Boat Safety Scheme – Recent Updates

The Boat Safety Scheme checks for private boats have just undergone a periodic review by the Scheme’s stakeholders. The proposed changes have been posted on the BSS website with an opportunity for people to view and offer comments on the proposals.

Most of the changes are editorial in nature, tidying up terms and descriptions, to help see that the checks are applied consistently by BSS examiners and so reduce risks and see safer boats.

The balance of the changes, around 40 per cent, can be summarised in this way:

  • a new check for portable fuel tanks in engine spaces;
  • five new advice checks concerning 230V a.c. systems;
  • a new advice check for cracks and unintended gaps on solid fuel appliances;
  • 15 existing checks amended to introduce an enhanced technical requirement;
  • 63 changes have been made to the existing checks that reduce or slightly change the technical impact;
  • two checks, one about marine fuel filters and the other about 230V a.c. shore connections are being removed.

It is anticipated that the changes will take effect on 1 January 2013 by which time, all examiners will have completed online and local workshop training exercises.

The final versions will be posted on the BSS website later this year as pdf files and will be available to be saved to computers or printed out.

New contact details for the BSS as the Canal & River Trust launches and moves to  Milton Keynes

The transfer of British Waterways to the Canal & River Trust, which administers the Boat Safety Scheme, and the closing of the Watford office, sees the BSS with a whole new set of contact details.

The BSS Office will now be based in the Canal & River Trust office in Milton Keynes and its new  postal address is:  Boat Safety Scheme, First Floor North, Station House, 500 Elder Gate, Milton Keynes, MK9 1BB.

The move also made a new phone number necessary. The BSS national phone number is now – 0333 202 1000.

Calls to the old Watford phone number will be transferred to the new number at the moment.

The Boat Safety Scheme website address has also changed to – – reflecting its change in status to being administered by a charitable trust. Existing links to the old dot com address will likely be automatically re-directed, but personal shortcuts on computers may need to be renewed.


Respect portable gas appliances or be prepared to pay the price

Boaters are being warned against the casual use and storage of portable gas stoves and other appliances on board boats. Even the small canisters used on such equipment have fuelled explosions so severe as to send boaters to hospital with critical injuries.

The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) is urging boat owners to treat all such portable gas equipment with great respect and change fuel canisters away from the boat and sources of ignition.

BSS manager, Graham Watts added, “In the poorly ventilated, tight confines of a boat escaping gas is more dangerous than when it happens ashore out in the open.

‘Think about the alternatives, for example, if all you want is a hot drink on board a day boat, a flask is probably the simplest and safest way. If wanting light, some battery powered or wind-up LED lights will last for ages and are far easier to use than gas lanterns.

‘Where a simple cooker is needed aboard, think about installing a marine spirit stove as an alternative to a portable gas stove.”

Inland waterway regulations do not ban portable gas equipment on boats, but when not in operation, any appliance with a canister fitted and all spare gas canisters, empty or full, must be stowed in lockers that are self-draining, or on open deck areas where any leaking gas will flow overboard. The risk of causing a pool of explosive vapour inside the boat must be avoided.

The BSS advise people to follow these safety points to help keep boat crews safe:

  • Portable gas appliances should only be used onshore.
  • Stow the canisters, used or unused and any appliance if it has a canister inserted, in a self-draining gas locker, or on open deck where any escaping gas can flow overboard.
  • Be familiar with the operating instructions before use.
  • Before you start, check the appliance’s condition, if the gas canister seal looks damaged, or if the appliances or gas canister is extremely rusty and deteriorated, do not use it.
  • To avoid flammable gas leaks and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, check that all equipment has been correctly assembled before turning it on.
  • Never attempt to fit a new canister to an appliance when aboard, wait until you are onshore and in the open.
  • Before fitting a canister, put out all open flames and smoking materials.
  • ·        Ensure that you have the correct type of gas canister for your appliance and that it is being inserted in the right way according to the instructions.
  • If you smell or hear gas leaking before attempting to light an appliance, don’t use it.
  • If any gas is leaking, ensure that it is being dispersed in free air well away from the boat or any sparks or other sources of ignition.


Those sinking feelings prompts weed hatch warnings?

Owners of boats with weed hatches are being reminded by the Boat Safety Scheme to make a routine of checking the security of weed hatch covers before setting off, if they want to avoid that sinking feeling.

The advice follows a number of recent sinkings and partial sinkings where water ingress was through weed hatch openings.  The routine should also include checking that the hatch seals are effective and are maintained in good working condition.

BSS Manager, Graham Watts said,

‘For boats with weed hatches, safety will likely depend on the effectiveness of the weed hatch sealing arrangements.

Accepted standards for boats suggest a distance of at least 150mm between the weed hatch top and the normal waterline on the boat, but changes to ballasting or adding equipment during the boat’s life may mean the rear of the craft sitting lower in the water.

The boats stern will also naturally pull down when underway, but the disturbance of water from the propeller may test the weed hatch seals every time the boat is put in gear. So make a routine of checking the hatch cover bolts are tight before setting off and any time the hatch is used.

You should also, at least annually, inspect the hatch body, the cover and sealing gasket to see if they are still in good condition with no early signs of problems,’ he added.


Boat Safety Scheme says –  be cautious with spare petrol aboard

Don’t carry spare petrol on board unless it is completely unavoidable, says the Boat Safety Scheme but if you must, please take every measure you can to reduce the chance of an accident.

The advice from the BSS follows the death of two men in boat fire this April, where the early indications are that a petrol container stowed in the aft cockpit of the cabin cruiser may have added to the intensity of the fire and may have made it more difficult for the new boaters to escape.

Graham Watts the BSS Manager said:

‘With the recent worries about petrol supplies and with petrol already generally hard to find on the inland waterways, boaters may feel inclined to load up the boat with spare petrol cans but this could increase the risk of a serious fire.

‘Spare petrol containers should not be carried on-board unless it is judged to be essential to assure the safe completion of a voyage or excursion or to keep a necessary generator running.’

The BSS says that if you carry petrol, try to reduce the risk of a serious fire: –

  • Limit the capacity! Don’t forget that UK law allows you only to carry restricted amounts of spare petrol aboard.
  • Use proper cans, specifically designed for petrol. Any other container not designed for petrol could allow fuel and vapours to escape.
  • Protect petrol containers from direct sunlight wherever you can, but never keep them in the engine or cabin space.
  • Store petrol cans and engines with integral tanks such as outboard motors and generators way from sources of ignition in drained lockers, or on open deck areas where any escaping petrol fuel and vapours will flow overboard.
  • Decanting petrol from containers should be avoided if possible, and re-filling containers or equipment should take place in the open air on the bank and away from sources of ignition.
  • Never use a bucket or other open receptacle to hold or transfer petrol or to mix petrol and two-stroke oil, add the oil to the engine’s tank before filling with petrol.
  • Containers should not be overfilled, because petrol expands and vapour pressure can build up in hot weather.
  • Containers should be securely stowed to prevent them falling over and leaking.
  • Take care to protect petrol containers, any that is dropped or treated roughly could start leaking.

For more information on the nature of petrol and petrol vapour and the maximum capacity of petrol allowed to be carried, visit the BSS website –

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