with the development of the conditions. One specific condition was that operators were to give a handover to hirers, which was in accor – dance with the “Hire Boat Code” and the Authority also gave advice to operators regarding the minimum level of content of the handover, which was to include navigation restrictions, etc. such as notice to mariners. Operators, handover paperwork and systems are audited initially annually, although since the operators are “all up to standard” now we have taken a view that a three yearly routine audit is reasonable. However the Authority will react to complaints and incidents to ensure that standards are maintained.
Our hire boat licensing officers also spot check yards to ensure that adequate handovers are being delivered to hirers and occasionally we will carry out a ‘secret shopper’ visit so that some independence can be factored in, although this can be difficult to facilitate.
The Broads Authority staff regularly meet with the Broads Hire Boat Federation and the private boat owners’ user group to identify issues and resolve them to everyone’s satisfaction. A DVD on safety and the Broads is also available, which most of the hire boat operators either stream from their website or refer to the Authority’s site. Some operators include a copy of the DVD on board.
The Broads Authority publishes a yearly Broadcaster magazine, which is placed on every hire boat at the commencement of hire and within this publication are many tips and hints regarding boating safety.
On the water, eight launches patrol across the Broads system, their primary role being one of offering advice and guidance but they do police byelaws and the provisions of the 2009 Act. They regularly help out hirers and any trends are referred to the hire boat licensing officer, who can specifically target these areas when auditing. The Rangers are their eyes and ears on the ground. There are also quay attendants at strategic locations throughout the Broads; their observations are key to addressing issues, such as poor access to deck areas and short mooring lines.
The Port Marine Safety Code has set up a framework of safety management for the Broads Authority and they regularly review the marine hazard log with their stakeholders to ensure that hazards are managed to an ALARP state. The Broads Hire Boat Federation and the private boaters are represented on that group, as with many other liaison groups. More recently they have been working nationally with the Association of Navigation Authorities, the MCA and the British Marine Federation, on a Hirer Safety Review and an update to the Hire Boat Code, which is still in final development.