Boat Safety Scheme

The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS), is a public safety initiative jointly owned by Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency.  It;s purpose is to help minimise the risk of boat dangers such as fires, explosions, or pollution that may harm visitors to the inland waterways, the waterways' workforce and any other waterways user.

The scheme produces an extensive manual for guidance, which is available here in PDF format. 
The full details of the scheme are available from the Boat Safety Scheme website.

The Boat Safety Certificate

Nearly all boats using the british waterways (there are exceptions for some unpowered vessels) will need a Boat Safety Certificate in order to obtain a licence on waterways managed by the 5 main authorities: 1) Canal & River Trust, 2) Environment Agency, 3) Broads Authority, 4) Essex Waterways Ltd, 5) Avon Navigation Trust and some other minor authorities.

The BSS certificate lasts for four years and costs £120.00, though a price rise is expected soon.

The BSS scheme operates like an MOT for your boat, only it is much more comprehensive.

New vessels may not have a Boat Safety Certificate but should instead have a document called a 'Declaration of Conformity'. This means the boat has been built to the standards in the European Recreational Craft Directive and the Declaration of Conformity can be used in the same way as a Boat Safety Certificate.

Before you purchase a boat you should ensure that it has a valid BSS certificate, in the same way that you would check a car has an MOT certificate.  If it does not have a certificate, make sure you know the extent of work required to bring it up to standards required.  A good marine surveyor will point out issues that affect BSS regulations during the survey. I found this very usefull as the second hand boat i purchased with a 'Declaration of Conformity' did have some issues which need to be fixed prior to purchase.

Regular Maintenance & preparation for your boat test.

Regular maintenance to keep your boat safe and complying with the legal obligations when it is on the water should ensure a first-time pass.
If it doesn't pass, you will need to know the information on this BSS website page about what the examiner has to do next.

However, preparing your boat before its examination will pay off and success and safer boater should be your reward.
Apart from checking to see that installations, components and fittings comply with the requirements before the examiner arrives, there are several things you can do to make the whole process run smoothly.

All required items must be capable of being checked effectively and accurately. If not, the examination will be considered to be incomplete.
An examiner cannot issue a certificate on an incomplete examination, so here are a few points to keep in mind.

  • Ensure that all the boat's installations and appliances are fully functional so that a complete examination can take place. This includes having a fully charged battery and sufficient gas and water, together with any other documentation that shows compliance with the BSS General Requirements.
  • If the good condition or suitability of any item cannot be verified where this is a requirement, no certificate will be issued. Ensure full access to all gas joints and as much pipework as possible for a thorough examination. Items such as gas lockers should be unlocked, and boards and panels removed to give access where verification is necessary.
  • Notify any relevant landowners who may have to give access to the examiner so that he can get to your boat's mooring.
  • Have the existing certificate to hand. This will help the examiner with information about the boat that he or she must record, such as when it was constructed, and with the confirmation of the expiry date of your current certificate.

Additinal advice on preparation after 1 January 2013:

In addition to the advice on the page called Preparing for examination, we have the additional advice arising from the changes introduced in January 2013 for examinations on privately-owned, privately-managed boats:

LPG cylinder lockers – boat owners must ensure the BSS Examiner can carry out careful checking of the LPG cylinder locker for condition, including the removal of all loose portable items, base protection mats, removable false floors and the temporary removal of connected LPG cylinders.

Discuss your LPG cylinder locker arrangements with your examiner in advance of the examination as this may require your attendance or you to make prior arrangements involving service agents.

LPG lockers not accessible enough to allow an assessment of condition will involve the BSS Examiner having to return to carry out the check with the obstruction removed.

Where a boat uses A.C. shore-power and other a.c. power sources, the following notes on connection leads should be taken into account –

  • If practicable and safe to do so, boat owners should disconnect shore-power, battery charging, and other power sources in readiness for the BSS examination;
  • Boat owners should make available the shore-power, battery charging or other power source leads for examination of type and condition.
  • Information about the location of the a.c. consumer unit should be made known to the examiner in advance of the BSS examination.

Read more about the BSS Examination for privately-owned, privately-managed boats in the BSS Essential Guide.