What is A Boat Safety Certificate?
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Tue Jul 21, 2015 at 12:20pm

A Simple Explanation To A Much Asked Question:

The Boat Safety Scheme or BSS, is owned by the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency. It was set up to reduce the risk of boat fires, explosions or pollution harming anyone on the waterways.

To ensure that every ones safety is addressed all narrow boats and river boats need to have an up to date Boat Safety Certificate. This is equivalent to a cars MOT certificate, the vessel also needs to be insured and have a Canal & River Trust licence.

The BSS Examination

A fully qualified examiner will inspect your boat and if it passes all the requirements set out it will be given a Boat Safety Scheme Certificate, which is valid for four years.

New Boats

All new boats should already comply with the requirements, and come with a Recreational Craft Directive declaration of conformity, which lasts four years.  From then on, Boat Safety examinations are required once every four years. Boats with no gas, electrical or fuel systems are exempt.​

Booking The Examination

It is advisable to advance book your boats examination to avoid the risk of the certificate running out. The BSS certificate is valid for four years. For example if your certificate is issued on 15/08/2014 then the expiry date will be 14/08/2018.

Where a boat is licensed or registered against an existing, BSS certification, or Recreational Craft Directive declaration of conformity, and there is 2 months or less left until a new BSS is needed, then the expiry date for the new BSS can be kept the same. For example, where a current certificate expires on 15/08/2014, and the date of a successful examination is 10/07/2014; the new BSS expiry date is 14/08/2018 and not 09/07/2018.

Boats That Fail The Examination

Not all boats pass inspection first time, if the boat fails on any aspect, the examiner will detail this in his report. Please be aware that if your boat fails the examination and you wish the examiner to return to pass off the work you have had done to make right the problems, he may charge for a return call out. Some examiner’s factor this into their quotes, so ask your examiner before booking about charges.

The Boat Safety Scheme organisation allow a time period of three calendar months from the failed examination to getting the boat re-examined. This is a reasonable amount of time to get the work carried out that is required to pass the boat. It is understood that it is not always possible for the work to be done straight away.

Getting Your Boat Ready For The Examination

Regular maintenance will help keep your vessel in good condition and help ensure it passes first time. You need to ensure that all appliances and systems can be accessed by the examiner to check, if not the examination will be considered to be incomplete.

*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, 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, with the confirmation of the expiry date of your current certificate.

*The above information is taken from the Boat Safety Scheme website.

Where To Find A Boat Safety Examiner.

Looking for an examiner couldn’t be simpler try using the internet, recommendations, or this link on the Boat Safety Schemes website. Try and use an examiner that is local to where your boat is moored as this will keep the travel costs down and of course this will help if he needs to return if the boat does not pass first time.

How Much Will It Cost?

The price of a certificate is not set in stone, so you need to shop around and get a few quotes if you are looking for the best price in your area. On average the cost will be around £150 to £200, which over 4 years actually works out to be quite reasonable.

Staying Safe On Your Narrow Boat

The main purpose of the boat safety certificate is to keep everyone on the waterways safe; with this in mind it is very important that you keep your vessels certificate up to date. It is illegal to cruise the UK’s inland waterways without it and mooring and gaining insurance will prove difficult, if not impossible without your certificate.

The examination can highlight potential hazards that may be lurking that you may not be aware of. It is very important that you take on the advice of the examiner and correct all the areas he records in his report.

Knowing the safety of yourself, your crew and others on the waterways is taken care of by the BSS regulations is reassuring, and makes the canal system a safer and more pleasant place to be.