Broads boats face MOT-style tests

Hundreds of Broads boat owners are facing a two-week deadline to have their vessels checked before new MoT-style safety tests come into force.The government yesterday approved a bylaw obliging private boat owners to meet new standards or face a maximum £2,500 fine.

Hundreds of Broads boat owners are facing a two-week deadline to have their vessels checked before new MoT-style safety tests come into force.

The government yesterday approved a bylaw obliging private boat owners to meet new standards or face a maximum £2,500 fine.

The bylaw has been in the pipeline for more than a decade, in which time there have been 22 deaths on the Broads, most by drowning.

But, as of yesterday, nearly 1,500 boat owners had yet to send a certificate to the Broads Authority to prove their craft had passed the new National Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) test.

With boatyards warning they already face a backlog of BSS work stretching into the summer, some boat owners may opt to leave their vessels moored rather than risk being “pulled over” by Broads Authority's eight rangers or team of 30 volunteer officers who will be patrolling the waterways in the coming weeks.

The test applies to all vessels over 30sqm and includes new checks on the fuel, gas and electrical systems to make sure they are safe and do not pollute.

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Only 14.5pc of hire boats have sent the BSS documents to the authority - but as most hire companies have their own boatyards they are expected to have their fleets ready in time.

John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, said other waterways that had introduced similar schemes had seen a 10pc reduction in boating activity in the first year.

He said that because people were having problems getting work done there would be a three-month leeway.

Steve Birtles, the Broads Authority's head of water strategy and safety, said the bylaw was designed to protect third party users rather than boat owners.

Eric Bishop, manager of Cox's boat yard at Barton Turf, near Stalham, which is servicing about three vessels a week, said: “I think this is good for the safety of users.

“There are people who have never had their fire extinguishers serviced, for example, or don't worry about their gas appliances because they've always worked, and then one day they could just go boom.”

Medium-sized boats of 11sqm must pass the BSS test next year, and the smallest vessels by 2009.