The Hire Boat Code 2021.

In 2009 the need was recognised for any business operating pleasure craft for use on the inland waterways to have a guide on health, safety and best practice in order to keep their customers, staff and members of the public away from harm.

These guidelines were put together by the British Marine Federation (BMF) and The Association of Inland Waterways (AINA) and were used as a benchmark by some operators. They were purely a guide and pleasure craft hire operators were not obligated to comply.

Due to ongoing concerns by AINA, BMF and Marine Accident Investigation Bureau (MAIB), in 2021 they decided to amend the regulations and put into place a strict code of conduct that all pleasure craft operators must comply with to be able to operate under all inland waterways’ authorities including the Canal & River Trust who maintain, manage and licence nearly all of the UK’s canal network.

These regulations cover everything from basic health and safety, maintenance and handovers to GDPR, accident reporting and vessel stability testing. These changes mean that any hire craft operator who is not compliant will not be able to operate.

Under these updated regulations there has also been a greater enthesis placed on the Hirer as well as the operator regarding safety and ability. We suggest you take the time to read these short sections so at your time of handover you can fully comply.

This is covered under section 3.1.1 and 3.3.4. highlighted below.

Code for the Design, Construction and Operation of Hire Boats. Version 2: 2021


1.1 Definitions.

1.2 Introduction.

1.3 Scope of the Code of Practice.

1.4 Other Local requirements.

1.5 Structure.

1.6 Review.

Common Principles for Safe Hire Boating.

2.1 Shared responsibilities

2.2 Boats suitable for purpose

2.3 Adequate hirer ability

2.4 Safety Information

2.5 Incident Reporting and Recording

2.6 Risk assessment and changed circumstances

2.7 Monitoring and Compliance


3.1 Responsibilities7

3.1.1 Hirers

3.1.2 Hire Operator

3.1.3 The Licensing Authority

3.2 Technical standards and compliance

3.2.1 Recreational Craft Directive.

3.2.2 Licensing Authority Standards.

3.2.3 Stability

3.2.4 Modifications or alterations to vessels

3.3 Operational Standards

3.3.1 Hand-over and return

3.3.2 Pre trip information

3.3.3 Handover procedures

3.3.4 Hirer Ability

3.3.5 During and after the Hire Period

3.3.6 Documentation

3.3.7 Audit.

3.3.8 Changes to local area of operation.



  1. ‘Hire boat’. A vessel not intended for the carriage of more than twelve persons, offered without a skipper or crew for the sport or pleasure of those on-board, which is not a ‘pleasure vessel’ as defined in the Merchant Shipping (Vessels in Commercial Use for Sport or Pleasure) Regulations 1998, SI 1998, No, 27711 , and that does not proceed to sea. The above definition is considered to include vessels with no skipper or crew provided which are:- 
  • Let or hired under an arrangement, whether or not on a precontract basis.
  • The subject of a bare boat charter arrangement.
  • The subject of any form (including timeshare) of shared use arrangement where the boat is not wholly owned by individuals and used by them, or their immediate family or friends.
  • Used by persons who are not friends or immediate family of the owners. (Note that money does not have to change hands for the vessel to be considered a ‘hire boat’.)


Excluded from this definition of ‘hire boat’ are boats with no skipper or crew provided which are:


  • Houseboats or other vessels that are permanently attached to their moorings.
  • Used by the friends or immediate family of the owners and where any payment is only in respect of direct operating costs during the voyage.
  • Owned by a members’ club for use by its members or their immediate family where any payments made for its use are paid into club funds for the general use of the club.
  • Owned by a body corporate for the use of its employees or their friends or immediate family whether or not the user makes any separate payment for such use of the boat.
  • In shared ownership where the boat is wholly owned by her users and used by them or their friends or immediate family.
  • Rescue or safety craft. 

Note: The above lists are not exhaustive. 

