Tag Archives: Lower Bann

Impractical Boat Owner

We list only walk-ashore berths with mast-up access from the coast.

Thus Practical Boat Owner 585 April 2015 in its 2015 Marina price guide.

I do not know how a yacht can reach Kinnego or Sandy Bay Marina on Lough Neagh, from the coast, with its mast up.

Waterways Ireland news

Lots of info pouring from Waterways Ireland at the moment: July Shannon traffic stats, which will take me some time to analyse, serviced moorings in Sallins, digital navigation thingies for the Erne and Lower Bann and an online survey.

Here’s the press release for navigation thingies. I’ll cover the online survey in a separate message.

Waterways Ireland Pilots Digital Navigation Guides to the Inland Waterways

Waterways Ireland has developed an Online Navigation Guide for the Lower Bann for use on computers, tablets and mobile phones. In a major step change in the presentation of navigation guides for Ireland’s Inland Waterways, Waterways Ireland has, in consultation with user groups, developed, tested and now launched, pilot Online Navigation Guides, designed to provide a convenient alternative to printed navigation guides.

The online guide to navigation has been developed internally within Waterways Ireland using ArcGIS online. This interactive web mapping application details navigation features such as Locks, Moorings, Weirs, Navigation Markers and other facilities along the waterway. These data layers are then overlaid using ArcGIS online web maps. GPS surveys or digitising onscreen using Ordnance Survey Maps have been used to capture the location of features. The application enables the public to pan around the map, identify features, print maps, switch between base mapping & satellite view and switch on and off layers. The Lower Bann Guide is complete and available for free on our website and can be viewed on a PC, Tablet or Smartphone.

Waterways Ireland will update the maps on an ongoing basis so that the latest navigational information is always available online. Ongoing feedback is welcomed from users to keep the mapping information accurate.

With both the Lower Bann and the Erne System Navigation Guides presently available online, Waterways Ireland is commencing work with user groups on the Shannon and will subsequently cover the remaining waterways.

The maps are available on www.waterwaysireland.org by choosing the waterway and then selected the map tab. To directly access the Lower Bann & Lough Erne Online Navigation Guides, click [this] .

In the initial pilot period, broadband access or a wifi link will be required to use the online navigation guides for the Lower Bann and Erne Systems. Progress is being made on an offline/cached version which will be made available as soon as possible.
It is also planned that the next phase of the Online Navigation Guides will have additional layers of information for waterway & waterside recreational and tourism activity which the user can turn on and off.

In this transition period Waterways Ireland continues to offer a paper product to Waterway users. A comprehensive navigation guide for the Erne System, Shannon-Erne Waterway and Shannon Navigation is for sale at www.shopwaterwaysireland.org for €15/£12.60 and the Lower Bann Guide is also available.




The joint communiqué from last week’s North/South Ministerial Council Inland Waterways meeting is now available here. There was an exciting bit:


2. Ministers had a discussion on various priorities within their remit and noted that these will be contained in a report to be considered at a future NSMC Institutional meeting as part of the ongoing review into sectoral priorities.

Hmm … what’s cooking there? I do wonder why the NSMC bothers publishing content-free stuff like this. We may have to ask the US NSA to bug the meetings. Oh, hang on ….

Here’s a good bit, though:


3. Waterways Ireland delivered a presentation to Ministers entitled “Ireland’s Inland Waterways – Building a Tourism Destination”. The presentation provided an overview of the progress being made by Waterways Ireland in placing the waterways and the waterway experience at the centre of the tourism offering both in Ireland and internationally.

Now that is useful and important work. But, as I have pointed out elsewhere [including to Waterways Ireland], the WI draft Corporate Plan 2014–2016 said nothing about tourism. Some years ago, I thought that it was a mistake to have a Marketing & Communications Strategy and a Lakelands tourism initiative that seemed to exist outside the corporate planning process; I am still of the same mind.

I have asked Waterways Ireland for a copy of the presentation, and for a copy of the Strategic Development Plan for the Grand Canal Dock, Spencer Dock and Plot 8 that was mentioned in WI’s progress report. That report also covered:

  • continuing maintenance
  • public consultation on canal bye-laws
  • a Built Heritage Study and a GIS-based navigation guide for the Lower Bann
  • an environmental award for  work in restoring, protecting and promoting the heritage assets that are Spencer Dock and Grand Canal Dock
  • towpath development and work on the cycleway from Ashtown to Castleknock on the Royal
  • donating two barges for “recreational and community use”
  • “partnerships to utilise three unused navigation property for community and recreational use”, which I don’t know anything about.

