Canal Boats
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Canal Boats - Boat Safety Scheme (BSS)

canal boatsAs I'm sure you would agree, the first priority for all users of canal boats, and indeed every other form of vessel is safety, both for ourselves and also for other users. The boat safety scheme is a relatively new concept, having been introduced in 1997 as a joint initiative between British Waterways and the Environment Agency to improve boat safety, and to lay down standards for boat maintenance, management and use. 

At it's simplest level the standards have been designed to minimise the risk of fires and explosions by specifying a minimum set of standards that all boats must meet in order to obtain a navigation licence. In addition the scheme also recommends best practice advice to ensure the personal safety of all those onboard.

Canal Boats - BSS Key Points

It is a sad fact that liveaboard boaters are the most vulnerable when it comes to safety onboard, and in 2007, 2 more died as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning - the silent killer. Electrical faults and the build up of combustible gases are a lethal combination and lead to fires and explosions on a regular basis. The Boat Safety Scheme has been introduced to try to ensure that all canal boats are fitted out and maintained to strict safety standards to try to reduce the number of deaths and accidents which occur each year.

As a leisure/privately owned boat there are two elements to the scheme. The first part is mandatory and accounts for approximately 75% of the items listed. These will all require approval before a licence is issued. The remaining 25% are voluntary or advisory, but owners are encouraged  to meet the standards as it is their own interest to meet, what is considered to be, best practice to achieve a safe and enjoyable environment.

The examination itself is carried out once every four years by a qualified inspector and these can be found via the BSS web site. It is a good idea to book well in advance, as should your boat fail the test, then you will have time to rebook. Generally 2 months in advance should be adequate, and inspectors are available throughout the country. The cost of the test varies throughout the UK and you will need to check with the inspector beforehand in order to obtain an outline quote.

The examination itself will cover specific areas such as electrical installations, inboard and outboard engines, fire prevention and extinguishers, LPG installations, appliances, fluing and venting, pollution and general safety whilst on board. In particular the test will pay close attention to areas where possible build up of gases may occur and the quality and condition of all fuel lines, hoses and fuel system components etc. Fire is a continual hazard and your extinguishers will be checked for proper certification and sufficient number, as well as alternative measures for fire control such as fire blankets etc. Your boat will require two means of fire escape, and it is now strongly recommended that owners install smoke alarms as standard practice. (I would also suggest you install a CO audible alarm as standard for liveaboard use, but check with the supplier that it is suitable for the relatively harsh environment of a boat - use this as a belt and braces solution only and not your only source of protection) Best practice storage of LPG containers will be checked, and all appliances, whether cooking heating or lighting will also be checked to ensure they are fully maintained and serviced regularly. Fluing arrangements will be checked in detail to ensure all waste gases are safely dispersed.

Canal boats can be dangerous places, and the BSS scheme has been introduced for your benefit. If you want my opinion, whilst not all of it is mandatory as a private owner, I would follow all the recommendations it provides in full - after all it's your life that is at risk, and the lives of others on boards - I would suggest that you have a duty of care as the skipper of your boat.

So, I think we've covered all the basics, and you thought buying a canal boat was easy!! - let's now move on to actually buying your canal boat and look at something called the sailaway option - a great way to buy canal boats if you are handy at diy and want to create your own unique design.

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Marinablu International Ltd is an Introducer Appointed Representative of  Pantaenius UK Ltd who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA)  - canal boats