  1. ‘Hirer(s)’. The person(s) hiring the boat from the Hire Operator and/or person(s) in the hire party. 3. ‘Hire Operator’. Person, company or organisation offering boats for hire (includes time-share operators).
  2. ‘Houseboat’. Any vessel not being a power-driven vessel or being capable of being readily adapted to become a power driven vessel, which is kept stationary and is, or is capable of being used as either:
  • A place of habitation, whether by day or night.
  • A place for receiving or accommodating persons for the purposes of shelter, recreation, entertainment, or refreshment.
  • Club premises, offices, kitchen, pantry or store.
  1. ‘Powered Boats’. Boats that are not sailing boats and that are powered by internal (i.e.: spark or compression ignition) or external combustion engines (e.g.: steam engine) or electric motors as primary means of propulsion.
  2. ‘Day-hire Boats’. Any hire boat not hired out overnight.
  3. ‘Licensing Authority’. Local or statutory navigation or harbour authority which has statutory powers to regulate hire operators and hire boats. Local authorities are empowered under the Public Health Acts (Amendment) Act 1907, the Civic Amenities (Scotland) Act or under specific legislation to licence or regulate the operation of craft on defined waters.
  4. ‘Harbour Authority’. A body with powers and responsibilities for managing harbour areas made under the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847, or the Harbours Act 1964, or local legislation. 9. ‘Navigation Authority’. A body with powers and responsibilities for waterways defined in specific legislation.
  5. ‘Inland waters’. Waters listed in MCA notice MSN 1837(M) or its amendments as falling within the categories A to D, or waters not so listed but falling within the definitions given in 1. MSN 1837(M), or controlled waters as defined in the Water Resources Act 1991.


Within The Merchant Shipping (Vessels in Commercial Use for Sport or Pleasure) Regulations 1998, “pleasure vessel” means- (a) any vessel which at the time it is being used is: (I) (aa) in the case of a vessel wholly owned by an individual or individuals, used only for the sport or pleasure of the owner or the immediate family or friends of the owner; or (bb) in the case of a vessel owned by a body corporate, used only for sport or pleasure and on which the persons on board are employees or officers of the body corporate, or their immediate family or friends; and (ii) on a voyage or excursion which is one for which the owner does not receive money for or in connection with operating the vessel or carrying any person, other than as a contribution to the direct expenses of the operation of the vessel incurred during the voyage or excursion; or (b) any vessel wholly owned by or on behalf of a members' club formed for the purpose of sport or pleasure which, at the time it is being used, is used only for the sport or pleasure of members of that club or their immediate family, and for the use of which any charges levied are paid into club funds and applied for the general use of the club; and (c) in the case of any vessel referred to in paragraphs (a) or (b) above no other payments are made by or on behalf of users of the vessel, other than by the owner 2 Immediate family’ means in relation to an individual, the spouse or civil partner of the individual, and a relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner; and ‘relative’ means brother, sister, ancestor, or lineal descendent.


  1. ‘Decked Boats’. Boats fitted with a watertight deck or rigid cabin top covering at least 70% of the plan area at deck level. Sliding or lifting rigid cabin tops may be included in the area described as “decked”. Boats with a rigid canopy over an open well are considered to be Open Boats unless more than 25% of the sides are enclosed by rigid structure.
  2. ‘Open Boats’. All boats that are not Decked Boats.
  3. Sailing boat’. A vessel which is designed to be navigated under wind power alone and for which any motor provided is an auxiliary means of propulsion and/or which possesses a non-dimensional ratio of (sail area) divided by (volume of displacement) 2/3 of more than 7, and for this Code of Practice above 6m LH.
  4. ‘Inflatable Boat’. A buoyant hull achieving its intended shape and buoyancy by the medium of inflation of a fabric structure.
  5. ‘Rigid Inflatable Boat’. A buoyant structure comprising a lower hull formed by a rigid structure and achieving part of its intended shape with a buoyancy tube that is of either inflatable or foam-filled type and where the buoyancy of the tube comprises not less than 80% of the total buoyancy of the boat.
  6. Personal Watercraft’. Defined by the Recreational Craft Regulations 2017 as:
  • Less than 4m long which uses an internal combustion engine.
  • Uses a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion.
  • Designed to be operated by a person or persons sitting, standing or kneeling on, rather than within the confines of, a hull.