The important part was this:


5. Ministers noted the position with the 2013 Business Plan and budget. They also noted that Waterways Ireland has undertaken a public consultation on the draft Corporate Plan 2014-2016, the preparation of a draft 2014 Business Plan by Waterways Ireland and that the plans will be reviewed after the public consultation is analysed. They also noted that Sponsor Departments will continue to work together with Waterways Ireland to finalise the Business Plans and Budgets for 2014 and the Corporate Plans for 2014-2016 that will be brought forward for approval at a future NSMC meeting.

I read that as showing that the north-south deadlock continues. The 2012 accounts have still not been published and the plans for 2014 won’t be approved until (at the earliest) three quarters of the way through the year.

The NSMC heard something about the Clones Sheugh but has decided not to tell the citizenry anything about it. It agreed to some property disposals and decided to meet again in October. But there was one odd item:


8. Ministers approved the Special EU Programmes Body Business Plan and Budget 2014 and Corporate Plan 2014-16.

The oddity is that the SEUPB is a separate body and usually gets its own meeting and communiqué. The last six meetings (before this one) have been attended by NI folk from Finance & Personnel and RoI folk from Public Expenditure & Reform (or, before that, Finance).

So who let spending ministers into the sweetshop? And why? Suspicious-minded folk might think that there is a plan to  nick a lot of Euroloot for the Clones Sheugh to get the Irish government off the hook persuade the Europeans of the benefits of investing in the reconstruction of a small portion of the Ulster Canal. We note that, on the previous day, Jimmy Deenihan gave a longer than usual reply to the standard question about the Sheugh, including this:

The Inter-Agency Group has met four times, last meeting on 9 December 2013. The Group continues to examine leveraged funding opportunities for the project. This includes the exploration of EU funding which may be potentially available in the next round of structural funds covering the period 2014–2020.

I have a better idea. Vladimir? There are oppressed Russians in Clones ….




A sense of proportion

Waterways Ireland’s funding comes from Ireland [RoI] and Northern Ireland [NI] in the ratio 85:15. I understand that the ratio reflects the length of WI-run waterway in each jurisdiction, although I am not sure how length is measured on lakes.

The proportions of boats in the two jurisdictions are not 85:15. As of December 2013 there were 5570 boats on the Erne Register and 8816 on the Shannon Register. These numbers may or may not reflect the numbers of boats on the waterways as (a) there may be unregistered boats and (b) folk may not always deregister boats that have moved off the navigation. I do not know how many boats there are on the Lower Bann; boats on the Shannon–Erne Waterway should be on either the Erne or the Shannon Register.

Waterways Ireland reckoned that there were 520 boats on the Grand, Royal and Barrow at the end of 2013. Adding them to the Shannon number gives us

  • RoI 9336
  • NI (excl Lr Bann) 5570.

The ratio is RoI 63, NI 37.

On programme costs, though, matters are otherwise. Granted that the 2011 figures, the most recent available, may not be representative of long-term average costs: the Royal has not been reopened long enough for us to get such a long-term average, and the 2011 figure may be unusually high.

The other difficulty is with the allocation of the costs of the Shannon–Erne Waterway. I have arbitrarily divided it 50/50 between the two jurisdictions, although they probably exaggerates the proportion attributable to NI.

Shannon + Royal + Grand + Barrow + ½ SEW = €7275000

Erne + Lower Bann + ½ SEW = €807000

The ratio is RoI 90%, NI 10%.


  • funding: NI 15%
  • number of boats: NI 37%
  • spending: NI 10%.

All subject to caveats.

No particular point: I just thought it was interesting.

Reading list

Waterways Ireland has been putting out more and more stuff on its website.

If you haven’t already seen them, you can get the full set of Product Development Studies, in PDF format, here.

Even more interesting, to this site, are the waterway heritage surveys. Those for all waterways other than the Shannon are available here. The Shannon study was done some years ago (I remember making some comments on it at the time) and will be uploaded “in due course”.

I was in a WI office yesterday and had a quick look at the Lower Bann survey, which was done by Fred Hamond (so we know it will be good), and I’m looking forward to learning more about the waterway I know least about. It is done thematically and has lots of illustrations: Fred is able to see and present the bigger picture, but a full database, with all the supporting information, is available on request.

Shannon traffic figures to September 2013

The current (November 2013) issue of the British magazine Waterways World (available online only to subscribers) has an interview with Dawn Livingstone, new CEO of Waterways Ireland. There was a question about visitor numbers:

How are boating visitor numbers holding up in the recession?

