Boat safety, surveys and threats of eviction

In March 2018, CYBC terminated the licences of around a quarter of the boats at CYBC on the grounds that they had not been dry-docked within the timeframe specified in their CYBC mooring licence. As this timeframe had not previously been enforced, boatowners believe that this is part of an unreasonable attempt to evict them in order to free up space for new luxury houseboats.

Safety and insurance
Safety is a fundamental responsibility for any boatowner, and is obviously even more of a priority when your boat is also your home. All the boats at Chelsea Reach are insured by certified marine insurers, and meet their requirement that each boat be surveyed regularly by a qualified marine surveyor to test the condition of the hull. 

CYBC’s requirement
All CYBC’s mooring licences contain clauses that require boats to be surveyed in a suitable dry-dock or grid at fixed intervals. However, the required interval varies from licence to licence, with most CYBC licences now requiring an out-of-water survey either once every six years or even every three years, whereas insurers usually require an out-of-water survey only once every ten years. The enforcement of the shorter intervals would naturally have an enormous impact on the boatowners in terms of inconvenience and added costs, however CYBC did not enforce these timeframes until 2017. This means it was effectively leaving insurers to dictate survey schedules.

Risks of dry docking
Most of the boats at CYBC are not built for navigation so must be towed to dry-dock. This is not only expensive (typically many thousands of pounds per visit, even before any required works), it is also risky. In 2013, a houseboat being towed back from dry-dock took on so much water it had to be written off. In January 2018, a houseboat collided with its neighbouring boat as it was being slipped back into its berth and caused significant damage. Another boat recently suffered structural damage while it was moored up in the middle of the river awaiting the right tide. Understandably, boatowners prefer to have their boats surveyed in-situ, only visiting dry dock when their surveyor or insurer requires it.

In-situ surveys
At Chelsea Reach, houseboats sit on the mud at low tide so it is possible for surveyors to access vessels while they remain in-situ. Surveyors use ultrasonic thickness gauges to test the thickness of the steel and report on hull integrity, a practice approved by insurers for reducing the required frequency of out-of-water surveys. If corrosion or any other matter requiring work is identified, the surveyor’s report will make recommendations about the correct repair: in most cases, steel hulls can easily be repaired by taking the boat to dry dock and welding new steel over the affected area. 

Out-of-water surveys
Typically, insurers require that vessels that can be surveyed in-situ still go to dry dock (or to a grid) for an out-of-water survey once every ten years, or earlier where surveyors have found evidence of corrosion or damage during an in-situ survey. The timing of these visits varies depending on the age of the vessel, the type of hull and the results of in-situ surveys.

Click here to read why boatowners feel the termination of mooring licences is an unreasonable attempt to evict them in order to free up space for new luxury houseboats.

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