  1. ‘Pontoon Boat’. Boat comprising a platform mounted on two or more sealed cylindrical hulls. NB: Does not include cathedral hulls and multihulls.
  2. ‘Notified Body’. Notified bodies are appointed at the national level by EEA Member States to carry out conformity assessments on boats and engines according to the requirements of the Recreational Craft Regulations.
  3. ‘Approved Body’. An Approved Body is appointed by the Secretary of State to carry out conformity assessments on boats and engines according to the Recreational Craft Regulations for vessels placed on the GB market post transition and is equivalent to the ‘Notified Body’ after the 1st of January 2021.
  4. ‘Major Craft Conversion’. Means a conversion of a boat which changes the means of propulsion of the boat, involves a major engine modification, or alters the boat to such an extent that it may not meet the applicable essential safety and environmental requirements laid down in the Recreational Craft Regulations.
  5. ‘Crew Area’. comprises the areas of the boat in which persons may be safely located when the boat is in use, and comprises all areas defined by the Hire Operator for people to stand, walk, sit or lie during normal operation of the boat, including internal decks.
  6. ‘Crew Limit (CL)’. The maximum number of persons for which the boat is hired out, excluding any boatyard staff who may be on board during handover. This should include non-stability related aspects such as numbers of seating places and cabin ventilation. The crew limit must never exceed 12 persons.
  7. ‘Narrowboat’. A boat with a maximum beam of 2.08m (6 feet 10 inches), constructed from steel and designed for the narrow waterways and canals.
  8. Length of Hull (LH)’. Length of boat from the forward side of the stem at gunwale level to the aftermost point of the watertight hull, measured parallel to the loaded waterline as defined within BS EN ISO 8666.
  9. Beam of the hull (BH)’. Maximum hull beam of boat excluding rubbing strakes as defined within BS EN ISO 8666.

1.2. The Code of Practice.

This Code of Practice is for licensing and/or navigation authorities and anyone who hires out boats for leisure use on Britain’s inland waterways. It is mandatory on navigations that have the necessary legal powers, including all those managed by the Canal and River Trust, Broads Authority and Environment Agency.

The Code of Practice has been produced jointly by the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities, and British Marine with support from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. It supersedes the earlier versions of the code and has been consulted upon.

The Code of Practice sets down the basic principles of safe operation of all types of craft hired to members of the public and makes clear the responsibilities of each of the parties involved. Hire operators and licensing authorities must be able to provide evidence of compliance with the Code of Practice. 

Hire boat operators, their staff, contractors or people working on their behalf should be mindful of their duties under the Equality Act and ensure compliance with the requirements of that Act. 

The Statutory Code of Practice and other guidance for service providers is available on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website This code of practice is predominantly concerned with safety aspects on inland waterways and doesn’t seek to specifically address environmental aspects of hire boat use. Further information regarding relevant environmental issues for both operators and users can be found at and on the webpages of the relevant navigation authorities.

 Note: This Code of Practice has been drafted on the basis that the licensing authority’s legal powers are sufficient to allow for compliance with the stated requirements to be made a mandatory condition for the award of a licence. This is reflected in the use of words such as ‘must or, ‘will’ when expressing requirements. It is acknowledged that not all licensing authorities will have sufficient legal powers to support mandatory adoption of all the Code of Practice’s requirements through licence conditions. In these instances, the relevant requirements should be viewed as best practice to be adopted as part of the hire operators’ management of safety.

1.3 Scope of the Code of Practice:

The Code of Practice can be applied to sailing boats over 6m LH and powered boats of all length, but excludes vessels designed to be propelled solely by human power, hired out on inland waters that have a licensing authority and covers categorised waters up to and including MCA Category D. Attention is drawn to the definitions used in the Code of Practice. An understanding of these is essential to the understanding and application of this Code of Practice. It does not apply to boats covered by the Inland Waters Small Passenger Boats Code or other related Maritime and Coastguard Agency Codes. The Code of Practice does not cover any facilities (such as moorings, launch points, refuelling) that may be necessary to hire out boats safely.

1.4 Other Local Requirements:

In addition to the requirements laid out in this Code, the local authority or the port/harbour/navigation authority for the area in which the vessel operates may lay down requirements for vessels and/or skippers under relevant by legislation. Also, local authorities may have powers over the use of the foreshore and landing places, and to issue licences for their use.

1.5 Structure:

The Code of Practice sets down the common principles applying to licensing authorities, hire operators and hirers of any type of boat. Subsequent parts deal with the technical and operational aspects of safe operation for boats powered by engines or sail. The Code of Practice has been structured on the basis that its content will be hosted on the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities (AINA) website and linked through partner organisations’ websites.

The Code of Practice will be kept under review to ensure that it remains compatible with other relevant codes and standards. Amendments may be published from time to time. There will be a formal review of the Code of Practice not later than five years from the date of publication, and thereafter at intervals not exceeding five years. The Code of Practice will be reviewed by the owners and convened by AINA. The review will take account of:

  • Current information on hire boating incidents and risk analysis.
  • Changes to related requirements including those published by the Boat Safety Scheme, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, sports governing bodies and International Standards Organisation.
  • Feedback from stakeholders and their representative bodies including licensing authorities, hire operators and hirers The results of these reviews and any proposals for change will be published on the AINA website.