The type of boating is changing — more sports boats for example, and numbers, after an initial decline, have held steady in the cruiser hire and private boat fleets. But more customers are investing in active recreation — canoeing, sailing, rowing, and these clubs and holiday types are growing rapidly.

My sense of the types of boating is the same, but I do not know of any source of reliable data. I think it would be useful if Waterways Ireland were (somehow) to collect and then to publish data on these activities and their economic costs and benefits.

But I was amused by the statement that …

[…] numbers, after an initial decline, have held steady in the cruiser hire and private boat fleets.

I’m not sure what useful data there are for the Lower Bann, Shannon–Erne Waterway, Grand, Royal and Barrow, though perhaps enhanced enforcement of the regulations will improve the data for the last three of those waterways. For the Shannon and Erne, the numbers in the fleets are, I presume, derived from the numbers of registered vessels, but there is no annual re-registration and I am not clear how many boats that are removed from the navigation are removed from the registers.

The other, indirect, measure, which applies only to the Shannon, is of passages through locks and moveable bridges. And, for hire boats, the “initial decline” has been 60% since 2003. If the numbers are now holding steady, it is at a very much lower level than ten years ago.

I was able to report in August that the better weather in July seemed to have led to an increase in the number of passages by private boats [the usual caveats apply]. Furthermore, for the first time that I knew of, the number of passages by private boats in the first seven months of the year exceeded the number of passages by hire boats in the same period.

I now have the figures for two more months, August and September, kindly supplied by Waterways Ireland, who are not to blame for my delay in getting the information up here.

All boats JanSept nos_resize

Look! An increase!

All boats JanSept percent_resize

Total passages are now almost back up to 60% of the levels of ten years ago

Hire boats JanSept percent_resize

Hire boat numbers are down by only a tiny amount

Private boats JanSept percent_resize

Private boat numbers are up

Private -v- hire JanSept nos_resize

Hire boat numbers are slightly above private boat numbers

Private boat numbers are ahead of hire in the three main summer holiday months of June, July and August and, although the numbers are tiny, in the winter months as well; hirers are ahead in spring and autumn.


WI down wid da kidz

I have recently written, for publication elsewhere, an article comparing Waterways Ireland’s online presence unfavourably with that of the Canal & River Trust, which manages many waterways in England and Wales. WI clearly listened, because it has completely revamped its website.

Actually, that’s my little joke, because WI has clearly had folk working hard on this for some time. Its home page address remains as it was with (as I write) a clock ticking down to the official launch on 18 April 2013, but you can bypass that. Clearly not all the pages have yet been populated, but the overall design can be seen and it is several leagues ahead of the previous version.

It promotes a wider range of activities: walking, cycling, angling, boating, rowing, canoeing, sailing and power sports (but not, alas, campervanning). It has an events section, with events listed in chronological order by starting date; you can shorten the list by selecting a waterway, an activity or a date. This online listing is far more user-friendly than WI’s print equivalent. Sensibly, information on planning events is in the same section as the events listing.

The Clones Sheugh is listed amongst the waterways under Events, but no activities are planned there. However, the sheugh is not amongst the seven waterways listed under Our Waterways.

There’s a useful Do it Online section, with subsections called Register it, Pay for it, Apply for it and Report it. The last of those is rather disappointing, suggesting off-line communication; it would be more useful to have this sort of discussion between WI and its customers conducted in public. The promised form for online compliments and complaints isn’t there, but presumably will be added soon. Apply for it includes a procedure for applying for permission to film on WI property; this is something that BW (C&RT’s predecessor) had years ago.

The Learning section includes online games, the teachers’ resource pack and, encouragingly, information on arranging group tours of WI facilities and on accessing the archives; we are promised that some archive material will appear online.

The Corporate section includes About UsFAQs, Public Consultation, Research, Careers, Partner Information, Policies and Plans & Reports. There is little that was not on the previous version of the site. There are sections for the Media and on Commercial Activity; Visitors Centre leads to the existing pages on the Box in the Docks; there is a much better Contact Us page, with a classified list so that you can find the office you need.

The down-wid-da-kidz bit is that there are links to WI Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. There is nothing on the YouTube page yet; perhaps the first video will show Jimmy Deenihan cutting the ribbon on the new website tomorrow. The Twitter page — joy! — includes the marine notices, which makes this the first good reason I’ve come across for taking an interest in Twitter. The Facebook page seems to be no better or worse than other FB pages I’ve seen.

