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Coronavirus - advice and information for recreational boat owners

Guidance for boat owners (updated 06/05/20)
As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, the Government message to tackle the spread of the virus is clear, STAY HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES. The UK Government and devolved administrations must review the lockdown measures at least once every 21 days. The first review took place on 16 April and the lockdown was extended for three weeks until 7 May when the restrictions and requirements set out in the regulations must be reviewed again. Currently, the Government has said that the overall length of the lockdown could be around three months and warned it might only be "adjusted" rather than lifted altogether.
We are strictly following the Government guidance, committee members are working from home and you can still contact us on our published telephone numbers and email addresses as all operations continue at this time.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 have now been enacted to bring in powers to enable the Government and its agencies to manage the Coronavirus crisis in the UK. Provision 6(1) of the Regulations deals with restrictions on movements and states ‘during the period of emergency no one may leave the place where they live without reasonable excuse’. Examples of what constitutes a reasonable excuse are listed in Provision 6(2) of the Regulations. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own regulations but the restrictions and requirements are essentially the same, however, in Wales it is now illegal to exercise more than once a day and to do so is potentially a criminal offence.
The Prime Minister’s statement recognised that “it is very important for people’s mental and physical well-being that they should be able to go out and exercise if they possibly can” and the Regulations permit people to leave home ‘to take exercise either alone or with members of their household’. The Government has made it clear that such exercise should be taken locally to home and within the guidelines for social distancing. It has also asked us not to travel unnecessarily, although the Regulations themselves do not prescribe this.
The Government has advised that marinas should be closed in line with caravan parks, although marina operators are not specifically required to do so under the Regulations. We have increasingly seen harbour authorities and navigation authorities introduce measures and guidance in respect of recreational boating. Please monitor the website of the organisation that manages the facilities where your boat is kept.
Whatever your activity there is the additional concern that if something goes wrong, however unlikely that may seem, there is the potential that you will put further and avoidable pressure on the emergency services. These are exceptional times and the RYA calls on all recreational boaters, not only to comply with the Regulations, but to act responsibly and adhere to the Government’s Regulations to help limit the spread of the virus.
If significant numbers of people are seen to be taking part in recreational boating or going to their boats for whatever excuse they can think of while the general movement restrictions are in force then the Government might see fit to introduce a specific prohibition on recreational boating. Given that regulators are often much more reluctant to lift prohibitions than they are to impose them, recreational boating is likely to be able to resume more quickly if it is not specifically prohibited.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic forcing the country into lockdown, the RYA has received a considerable number of enquiries from those who are not able to gain access to their boats because most marinas are now shut.
Many insurance policies will include conditions relating to “keeping the boat in a seaworthy condition” and will have exclusions relating to “lack of maintenance” and “gradual ingress of water”. In the current lockdown, the majority of us will not be able to visit our boats for long periods and there is an obvious risk that losses may occur which would usually be preventable through regular attendance and maintenance.
The RYA’s advice to all its members is that you MUST check your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy itself actually states. This is because in the majority of cases it will pre-date the Covid-19 pandemic measures that have now been put in place. Our understanding is that most, if not all, will be willing to extend the period when boats are left unattended and we would be surprised if any insurer refused to extend this provision, although there is likely to be a condition that the vessel must have been adequately maintained prior to lockdown. RYA has published a lockdown insurance update on its website.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Access to marinas and moorings
 
With the Coronavirus pandemic forcing the country into lockdown, the RYA has received a considerable number of enquiries from members who are not able to gain access to their boats. 
 
Many marinas and moorings across the country have closed completely as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, the result is that boat owners cannot get access to their boats to undertake essential maintenance and security checks. This measure has been implemented by marina and moorings operators based on guidance from their trade body which we consider incorrectly interprets the Coronavirus restriction regulations and Government guidance.
There is no reference in the regulations to the closure of marinas and they do not give powers in this respect to trade bodies or any harbour authority or individual marina operators. This provides scope for limited and controlled access for owners to their boats whilst implementing hygiene and social distancing measures.
 
The RYA believes that this situation requires urgent action and we are engaging with marina companies and harbour authorities directly to ensure a common understanding of all of the issues on both sides and to collaborate on an urgent solution.
 
We acknowledge and appreciate that marina and mooring operators are working under difficult circumstances, and are doing their best to take care of boats during the lockdown. However, staff obviously cannot undertake the sort of essential maintenance that responsible owners would do. For that reason, access is a critical issue for boat owners who are understandably worried about their boats and we fully understand that the concerns fall into three areas:
  • Essential maintenance and inability to personally undertake checks for water ingress, maintenance of engines, electrical installations and security that cannot be undertaken by staff (many of whom are currently furloughed).
  • Insurance consequences, many boat owners are obligated by their insurers to visit their boats regularly to avoid cover being refused in respect of maintenance related claims.
  • The continued charging of marina and mooring fees. Swansea marina has giving a number of free weeks in compensation.
Over recent weeks the RYA has been in discussions with Government officials to make the case for limited and controlled access to boats locked down in marinas. However, these representations to date have not delivered a solution, therefore the RYA has written to key Government Ministers to seek support for a clear and practical approach that complies with the Coronavirus Regulations and the spirit of Government guidance to give owners immediate access to their boats. 
 
The RYA has made it clear that there is no requirement to develop any new or specific guidance. Measures predicated on the overarching need to keep people socially distant from those outside their immediate household can be implemented to permit safe access to marinas and the RYA has briefed ministers accordingly.
 
The RYA fully supports the regulations that the Government has made in response to the threat posed to public health by the incidence and spread of the virus and the RYA has produced bespoke guidance for its members in response to the enquiries they have been receiving about recreational boating in the UK during the crisis.  
 
 
Uupdated: 6 May 2020