This page was originally written as a post: in WordPress speak, that made it relatively ephemeral. I have copied the text to a page so that it will appear in the list of pages to the right.
There is no houseboat policy
British Waterways (now in the process of transferring its waterways to the Canal and River Trust) has a commercial subsidiary called British Waterways Marinas Ltd. And BW says:
Our involvement in the commercial moorings business is monitored and regulated by the Board’s Trading Committee [9KB PDF] to ensure that we gain no unfair advantage from our statutory roles and that we comply fully with UK competition law.
BWML, incidentally, has two marinas catering for seagoing boats and also has some caravan pitches available.
As well as providing marinas through BWML, British Waterways also controls long-term moorings along the waterways; its policy on long-term moorings is outlined here with more details here. It uses a system of auctioning moorings, with its own website at BW Mooring Vacancies.
From a quick look at the price list on that second page [PDF], the cheapest mooring seems to be £37.59 (incl VAT) per metre at the Saracens Head on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which would be £676.62 a year for an 18m boat; I presume that there would be no services. At the upper end, you can have a residential berth on Regents Canal in London for £8,949.95 a year. Most prices, though, seem to be in the range £70–120 per metre.
The Waterways Ireland houseboat facility
In October 2010 Waterways Ireland announced this (which is hard to find on the WI website):
10/38 Shannon Harbour Developments
Following receipt of planning permission, Waterways Ireland is progressing with the development of a houseboat facility in Shannon Harbour where the Grand Canal meets the Shannon.
The result will be a serviced mooring facility in Shannon Harbour for 6-8 boats. This will include moorings, area lighting, electricity and water.
A section of the Grand Canal, from the 34th Lock to the 35th Lock inclusive, will be closed to navigation between 1st November 2010 and 14th March 2011 to facilitate the improvement works. The towpaths will also be closed during the period of the works.
The design and commissioning of the work has been undertaken by Waterways Ireland. The tenders are currently being assessed and will be awarded shortly.
Waterways Ireland regrets any inconvenience to its customers during the period of the improvement works.
Ends Word Count 133
For further information please contact Waterways Ireland Press Office: Katrina Mc Girr Tel no +353 (0)87 991 8412
Senior Engineer (Technical Services) Joe Mc Mahon Tel no +353 (0)48 6634 6270
Here is the tender for “Development of House Boat Facility”. There are some photos of the work in progress here. Early in 2011 WI reported (inter alia) that:
11/05 Works at Shannon Harbour
Works at Shannon Harbour Continue Despite Weather Conditions
[…] The work on the house boat facility is still on programme with completion expected in early March 2011.
During Engineers Week in 2011, WI provided site visits:
11/08 Engineers Week
Waterways Ireland Offers Engineering Insights
[…] The site visit to the Grand Canal was based at Shannon Harbour, near Banagher. The tour took in the completed regeneration works in Shannon Harbour and the ongoing work to develop a new houseboat facility.
L+M Keating describe the work here. And in April 2011 WI Marine Notice 34/11 announced that the navigation had reopened:
MARINE NOTICE No. 34 of 2011 […]
Marine Notice No. 27 of 2011 refers.
Waterways Ireland wishes to advise masters and users that the navigable channel in Shannon Harbour is now open.
The new house boat facility remains closed to the public as construction work continues.
Waterways Ireland regrets any inconvenience that this may cause its customers.
So that’s all clear, then: WI was developing houseboat berths at Shannon Harbour, although it was having difficulty in finalising a houseboat policy. I commented on some of the issues here.
The latest developments
In January 2012 page2rss alerted me to a new item on the WI website and it turned out to be about the berths in Shannon Harbour. There is a link in the menu on the left-hand side of the WI home page; it says “One Year Serviced Moorings” and leads to a page whereon we read this:
Waterways Ireland’s Extended Term Serviced Mooring Vacancies
This page advertises vacancies that arise at Waterways Ireland’s directly managed mooring sites. Vacancies are advertised for 28 days in advance of allocation.
If you are not a regular internet user and would prefer to receive vacancy details and apply for a vacancy by post, please call (028) 6632 3004 or (048) 6632 3004 from Southern Ireland for an application form.
Latest Release: Shannon Harbour, Grand Canal, Co Offaly
Deadline for Application: 23 February 2012
Minimum entry bid Price €1,250
Each of the links is to a Word *.doc file.
The missing word
Have you noticed what word is not used there or on the front page?
Previous discussion of the Shannon Harbour development, including notices from Waterways Ireland, has been about a facility for houseboats. However, what we have here is something much broader than that: a system by which Waterways Ireland can auction and allocate long-term serviced moorings. WI is going into business and, presumably, aiming to make a few quid (no bad thing, considering that it has been suffering budget cuts).
The current offering
Now, admittedly the present offering does hope to attract houseboats. The “full details” document says:
These are Extended Term Serviced Mooring sites where it is expected that the licence holders will live on board their vessels as their sole or main residence.
That is the only mention of living aboard in that document. There is another in the application form:
I confirm that I am applying for an extended term serviced mooring and the vessel is my sole or principal residence.
As far as I can see, though, the licence agreement refers only to extended term serviced moorings and contains no mention of houseboats, residences or living on board.
So let us suppose that WI doesn’t get seven houseboat-owners who don’t work from their boats, have no pets and want to live in Shannon Harbour. It could then advertise the spaces to barge-owners who wanted non-residential moorings. And at €1250 a year, they are charging about one third of the rate at certain marinas on the Shannon.