2 Common Principles for Safe Hire Boating.

The principles in this section are based on the Principles for Water Safety, published by the National Water Safety Forum. Measures intended to ensure safe hire boating should be consistent, proportionate, and fully recognise the broader benefits to society from recreation on water.

2.1 Shared responsibilities.

The licensing and/or navigation authority, the hire boat operator and the hirer all have responsibilities for safety in hire boating. 

2.2 Boats suitable for purpose.

The hire boat operator will ensure that the boat: − is suitable for the waters on which it is to be used and the conditions likely to be encountered − conforms to relevant construction, equipment, stability and condition standards − is properly maintained. 

2.3 Adequate hirer ability.

The hire boat operator must give the hirer(s) adequate instruction in the safe use of the craft for the waters on which it will be used. The hire boat operator must not release the craft to any hirer(s) who is not, in the operator’s opinion, able to navigate safely. Hirer(s) are responsible for taking heed of instruction in the safe use of the craft given by the hire boat operator and the licensing and/or navigation authority.

 2.4 Safety Information. The licensing and/or navigation authority, working with the hire boat operator where appropriate, will so far as reasonably practicable take measures to make information available in a timely fashion to hirers about navigation restrictions or other hazards to navigation, whether planned or unplanned. This may include use of signage, websites and email.

 2.5 Incident Reporting and Recording.

Licensing and/or navigation authorities, hire operators and hirers should work together to report and record incidents or near misses. Statutory reporting requirements may also apply see Maritime and Coastguard Agency document MGN 564 which includes a duty to notify for a recreational craft hired on a bareboat basis if the marine casualty involves an explosion, fire, or capsize of a power driven vessel, or results in death, serious injury3 or severe pollution.

 2.6 Risk assessment and changed circumstances.

The licensing and/or navigation authority and hire boat operator have statutory duties to carry out risk assessments. The licensing and/or navigation authority must assess the risks to its users, including hirers, from its infrastructure and management including the effects of environmental conditions and asset degradation. This would include the communication of unsafe conditions to hire operators and hirers as appropriate.

Hire operators must make an assessment of risks to hirers taking account of the nature of the navigation, type of boat, equipment and potential environmental conditions. This Code of Practice provides a risk-based approach to many of the technical and operational aspects of boats and their hire. Hire operators’ risk assessments should pay particular attention to:

  • Hazards specific to the boat’s characteristics not covered by the technical standards in section 3, such as the risk of falling overboard.
  • Hazards outside the scope of this Code of Practice, for example facilities (such as moorings, launch points, refuelling) that may be required to hire boats out safely.
  • Effects on risk of changed circumstances Changed circumstances may include: − Incidents − Hirer profile and behaviour.
  • Patterns of boat use.
  • Modifications to boats (including changes in condition).
  • Environment (e.g. weather extremes, water conditions such as stream and tide).
  • Infrastructure (e.g. breakdowns, restricted access)

 A risk–based approach should be adopted when considering changes. Risk assessments may need to be revised and changes communicated to those who may be affected.

 2.7 Monitoring and Compliance. Licensing authorities must have a clear policy statement explaining verification of compliance with the Code of Practice. Hire operators must have a suitable management system in place to demonstrate compliance with the Code of Practice. Hirers are responsible for the consequences of their actions. This should be made clear during the handover procedure.

3In this context a serious injury renders the person unable to perform their usual duties for >72 hours, or requires their admittance to a hospital / medical facility for >24 hours

These sections build on the high level Common Principles for hire boat safety and set out more specific requirements for the types of hire boats used for hire in UK waters.

3.1 Responsibilities.

The principal parties involved in the hire of a hire boat all have responsibilities for safety.

3.1.1 Hirers.

The hirers have responsibilities which include:

  • Nominating a party leader (who may not be the same person who made the booking).
  • The party leader and other party member(s) nominated to drive or handle the boat attending the handover briefings / practical demonstration and taking heed of the advice and instruction given − operating the boat and equipment in accordance with the instructions given during the handover briefings and in briefing material provided.
  • Not to exceed the maximum number of persons and adhere to the crew areas as defined by the Hire Operator.
  • Navigating in accordance with the advice and instructions given (in whatever form including written, verbal, electronic and by signs) by the hire boat operator and the body responsible for the waters to be navigated.
  • The party leader ensures that all members of the party are advised of key safety information and are appropriately supervised.
  • Studying the briefing material provided.