The new website does not seem to have anything about Nuttall’s Pondweed, which was the only thing on the old site that might attract nature-lovers. I see nothing on the new site to interest such folk; apart from the archives bit, WI’s wealth of industrial heritage is not represented. So, despite the much improved appearance and organisation, there are constituencies, or potential constituencies, that are not being addressed.

However, on the whole the new site does seem to fit in with and promote WI’s Marketing Strategy 2012–2017:

4.1 Marketing Mission

Essentially the marketing mission of Waterways Ireland is unchanged and is defined as increase awareness and promote greater use of Ireland’s 
Inland Waterways.

4.2 Strategic Marketing Objectives

Within the period 2012–2017, Waterways Ireland wishes to build on the success and achievements of the previous Strategy taking a more proactive approach in achieving the following strategic marketing objectives:

– promoting increased use of the Waterways including promoting the range of uses;

– creating awareness of the waterways including the commercial potential of thewaterways; and

– creating working relationships with other state and semi state, tourism, trade, recreational organisations and users.

What is not entirely clear to me, though, is whether this new and much-improved website is to continue the one-way communication process or whether WI will use the new media to their full potential, encouraging two-way communication (even if it includes criticism) and building a real waterways community. It will be interesting to see.

For far too long, the IWAI website was streets ahead of WI’s. The shoe is now on the other foot. Congratulations and best wishes to all involved in this major improvement to WI’s online presence.






Lockkeeper job

I wrote recently about Jack Wall TD‘s Dáil questions about lockkeepers. WI now has a vacancy for a lockkeeper — in Coleraine.

I wonder whether fluency in Ulster Scots would be an advantage.

WI commercial operating licences

It’s getting hard to keep up with the amount of new regulatory information Waterways Ireland is producing (not that I’m complaining: it’s good that (a) systems exist and (b) information be made public). Today it has put up a page about commercial operating licences with downloadable PDFs for new applicants and for renewals.

WI says that

Waterways Ireland will give consideration to applications for permission to carry on commercial  operations on the waterways which would serve to encourage their use and contribute towards a vibrant waterway environment.

But getting a new licence is not easy. As well as describing the proposed business, you have to have registered the boat with WI and got a Passenger Certificate for from the Marine Surveyor’s office of the Department of Transport (which ain’t easy). If you want to sell alcohol, you have to have a Passenger Vessel
Licence from the Revenue Commissioners.

You have to provide a copy of your insurance policy:

Waterways Ireland requires that vessels carrying passengers hold adequate levels of insurance and appropriately indemnifies [sic] Waterways Ireland […].

And after that you have to show that your business has a chance of surviving:

Waterways Ireland is required to satisfy itself of the financial and economic standing of entities with whom it proposes to contract. In order to make this assessment, please provide relevant information such as recent accounts or Business Plan (including resources, financing, programme for delivery, target market, etc.).

And you have to supply a current Tax Clearance Certificate.

It seems that folk without capital (including working capital) need not apply.

Northern subsidy?

The Waterways Ireland Corporate Plan 2011–2013 [PDF] tells us how the body is funded:

Waterways Ireland receives grants from money voted by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Houses of the Oireachtas. At present 15% of recurrent or maintenance funding is provided by the Assembly in Northern Ireland and 85% by the Irish Government reflecting the current distribution of the navigable waterways, while capital development works carried out by Waterways Ireland are funded separately by the jurisdiction where the works are carried out.

This is not new information; I quote it here only for convenience (but note how “the Houses of the Oireachtas” becomes “the Irish Government”).

Now look at these figures from Annex C of the Corporate Plan. They show, for 2011, the proposed budget for current expenditure on each waterway. I have rearranged them in descending order of amount:

  • Grand Canal €4,559,160
  • Shannon Navigation €4,240,398
  • Royal Canal €2,713,052
  • Barrow Navigation €1,296,538
  • Shannon–Erne Waterway €1,269,450
  • Erne System €380,239
  • Lower Bann €375,270.

It would be interesting to compare the value for money offered by each waterway. However, it would be necessary to allow for the non-navigational responsibilities WI has for each waterway: for example, it has to look after a lot more bridges on the Grand Canal than it does on the Erne. I do not have enough information to make valid comparisons.

My immediate interest is in the figures for the Erne and the Lower Bann. Granted, the burdens on WI are in some respects lower than for other waterways. But the two northern waterways are getting a total of €755,509 spent on them out of a waterways total of €14,834,107, which is about 5%. Yet the NI Assembly is paying 15% of WI’s current expenditure.

Perhaps I’m missing something. I would welcome enlightenment.