The continuing continuous cruising enforcement saga

CRT announced today that it will be taking action on the substantial number of boaters whose licences have been granted under the condition that, as they don’t have a home mooring, they will continuously cruise and are therefore required to be “bona fide navigating” and also not to remain in any one “place” for more than 14 days.

Over many years now, NABO has continually pointed out that, given the problems with interpreting these vague legal terms, BW (and now CRT) should not attempt to re-define these conditions (which would require a change in the law). They should, rather, state clearly what their interpretation is, and then enforce those requirements consistently, fairly and humanely across the network.

CRT’s present assessment of the extent of the problem may come as no surprise to any active boater. Of just over 5400 boats with current continuous cruising licences, 16% have moved less than a 5 km range over the past year, and 50% have moved only within a 5 – 20 km range. Thus, according to the top-line figures given to NABO (currently subject to further validation), a total of 66% of boats without a home mooring are seen to cruise less than 20 km each year! That BW allowed the problem to grow to its present proportions does that organisation little credit, and NABO has long warned that this was happening.

We understand that CRT will operate a three-tier enforcement strategy:

  • “Tier one” will affect boats that are deemed to have hardly moved at all, or only an insignificant distance in the last 12 months.  This will result in a refusal to relicense, and action to remove the boat.
  • “Tier two” will apply to boats that are deemed to have a range and frequency of movement that is insufficient to meet the requirements of the licence.  It will result in the licence being renewed only for a period of less than 12 months, with the subsequent movement pattern being monitored. If a lack of movement remains a matter of concern, this will result in a refusal to relicense, and action to remove the boat.
  • “Tier three” covers boats that have achieved a range and frequency of movement that is not of concern, and that will therefore not be affected by enforcement actions

See: files/CRT_PRESS_RELEASE_Feb2015.docx

NABO welcomes CRT’s decision, as it makes a clear statement on what CRT considers to be a legally acceptable pattern of movement and outlines a clear enforcement strategy based on this. We have also constantly said that the 14-day rule is clear, and that to most reasonable boaters, a "place" is obvious – it is not through the next bridge-hole, but is in the next village/parish. Indeed, NABO contributed to establishing the definition of “places” on the Western end of the K&A.

This is all simply common sense. NABO has many continuous cruisers among its members and recognises the significant contribution that they make to the wellbeing of our waterways. (For many us this is exactly what we would like to be doing – if work and other commitments permitted it!)  For those who are living (and cruising) on their boats as a lifestyle choice, these requirements will present no problem – NABO’s own survey of continuous cruisers shows just this. But we are also aware that there are many boats that are occupied by people who see living on the canals simply as a cheap form of housing. There also are many boats simply left on the towpath because their owners can’t afford, or don’t want to pay for, home moorings.

The consequences of the changes

NABO is deeply concerned, however, that words alone will not be sufficient to get the non-movers moving. Real, active enforcement (where necessary) is essential, and that will incur a cost to implement. That is also likely to result in a serious number of boats not being licensed, and indeed, not insured (and thus a danger to others). But there is no way around this if the rules are to be properly enforced, and Richard Parry has assured us that the funding will be made available to make all this happen. We look forward to hearing more about how that will happen.

See also CRT’s new enforcement webpage:

Of course, many folk who live on their boats will be affected; those who are genuine boaters will welcome the clarity, but a small number will find it difficult to conform. Here we welcome the appointment of CRT’s new Welfare Officer, Sean Williams, and applaud his work, especially in getting CRT’s existing enforcement officers briefed on the resources available to help those who are in difficulty.

Mike Rodd