Boat count shows fewest licence evaders ever and boat numbers static

April 2018 - The Canal & River Trust’s annual national boat count claims that licence evasion on its waterways is at its lowest-ever level, with 3.1 per cent of boats not holding up-to-date licences – around 990 boats and 0.2 per cent down on the previous year. Alec Wood reports.

The national boat count also paints a picture of the changing numbers of boats across the country and shows a dramatic slow down in the growth of London boat numbers. London is now only growing as fast as the North of England.

The Trust’s waterways in London have seen numbers up by just 2.4 per cent, compared to growth of over nine per cent in 2016/17. The North saw an increase of 2.3 per cent, while other areas remained static, giving C&RT a virtually static income from boat licences at a time when it needs to see it increasing.

Jon Horsfall, interim head of boating at Canal & River Trust, was ecstatic about the small drop in unlicensed boats: “This is a fantastic achievement for our boat licensing customer support team. They are out every day helping boaters with their licence requirements and trying to find ways to work things out when a boater might run into problems. When boaters talk to us about difficulties they may be having, we are nearly always able to come up with a solution to keep them licensed.”

Despite the small percentage he was still keen to wave his finger at boaters, saying: “It’s important that boats are licensed correctly. Not only does this mean they’re insured and hold a boat safety certificate, but it means they’re playing their part in contributing to the huge task of keeping our canals and rivers open. The income from boat licensing is crucial – in 2017/18 leisure licences contributed £20.2m, around 10 per cent of total income – and it’s important that it’s shared fairly by everyone who keeps a boat on our waterways.

“Unfortunately, a small minority continue to enjoy the benefits of boating on the waterways without putting anything back to fund their upkeep. In 2017/18 we had to remove 108 boats from our canals and rivers as they were unlicensed or in breach of our terms and conditions.”

The survey, completed in March, records boats on waterways across England & Wales and C&RT says it provides a comprehensive snap-shot of licence evasion. It also says the information is used to 'support the day-to-day work carried out by the Trust'.

Photo: The stats for 2016 and 2017.

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