THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BOAT OWNERS

Saturday, June 24, 2017

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So what is CRT’s enforcement strategy?

Mark Tizard summarises where we are now.

 

Members will recall that in recent editions of NABO News we have written about CRT’s push on enforcement of continuous cruising and our concerns regarding the approach that CRT is taking. The vast majority of NABO members are unlikely to be concerned with this. Of course, the proviso is that it leads to affected boaters cruising within a range that is acceptable to CRT, rather than causing an increase in unlicensed and uninsured boats – beware the curse of unintended consequences!

 

A three-tier approach

 

The statistics seen by NABO in February this year show that 16% of all boats with no declared home mooring cruised less than 5 km in the previous 12 months and a further 50% cruised less than 20 km – so in total two-thirds of boaters without a home mooring cruised less than 20 km per year. CRT explained that it intended to introduce a three-tier approach to enforcement:

Tier 1: Boaters who had cruised, or continued to cruise, less than 5 km per year would be warned that their licence would not be renewed on expiry, unless they immediately started cruising at a Tier 2 level.

Tier 2: Boaters who cruised less than 20 km per year would be offered a reduced licence period upon renewal, until their cruising range exceeded 20 km – in which case they would move to Tier 3.

Tier 3: Boaters whose cruising pattern was of no concern to CRT would remain unaffected.

 

NABO supported this approach. We felt that focussing on Tier 1 boats would have a trickle-down effect and result in the need for less enforcement, because Tier 2 boaters would recognise that CRT was serious in its intent and move their cruising range to Tier 3.

NABO was asked to support a minimum cruising requirement and refused. We believe that IWA’s suggestion of a minimum of 500 miles a year to be unrealistic and unenforceable. NABO believes that it is for CRT, as the navigation authority, to decide whether boaters are using their boat bona fide for navigation as required by their licence and where necessary to enforce this accordingly.

At the same time as CRT announced its new enforcement push, it also undertook to rush through changes to the licensing terms and conditions (T&Cs). This was driven by the legal department rather than Customer Services (responsible for boating) to coincide with the push on enforcement. We have previously documented our opposition to many of the changes to the T&Cs. CRT now states that boaters WITH a home mooring will become subject to exactly the same enforcement criteria as boaters without a home mooring when they are away from their home mooring. NABO believes this is beyond CRT’s powers and is talking to its legal advisors for confirmation.
 

Sighting data

 

At licence renewal time, CRT now issues letters to all boaters without a home mooring advising of the requirement to continuously cruise, but it gives no guidance as to what this might mean in terms of distance covered (but it does not issue these letters to boaters with a home mooring who might now be subject to the same level of enforcement – still with me?). Many boaters who have never been on CRT’s radar were upset by the tone of the letter and questioned why CRT had contacted them (this is seen by some people as being the same as Tesco writing to all club-card holders advising them that they will be prosecuted if they are caught shoplifting). This is not good PR, given that many boaters support the premise of CRT enforcement against boaters who do not move.

As a result, many boaters have requested and reviewed their sighting data held by CRT. In some cases they have become concerned that it might not be as accurate as they were led to believe. Under constant social media pressure and despite its initial letter, CRT decided to issue guidance to the effect that those boaters who cruise in a range of 15-20 miles or more per year are unlikely to attract its attention, although CRT would normally expect the range to be more than this.
As far as NABO can ascertain, CRT has ignored the three-tier approach highlighted above, which was discussed with and supported by NABO and other waterway organisations. Instead, CRT has focussed on boaters whom it has identified as moving less than 15-20 miles and is offering them shorter 3-6 month licences. The aim is to enable these boaters to change their cruising pattern to one that is acceptable to CRT. The effect is ongoing, and is resulting in more and more boaters requesting their sighting data on a regular basis. 

NABO asked CRT why its sighting data is not given to boaters at the time that they are offered a limited-period licence. We were told that the current data-recording system makes it a time-consuming exercise to produce this information (although boaters invariably ask for it anyway!). We were also told that new sighting software is being introduced in June, which will make the data more accurate. We wonder why this was not tested and introduced before this latest enforcement push. CRT enforcement must now be groaning under the weight of sighting requests, which probably would not have happened if the initial phased approach had been followed.

After requests by members, NABO approached CRT for advice on what evidence boaters should accumulate to prove their movements. An extract from CRT’s reply is as follows:

‘Our sightings records are never going to be a full cruising log. As I see it, if a boat moves from A to B to C and we don't record them at B, then this will not cause us concern as we would still log the distance that a boat has travelled as A to C. However, if a boat moves from A to B, then turns round and cruises back to A and we miss recording the boat at B, then we will have missed logging the distance A to B. In reality, I need to understand how often do people keep turning around and cover the same stretch again and how best to advise a customer to log a change of direction’.
Meanwhile as a result of a recent legal challenge in which the defendant has been granted leave to appeal to the High Court, we understand that further Section 8 (boat removal) cases have been put on hold, pending the outcome – so watch this space.

NABO believes that CRT’s guidance (that boaters should cruise in a range of 20-25 miles over the course of a licence) is not unreasonable and will not present any difficulties to the vast majority of boaters without a home mooring. It should be noted that many of the boaters who are affected by the change in enforcement policy are not ‘live-aboards’, but leave their boats on moorings for extended periods. However, we also believe that boaters who come within CRT’s enforcement radar should be given accurate sighting data that enables them to modify their cruising pattern. After all, the object of the exercise is not to remove boats from the waterways. In the meantime, hopefully, some of the additional legal expenditure by CRT could instead be used to ensure that additional moorings and facilities are available outside the prime congestion areas to encourage and support additional movement.

 

If you are concerned that your cruising pattern may attract CRT’s attention then we recommend that you take the following actions:

·       Start keeping a log of your movements with evidence of the places where you have stayed.

·       Obtain a copy of CRT’s sighting data on a regular basis (e.g. quarterly) to see if it corresponds with your own data. Don’t worry if there are gaps, as long as the greatest range of movement is accurate. Advise CRT if this is not the case by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

·       Ensure that you move to a new place every 14 days. Inform CRT’s local enforcement team if you are unable to do so (e.g. through ill-health or mechanical breakdowns). You can find a list of enforcement officers and their contact details at
https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/library/8515-enforcement-officer-regions-and-contact-details.pdf.

·       If you receive confirmation that you will be offered a reduced licence, reply enclosing the details of your log and asking for CRT’s sighting data. If you are still offered a short-term licence, request confirmation of the reasons why you have not been offered a full licence and ask for guidance on what additional cruising pattern will satisfy them. If you consider that this is reasonable, you should adapt your cruising pattern accordingly –again keeping a log.

·       If you are still refused a full-term licence then you should consider getting your own legal advice.