Broads boat owners ignore new test

STEPHEN PULLINGER Hundreds of boat owners on the Broads could be left high and dry with time running out to get a new MoT-style test done on their vessel.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Hundreds of boat owners on the Broads could be left high and dry with time running out to get a new MoT-style test done on their vessel.

From April 1, the estimated 2,500 private owners of motor craft will be obliged to have passed a National Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) test to use their boats legally on the Broads.

But Steve Birtles, the Broads Authority's head of water strategy and safety, warned last night that so far, despite years of notice, only 36pc of liable owners of motor craft, including motorised sailing craft, with engines over 10hp and of 21sqm and above had sent in a BSS certificate.

And Broads boatyards licensed to get craft through the test said their backlog of customers who had had an initial BSS assessment and were waiting for work to be done was so long they had grave concerns of a shortfall on April 1.

The BSS lays down minimum standards for boats' systems, aiming to reduce the risk of fire, explosions and pollution to all boats with engines and/or cooking, heating, lighting, refrigerating and other domestic appliances.

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The Authority will enforce the BSS through new bylaws with boat owners facing prosecution if they fail to obtain the certificate.

Mr Birtles said the authority's 20 navigation rangers would be checking boats that gave them visual cause for concern to see if they had the required certificate.

However, he admitted the authority would “need to show reasonableness” and boat owners could apply for temporary exemption if they could show they had undergone an initial test and booked their craft in for work to be done within an acceptable timescale.

Phil Backhurst, a director of Moonfleet Marine boatyard at Stalham, said: “The extra work we have gained has been very welcome but we have grave doubts we will get it all done by April 1.

“A lot of boats have had an initial inspection and work has been identified, but we need to get them in the shed and with the staff we have available I doubt our capacity to do it in time.

“Like most of the companies doing this work we are a hire yard and have to concentrate on getting our boats ready for the season.”

Anthony Trafford, a director of Moore and Co, of Wroxham, said they had a backlog of 12 boats waiting to come in for BSS work.

He said: “We told our private customers two years ago to get it done but many have waited and I think there will be a shortfall on April 1.”

Hire craft over 30sqm also have to be certified by April 1, but it is not thought this will pose undue problems as they are serviced to a high level.

The next stage of the scheme from April 1, 2008, will apply to all remaining hire craft and private motor craft of 11sqm and above and from April 1, 2009, to all remaining private motor craft and all private sailing craft.

Rob McLean, of the BSS Office, will be at the Broads Authority office at 18 Colegate, Norwich, on January 29 and the last Monday of each month until April 30, to answer boat owners' questions.

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