3.1.2 Hire Operator.

The hire operator will:

  • Ensure their boats comply with the standards required by this Code of Practice and its Supporting Documents, and are maintained in that condition (see section 3.2)
  • At time of hire, not permit the boat to carry any number of persons in excess of that permitted by the Stability Compliance Declaration (Appendix III).
  • Provide handover briefings (section 3.3.3) and practical demonstration appropriate for the type of boat, length of hire, expected conditions and experience of the crew.
  • At time of hire not permit a boat to depart if the nominated skipper does not appear to have sufficient ability, upon assessment of competence, to drive the boat without putting others at risk, or appears unable to control passengers.
  • Maintain evidence to show compliance with the Code of Practice which may include:
    • Have a licence, registration certificate or other permission for the waterway(s) the boat will use (and display if required).
    • Have a documented safety management system.
    • Fitness for purpose boat certification (e.g. Boat Safety Scheme certification section 3.2.2).
    • Miscellaneous equipment (Appendix II).
    • RCD/RCR Declaration of Conformity.
    • Stability Compliance Declaration (Appendix IV).
    • Documented risk assessments.
    • Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Certificate (where gas system is installed).
    • Appropriate insurance cover.
    • Hand-over audit certification (where available) Documented evidence should be retained for a period of at least 6 years.

3.1.3 The Licensing Authority.

The licensing authority will within the scope of their declared enforcement policy, powers and the limits of practicability:

  • Introduce a regime to check compliance with the Code of Practice.
  • Take appropriate action in identified cases of non-compliance

3.2 Technical standards and compliance.

In addition to the requirements set out below, hire boats which operate in MCA Category C and D waters may also be required to comply with other relevant technical standards such as communications equipment, navigation equipment, and lifesaving equipment. Hire operators should ensure that their vessels conform to all relevant standards for their type and area of operation Pontoon boats and open boats less than 4 metres long shall not be operated in waters outside MCA categories A or B.

3.2.1 Recreational Craft Regulations.

New craft within scope must comply with the Recreational Craft Regulations (RCR).

It should be noted that as of January 18th 2017, Any person placing on the market or putting into service a CE marked boat after a major modification or conversion (as per the definition) shall apply the procedure, Post-construction assessment which always requires certification by Notified Body, before placing the product on the market or putting it into service.

For further information consult

3.2.2 Licensing Authority Standards.

Licensing authorities shall put into place provisions to manage safety as part of their licensing framework throughout a hire boat operational lifetime. Such measures should include those aimed at minimising the risks presented by the hire boat, such as from fires, explosion, pollution, Carbon Monoxide poisoning (ventilation shortfall), downflooding risks, measures to help prevent people falling overboard, slips, trips and falls, and electrocution. The Boat Safety Scheme is an option available to Licensing Authorities to manage these risks. Licensing Authorities who have not implemented the Boat Safety Scheme on their waters shall consider how they will assess the hire operator’s compliance.

3.2.3 Stability.

Boats must have adequate stability for the numbers of persons using the boat and the area of operation. Powered punts are excluded from this requirement when operating on MCA Category A waters as defined in MSN 1837.

Boats which are let for hire must have a completed Stability Compliance Declaration upon entry into hire service and recertification if significant alterations affecting stability of the boat are made during its life. Stability and Freeboard standards and test methods are set out in Appendix III, where a competent person will be required to carry out Level 2 testing.

Operators who place into service boats certified to the RCR where a Notified Body has certified the Stability and Buoyancy requirements may complete the Stability Compliance Declaration for the boat and provide the official number of the notified body who carried out the assessment. (this 4-digit code may be found on the builder’s plate under the CE certification mark).

Operators must make available the Stability Compliance Declaration for each boat upon request by the licensing authority.

A Crew Limit and Crew Area Sign stating the Crew Limit maximum number of persons to be carried, the maximum load and the designated Crew Area must be fitted to each boat in a position that is clearly visible from the helm.

