Listening to boat owners, Speaking out for boat owners, Representing boat owners.

From time to time NABO are consulted on issues of legislation. This is a privilege and we should always try and give it attention and thought.


One such request just received is the consultation on draft regulations which cover “drink driving” by non professional boaters. These are to come into place anyway, and the consultation is specifically about whether boats less than 7 meters and capable of not more than 7 knots should be exempt.

Full details for the enthusiast are on this link  including the response questionnaire.


The issue was covered some weeks ago on Radio 2 at lunchtime by Jeremy Vine. There was some amusing discussion with a few solid boaters giving good commentary and few laymen talking nonsense. There has also been comment in Waterways World. Historians may remember that we have been here before, in 2004, when there were similar issues and discussion.

The debate

Council members have commented on this.

These following statements in italics are some of the thoughts expressed:

This isn't really new regulation, it is widening the scope of existing regulation which can be policed, and the overlap isn't costing anybody anything. The speed/length division they quote is ridiculous.

I suggest we challenge the right of the DfT to introduce legislation on waters where there is no public right of navigation, on the grounds that the owners of such waters will have their own bye-laws.

As far as rivers are concerned I have far less objection to the proposals, as where moving waters are concerned, particularly inhabited by small and vulnerable craft, a minimum standard of vigilance is essential.

Has anybody done a risk assessment? Do they have figures for alcohol contribution to inland navigational accidents for 'non-professional mariners'? What level of impairment to reaction time or judgement will cause a skipper to be a hazard?  Will exceeding the 80mg limit get near this?

I do not see any sound reason for challenge.  There may not be many examples but examples there have been and, in any case, if drink impairs reason and judgement that is itself a hazard to navigation.

There is no justification for being in charge of a vessel on any waters under the influence.

There should be no exceptions to the regulation.

The conclusion

We think that extending the law on alcohol limits to non-professional mariners is a good thing.

Nobody can support the helm (or crew) of a boat being incapacitated through drink. The overall legislation is going to be put in place anyway, and the only thing that we can influence at this time is the exemption for the small and slow craft.

We don’t see a that an exemption is justified by a reduced risk for a small and slow boats.

Collisions are still collisions and have the potential of serious damage to boats and the crews. The exemption would create inconsistency in the legislation and this is not seen as reasonable or  necessary.

The level of blood alcohol is to be set at the same level as for roads, and this might be considered unnecessarily low on inland navigations. Damage may be done to the general attraction to the waterways if boaters are threatened with penalties as a result of moderate lunchtime drinking.

There is existing legislation in the form of bye-laws. For example those for British Waterways apply to anyone engaged in the mooring, locking and handling of the vessel. We have never heard of anybody being charged under these bye-laws for being incapable through drink, or even just incapable.

We feel the legislation is not ideal for inland waterways but recognises the difficulties in drafting and applying it. Exceptions and differentiation within it just make it worse, so we propose to recommend that the exemption is not provided.

In our submission we will make additional comments even though they are not requested.

And your view is?

As always the wise men and ladies of NABO Council have a view, and one of the perennial questions is, what does the membership think? We only know if you tell us so please keep the letters and emails coming in.

In the meantime, try this straw pole survey. It’s like Dancing on Ice but free. We will post the responses.


All the best for Easter