The licence agreement could also be used, mutatis mutandis, to cover moorings elsewhere within the WI estate. It would not be difficult, for instance, to apply it to the moorings in the inner basin of the Grand Canal Dock in Ringsend in Dublin, with most changes confined to the second schedule.
And it could be applied just as easily to unserviced moorings anywhere along the waterways. Indeed the agreement specifically caters for that:
The Licensor regards the development of extended term and/or serviced moorings as an integral part of the functions referenced at B. above.
So it could be used, for example, to control the allocation of unserviced moorings at Shannon Harbour, Lowtown, Sallins or Hazelhatch, to residential or non-residential boaters: in other words, to anyone who parks their boat on a canal. I have, of course, no evidence that WI has it in contemplation to do any such thing, but it is interesting that the agreement provides for it.
It may be that WI has solved the problem of developing a houseboat policy by deciding not to have a houseboat policy. IANAL, but it may be significant that the licence agreement cites legislation on extended mooring:
D. Pursuant to the Canals Act 1986 and the Canals Act 1986 (Bye-Laws) 1988 (SI No. 247 of 1988) (“the Bye-Laws”) the Licensor is authorised to issue permits to authorise and regulate the use of boats on the canal property so as to permit not only mooring on the canals generally but also, pursuant to Clause 25(d) of the Bye-Laws, extended mooring at the same place, or within 500 metres of the same place, for a period of more than five days at a time.
E. The Licensor regards the development of extended term and/or serviced moorings as an integral part of the functions referenced at B. above.
F. To this end, the Licensor has developed at Shannon Harbour, on lands adjacent to the Grand Canal, a dedicated area containing seven berths for the purpose of extended term serviced mooring, with facilities provided to include the construction of fixed timber jetties with lighting, a clean water supply and electricity supply.
G. The Licensor in exercise of the powers conferred under the Act and the Bye-Laws and of all other powers enabling has agreed to grant to the Licensee a permit to moor his boat named _________ and more particularly described in Part 1 of the First Schedule hereto (“the Boat”), in this mooring facility subject to the terms set out herein, including a charge (“the Licence Fee”) of €_________ payable in consideration of the particular nature of the mooring as described at F above.
It regards the legislation as providing authority not just for regulation of extended mooring itself but also for the development of extended moorings. Could it be that WI feared that the development of houseboat moorings might be ultra vires?
In any event, by approaching the matter in this way, WI has given itself a system that can be applied much more widely to canal issues than just to the regulation of liveaboards.
Behavioural and Technical issues
These documents raise some further issues. For example, there are stipulations about behaviour:
7c Biodegradable products must be used for all cleaning water that is discharged into the navigation.
8a No pets are allowed.
9b If social events are to take place on Boats then noise levels must be contained so as not to disturb other Berth holders and there should be no noise after midnight.
11i Generators may only be used between 08:00hrs and 20:00hrs.
None of these is unreasonable, especially in the context of residential moorings, but they are indicative of WI preferences that might be applied elsewhere.
There are also some technical issues. They include a stipulation that would mean that no large Dutch barges, or other Shannon-size-only vessels, could use the Shannon harbour berths, and that no engineless houseboats are allowed:
g. Boats must be capable of moving under their own steam and be capable of navigation in the canal network.
The dimensions of the Shannon Harbour berths confine them to GCC-size vessels, but would (for instance) a high wheelhouse or a deep draught mean that a boat could not use these berths?
Here are some other technical stipulations. It is not clear how or whether WI would enforce these, but it has the power to do so:
6a All Boats must carry adequate fire fighting equipment and have same serviced as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
10a Boats must comply with all current bye-law legislation in relation to construction and equipment.
10b Boats must be fitted with an operational waste water holding tank.
10c Engines must be fitted with a drip tray. Engines must be maintained so as to minimise the likelihood of fuel or oil leaks into bilges.
10d Boats must have a manual bilge pump fitted.
10e Boats must have appropriate certification for gas and electrical fits.
10f Boats must have had a recent survey (3 yearly).
Again, these indicate WI desiderata. Might they be introduced in other contexts? Note in particular the reqirement for three-yearly surveys and for certification of gas and electricity installations.
I should say that, on the whole, I welcome these documents, but I do think that their provisions — and the context — need to be considered. And I have some reservations about this, if anyone is living aboard:
The Licensor’s Inspectorate staff shall be permitted access to Boats in order to secure same, make safety checks, or routine inspections.
IIRC, when WI attempted to get Sallins liveaboards to move from the harbour, and to pay a modest sum for a bank mooring a little distance away, some folk said that, because the proposed charge was not listed in the Schedule to the Canals Act, (1986) Bye-laws, 1988, WI could not impose it.
I am not certain that that is true, provided that WI goes about things the right way (as it may have at Shannon Harbour). Bye-law 41 ends thus: “The powers conferred on the Commissioners by these Bye-laws are in addition to and not a substitution for any statutory or other powers which they may have.” The British-Irish Act 1999 imposed some restrictions on the canal authority’s freedom, notably by requiring ministerial consent for the opening and closing of navigations and for the making of new bye-laws. But as far as I can tell the powers under Article 6 (g) of the Canals Act 1986 are unaffected: the authorities may “lease or let to any person canal property and license the use of the canals and canal water by any person”. IANAL, so I would welcome comment from anyone who does know the law.
Finally, Giles raised the question of planning permission for the Shannon Harbour development:
[…] there may well be an issue of plannning as the original application (link below) reads ‘CONSTRUCTION OF A DEDICATED AREA CONTAINING SIX BERTHS FOR THE PURPOSE OF HOUSE BOAT MOORING’.
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