Changes at Boat Safety

David Fletcher explains the new Examination Check Procedures.

The BSS team members are on a campaign at the moment to improve the consistency and quality of the examinations. We are all familiar with the discussions about how my boat passed last time, so why has it failed now? These events do nothing to improve the confidence of boaters, and they don’t improve the confidence of the navigation authorities (NAs) either. They are worried. We should not forget that the BSS examination has only an incidental role in the boat owner’s safety (the so called ‘first party risk’). For NAs it is about making sure that all the boats they have licenced are not a danger to others. This in the NAs’ duty of care. The statistics show that a third of boats fail their BSS examinations. The actual number is probably higher, because some failure points are fixed at the time and are not recorded. It is not a good picture.

NABO representatives have been working in the BSS committees over many years to help and guide these issues. It is an important part of the work we do. The starting point for this piece of work was the previous Examination Check Procedures (ECP) edition, together with a long list of inconsistencies, lack of clarity and the like identified by the office, examiners and users over the recent years. The task has been to go through the detail of each part of the procedures and amend the wording to address the problems. To consolidate this, the office has developed a new training programme for examiners to ensure that they all have the same improved information and are equipped to achieve a high level of consistency. Existing examiners are currently undergoing retraining. If they do not complete this, their registration will be withdrawn. The overall number of examiners has been dropping steadily over the past few years and it has been imperative that a new cohort be introduced with up to date training. A group of new examiners is being trained and they will shortly commence working.

So, in October, BSS released the 4th edition of the private boat ECPs. These are on the BSS website on the red highlighted pages. They apply to all private boats, including liveaboards. This is the product of the four-year review of all eight parts to the ECPs. You may recall that the revision to gas testing was rolled out last year. So what does it mean for your boat? Have the requirements changed and what should you do? BSS says this:

“Apart from changes to two technical standards, it is important to understand that no new technical standards or requirements are being introduced. These two changes only affect a tiny number of boats with cast-iron fitments on LPG systems and a few dozen Wilderness trail boats with gas fridges. Crucially, there are a handful of slight relaxations of the preceding BSS requirements and/or the addition of further compliance option for the vast majority of changes. However, around three-quarters of the 540 adjustments are editorial improvements or process amendments. These will help everyone’s understanding and application of the BSS checks, whether they are BSS Examiners, boat owners or members of the marine industry.”

There is a page on the BSS website under the purple tab ‘About Us’ dedicated to the changes. For the two actual changes, these will be consulted on in early 2022 to comply with NAs legislation such as the 1995 BW Act. So unless you have iron fittings in your gas system, or a Wilderness fridge, you won’t be affected by a technical change in the requirements. But with improved guidance in the ECPs, some examination outcomes will change for your boat. Of course it may be that the item was just missed last time. Take it on the chin. Stuff happens. But you are entitled to ask for a full explanation from your examiner.