Narrowboat builder fined for RCD offences

After being found guilty in April of two offences under the Small Craft Regulations - the UK implementation for the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) - Billy Hughes, owner of Shotton, Flintshire, based Deeside Narrowboats, was fined £ 600 with £ 1,500 costs.

He also has a criminal conviction.

Hughes feels he has been treated harshly, having been convicted for non-compliance with essential safety items.

These include no means of reboarding, through hull fittings with no shut-off valves, use of glass not of safety glass specification and installation of electrical and gas system and appliances that did not minimise the risk of fire or risk of explosion respectively.

"I was guilty of two mistakes, " says Hughes.

"Safety glass wasn't used - which I normally do use - and the other was I didn't screw down the stove. I missed out two screws."

Apart from these two admissions, Hughes feels Flintshire Trading Standards were unduly harsh on him.

One of the charges was for not providing any means of reboarding. This, says Hughes is just not true. He buys shells that have steps welded to the stern for re-boarding.

But his documentation said he would supply a rope ladder. And he didn't.

Hughes gave the task of putting the documentation together to a surveyor, who updated an existing set of documents, which mentioned the supply of a rope ladder for re-boarding.

The fire extinguishers were also in the wrong place. "I've been a fireman for 12 years, " says Hughes, "so I knew where to put them. What they were saying about the fire extinguishers was just plain stupid."

Hughes - who is not a member of the British Marine Federation (BMF) - says he feels aggrieved because he found it difficult to obtain precise information.

"What we need is somebody we can ask, " he told BB . "Y ou try to get somebody to tell you if you have to cross bond the electrics on a narrowboat. Or the diameter of a gas pipe."

Nik Parker, technical director of the BMF, told BB : "Our members get the full support of our technical services and committees. We can help with these problems."

BMF members are also entitled to legal representation, he added, which can be tied in with specialist boatbuilding and technical legislation.

Hughes, however, feels he has scored a moral victory. "They must have thought I was right because I was only fined £600 and only £1,500 costs, " he said.

"Their costs were nearly £5,000 and I could have been done for £50,000."

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