Changes to a boat will often occur and these may not generally affect stability however where changes include the following items then the initial stability assessment and test, if required must be repeated and a new Stability Compliance Declaration is to be generated. If this results in a change to permitted load and or the Crew Limit maximum number of persons or the designated Crew Area then an updated Crew Limit and Crew Area Sign stating the maximum number of persons to be carried, the maximum load and designated crew areas must be fitted to the boat, as described above. Changes affecting the stability of the boat and requiring reassessment include:

  • Change in mass or distribution of mass for example an engine change, fitting of new fuel tanks or additional equipment.
  • Structural change.
  • Change to crew area.
  • Change in area of operation.
  • An increase in the maximum number of persons to be carried.

3.2.4 Modifications or alterations to vessels.

Changes to vessels inevitably occur and need to be appropriately considered and carried out to avoid inadvertently introducing additional hazards and increased risk. Hire operators need to have processes in place which will ensure that the risks from any actual or proposed change are assessed and responded to appropriately.

In particular they need to pay attention to those changes with the greatest potential for increasing risk. These include:

  • Additions to passenger numbers, structural alterations which may add weight or affect centre of gravity, fitting of 4 A competent person is one having the ability, appropriate training, knowledge and experience to supervise or carry out the work being undertaken in a safe and proper manner. different engines. These may require additional stability testing, see section 3.2.3.
  • Fire or explosion. Installation of new gas appliances, re-routing of pipework, fuel system changes, electrical system changes.
  • Changes to ventilation arrangements, appliance flues or anything which may impair maintenance of effective fixed ventilation to the required standard.

Any changes being considered must be assessed to ensure they will not increase risk or take the boat out of compliance with this Code of Practice. Changes must be carried out by competent fitters in accordance with any statutory requirements such as Gas Safety (Installation and Use) and fully tested. The assessment should be simply documented to show that the change has been adequately considered.

The Major Craft Conversion requirement within the Recreational Craft Regulations is statutory and must be followed when a Major Craft Conversion takes place on a CE marked vessel.

3.3 Operational Standards.

This section deals with:

  • Hand-over and return.
  • Managing change.

3.3.1 Hand-over and return.

This section is primarily concerned with the way in which boat hirers are provided with sufficient information and instruction to enable them to safely undertake the trip. It follows the stages of a trip through from booking, to departure from the hire base, to the conclusion of the trip.

Note that national hire boat and day-boat handover audit schemes are available from the British Marine as part of their Quality Accredited Boatyard (QAB) Scheme.

3.3.2 Pre trip information.

Advanced booking gives an opportunity for the hire operator to provide the hirer with information both on navigating boats in general, such as using locks, rules of the road, mooring etc., and on the area in which they will be boating. General information is also available from some navigation authorities and industry associations . Navigation Authorities will sometimes produce cruising notes.

3.3.3 Handover procedures.

Whether the boat is a large well-equipped cruiser designed to provide living accommodation for several weeks, a simple day-boat or sailing boat, it is essential that before the hire operator gives control of the boat to the hirer, a systematic and documented handover procedure, appropriate to the type of boat, length of hire and its area of operation, is followed.

An in-water trial is an integral and important part of the handover process. It is essential that the briefing, demonstration and assessment of the hirers ability is done by a suitably experienced member of the hire operator’s staff who can deal confidently with any questions the hiring party may have.

The handover topics may include but are not limited to:

a) Appliances

                − Heating, lighting and cooking, and sanitary facilities.

b) Using the boat

− Moving around and getting on and off the boat. Use of lifejackets.

− Engine starting, use and checks.

− Steering, stopping and mooring.

− Procedure for transferring helm control where more than one helm station exists.

− Awareness of maximum number of persons allowed on the boat and access limitations to ensure stability (see section 3.1.2 for detail).

− Use of locks, bridges etc.

− Awareness of navigation hazards and how to deal with them (e.g. weirs, tidal flows and/or river flows, commercial traffic, shallow water etc.).

− Speed limits, rules of the waterway.

− Restrictions to navigation notified by navigation or harbour authorities, or the MCA.

− Raising and lowering sails (where applicable).

− Sweep of narrowboat tiller arms (where appropriate).

− The relevant safety information declared on safety signs.

c) Safety Equipment.

− Life Jackets / Buoyancy Aids.

− Lifebuoys, throw-lines etc.

− Portable fire extinguishers and fire blanket.

− Alarm activations.

  1. Briefing material The handover should be supported by briefing material which may include information on:

− Personal safety.

– moving around and getting on and off the boat; and the use of lifejackets.

