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The charity making life better by water

2017 national boat count shows licence evasion down

Our annual national boat count shows that licence evasion on its waterways has reduced by 0.7% overall in the past year to 3.7%, with 96.3% of boats holding up-to-date licences. This is the eighth year the rate has stayed below 5%.

Boats at a city mooring at night

The survey, completed in March, identifies boats on waterways across England & Wales and provides a comprehensive snap-shot of licence evasion. The information is used to support our day-to-day work.

Jon Horsfall, our interim head of boating, said: "Boaters' licence fees contribute in helping us to carry out the huge task of keeping our canals and rivers open. It's important that everyone plays their part and we are delighted that the evasion rate has reduced again this year. Our boat licence customer support team has done a fantastic job working with boaters to make sure they are licensed correctly.

"Unfortunately, a small minority continue to enjoy the benefits of boating on the waterways without putting anything back to fund their upkeep. In 2016/17 we had to remove 101 boats from our canals and rivers as they were unlicensed or in breach of our terms and conditions. There's also an important safety aspect: if a boat isn't licensed we can't know that it's safe, which could be a risk for both the boat owner and other boaters."

The national boat count also paints a picture of the changing numbers of boats across the country. Our waterways in London have seen an increase of 339 boats – an increase of over 9% – with numbers in the central East, the South West and the South East regions also rising. Boat numbers in the North, North Wales and Midlands have seen a slight drop.

Jon continued: "The popularity of the boating lifestyle in London remains high. Congestion aside it also puts a lot of pressure on the Capital's 200-year old waterways: the facilities are seeing more use than ever before. It's a challenge to meet the demands of this soaring growth but we are working with boaters, other stakeholders and canal users to develop a strategy that will help identify ways to address some of the challenges that it presents. We want the Capital's waterways to work for all the boaters who know and love them."


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Last Edited: 08 May 2017

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