Tideway ban on hire narrowboats

Hire narrowboats are OK on EA waters, but not the Thames Tideway – photo: Waterway Images Hire narrowboats are OK on EA waters, but not the Thames Tideway – photo: Waterway Images
Industry Database

INLAND WATERWAYS: Following a minor incident involving a holiday narrowboat, the Port of London Authority (PLA) has decided hire craft are classified as ‘commercial’ and have banned them from the Thames Tideway, writes Harry Arnold.

Holiday hire narrowboats have always made the short Tideway passage between the Grand Union Canal at Brentford and the Environment Agency’s (EA) non tidal Thames navigation and sometimes the longer voyage down to the Regent’s Canal at Limehouse: The PLA seems to have just discovered this.

It now insists such craft must comply with the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) which lays down construction and operational standards for hire vessels operating on MCA categorised waters (ie, those “not proceeding to sea”).

This is usually applied to charter craft and mandates all commercial vessels operating within the geographical boundaries must have a suitably qualified skipper aboard.

There are many other regulations involved such as freeboard which narrowboats cannot comply with.

The irony is that because of the right of public navigation that allows you to take any sort of privately owned craft on the River Thames, subject to the correct licensing tolls, other narrowboats in this category, but of the same construction, can cruise the Tideway at will.

Discussions are currently in hand between representatives of the PLA and those of the Association of Pleasure Craft Operators (APCO) and technical officers of the British Marine Federation (BMF) to see if some sort of compromise solution can be reached.

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