− Relevant information on the crew areas assigned to the boat for vessel stability.

− Reference information on how to use the boat’s engine, steering, throttle and gear controls, how to carry out engine checks and avoid moving machinery parts and hot surfaces.

− Safety on the move – use of locks, bridges, dealing with fouled propellers, going aground, etc.

− Safe use of appliances fitted in the boat.

– cookers, stoves, heaters etc.

− Avoiding fire, electrocution and carbon monoxide poisoning.

− Dealing with emergencies including safety equipment and its use.

− Navigation rules, including speed or wash limits, giving way, sound signals, etc.

− Mooring - how and where.

− Navigation features and hazards such as locks, weirs, stream and tidal flows, low bridges or narrow bridge arches, obstructions, etc.

− Contact information including for emergencies

e) Communications.

− Using the contact material in the boat manual.

f) Dealing with emergencies.

− Man overboard.

− Fire.

− Grounding.

− Collision.

− Sinking.

− Breakdown.

− Suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

− Emergency contact details.

− Recording and reporting

3.3.4 Hirer Ability.

During or at the completion of the handover briefing / demonstration, and the in-water trial the hire operator must decide whether the hirer and his party are sufficiently able to be allowed to take the boat out. Reasons for not doing so would include:

− Inability of the party leader(s) to demonstrate adequate control (even after repeated instruction).

− Perceived impairment through drink or drugs.

− Inadequate resources available to the party to control children safely or supervise persons with special needs.

If the decision is made not to permit the boat to go out, this should be recorded in the handover documentation.

Throughout the handover process, the person giving the instruction should take account of any qualifications (for example, RYA qualifications, pre completed competency tests) or previous experience professed by the party leader(s), however this should only be recognised as an opportunity to accelerate the briefing, not dispense with it. Irrespective of the Hirers experience an inwater trial before handover finalisation must be carried out. 

3.3.5 During and after the Hire Period.

At the conclusion of the hire period the hirer should have the opportunity, where practicable, to report back to the hire operator on any problems or incidents that occurred. These would include:

− Incidents (Personal injury and/or damage to property).

− Breakdowns or deficiencies with the boat or equipment.

− Vandalism or anti-social behaviour.

Hire operators are reminded that they have a statutory duty to report certain types of incidents involving the use of hire craft to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

In the interests of building a better understanding of boating incidents and near misses, their frequency and causes, hire operators are encouraged to pass on details through their navigation authority, or British Marine, to ensure that any

incident trends can be analysed and, if appropriate, addressed in future editions of this Code of Practice.

3.3.6 Documentation.

The handover process is an essential element of safety management. It is important that an audit trail of its delivery is maintained. This may include:

− Booking terms and conditions.

− Booking confirmation.

− Customer log sheet. The record of when the hirer and his party arrived and departed, party member names, delivery of handover.

− Boat acceptance certificate. A record of the handover and the hirers’ and party leader’s written acceptance of it. Incident reports and records of any other customer feedback.

3.3.7 Audit.

In view of the importance of the handover process, hire operators are strongly recommended to periodically have their handover arrangements independently audited . Licensing and/or certifying authorities can reserve the right to carry out sample audits; having an independent audit available is likely to satisfy such a requirement.

3.3.8 Changes to local area of operation.

Temporary or permanent changes to the environment in the area in which the hire boat operates could cause additional hazards which may require additional briefing of hirers, or restrictions to the area of operation. These could include:

− Complete or partial closures to navigable channels for maintenance purposes, or special events.

− Temporary obstructions restricting available channel or airdraft.

− Missing or unserviceable navigation signs or aids e.g. channel markers.

− Severe weather conditions causing flooding or high water flows.

Hire operators should ensure that they pay due heed to the available information sources such as navigation authority notices and bulletins, notices to mariners, extreme weather and flood alerts etc.

Navigation and harbour authorities need to ensure they take reasonable measures to notify boat operators of hazardous conditions of which they might otherwise not be aware.

Risk assessments should be reviewed and amended where necessary.

British Marine Members

We are proud to be members of British Marine and abide by their code of practice. Member No. W001775

Company Details

Sail & Trail Trading as:
Heart of England Narrowboats
Hinksford Wharf
Hinksford Lane

Registered Office Address:
Curzon Street Business Centre
Curzon Street
Burton upon Trent
DE14 2DH

Vat No 930 4992 14
Registered as a company in England no 5803069
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