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Working with Councils

Inspection of small craft

Inspection of rowing and small outboard powered self drive boats


Earlier in the year I was contacted by Michelle Baird and members of her licensing team at Stratford-on-Avon District Council. Michelle, following a serious incident, had been tasked with developing a more robust and comprehensive policy and procedure with regard to licensing small hire craft.


Initially her licensing team reviewed how their council assured itself as to the fitness for purpose of the small boats they licenced. Although they had in place an annual program of condition inspections, conducted by an independent person, they felt that the process had not been reviewed for many years and that it could and should be significantly improved.  


By the time I became involved Michelle and her team had a clear vision of what they wanted and together we worked to develop their ideas. The brief was to develop, in the absence of any existing mandatory guidance, a set of simple measures that would allow consistent judgements of a vessels condition to be both made and formally recorded. The process of inspection had to be independent of the council, more consistent and robust and must not cost significantly more than their existing system.


A short check list of constructional items on each vessel was defined and utilising a standard format and real time recording I along with members of the licencing team surveyed 90 small boats over a three-day period. The exercise was a success in that each vessel licenced now has an individual record of inspection which directly relates to its condition and therefore fitness for purpose. In addition, the council has a detailed overview of the condition of all the vessels they licence from which strategic decisions can be better made.


Inspection of small SKIPPERED vessels for 12 passengers or less e.g. taxi boats, small trip boats


If a vessel is skippered and can carry up to 12 paying passengers on the inland waterways it can be subject to the voluntary code entitled The Inland Waters Small Passenger Code which was developed by a team of industry experts and modified following extensive public consultation. Allowing for each operator’s experience and own interpretation of risk, the code gives safety advice to operators, licensing authorities and regulators.


In a number of cases Licensing Departments have chosen to use this code to assure themselves as to the condition of the vessel, its suitability for use, safety apperatus carried and the training of the skippers.


I am able to complete assessments of vessels to this code including undertaking stability tests.      






Some major incidents on the River Avon, forced me to seek assistance to improve standards for the inspection of boats.  I spoke with Mark who kindly offered his advice and was so knowledgeable and professional, I immediately felt comfortable in selecting his company to provide the service.  Mark suggested implementing a thorough inspection programme for each individual craft, which I have to agree was the sensible solution.  Mark inspired confidence in both our organisation and the third parties that we licence, a difficult task when implementing any kind of change into the licensing regime.  In summary, it was simply the right choice to employ Mark’s services and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Mark Douglas Marine to any other authority who licence pleasure boats.


Michelle Baird

Licensing Manager

Governance and Democracy

Stratford on Avon District Council, Elizabeth House, Church Street, Stratford upon Avon CV37 6HXSwitchboard +44 (0)1789 267575; Direct Dial +44 (0)1789 [email protected]  Web: