Boating on our terms

Sometimes the Canal and River Trust will say that boaters need to follow CRT’s Terms and Conditions, such as following their ‘no mooring’ signs however, do they really have the legal right to enact and enforce their Terms and Conditions?

There are no court judgements to say if CRT can or can’t enforce or enact their T&Cs. CRT doesn’t use breaking T&Cs as a main argument in court; therefore there is no case law to say one way or another. However, there are legal opinions.

CRT’s legal opinion goes like this; under the Transport Act 1962, section 43, the board (CRT) can set T&Cs for use of their facilities. CRT claims that because they can set the T&Cs they can make boat licences subject to conditions over and above those listed in Acts and Byelaws. CRT’s services and facilities include ‘the use of any inland waterway owned or managed by them by any ship or boat’ as well as actual facilities such as taps and rubbish points etc.

However, the opposing opinion is that sure; CRT can set T&Cs for facilities that they can charge for, however, there are enforceable T&C’s, and non-enforceable conditions. The T&Cs include many of the General Canal Byelaws 1965-1976, which are indeed enforceable – but only via prosecution through the Magistrates Court. But not all T&Cs are byelaws such as following CRT signs, unless it is a sign prohibiting mooring to lock structures, or in places which would be an obstruction as per byelaws above.

CRT claims that they can refuse boat licenses if a boat owner breaks its T&Cs are contrary to law. The British Waterways Act 1995 Section 17* says that the board (CRT) can only refuse a licence if a boat doesn’t comply to three conditions: having a boat safety, third party insurance and is used for navigation or has a home mooring. Any T&Cs which are not byelaws are subordinate to Acts of Parliament. Therefore non-byelaw T&Cs come under the British Waterways Act 1995 and on that basis, CRT doesn’t have the right to refuse a license if a boater breaks T&Cs such as CRT signage.

Another way that CRT claims it could enforce T&Cs is to charge a fee for staying longer on a mooring with restricted times. The first thing is that the 1962 Act gave no new power to set charges for anything not previously enabled. Secondly, it should be noted that in the 1990 bill British Waterways (precursor to CRT) asked for powers to post such signs governing where and for how long one could moor, but these were refused. On top of this, if CRT tries to charge, because of the outcome of the Ravenscroft Vs Canal and River Trust case, CRT cannot recover ‘outstanding cost’ from boat owners using Section 8 of British Waterways Act 1983 (this is one of the eviction notices that CRT issues to boaters).

CRT doesn’t hold the entire deck of cards. Many boat owners moor at places that don’t block the navigation but have ‘No Mooring’ signs, and CRT have done nothing other than to sometimes send an email claiming they shouldn’t moor there.’

Moor away!


*British Waterways Act 1995, Section 17. 

Conditions as to certificates and licences

Subsection (3) Notwithstanding anything in any enactment but subject to subsection (7) below, the Board may refuse a relevant consent in respect of any vessel unless—

(a)the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel complies with the standards applicable to that vessel;

(b)an insurance policy is in force in respect of the vessel and a copy of the policy, or evidence that it exists and is in force, has been produced to the Board; and


(i)the Board are satisfied that a mooring or other place where the vessel can reasonably be kept and may lawfully be left will be available for the vessel, whether on an inland waterway or elsewhere; or

(ii)the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel to which the application relates will be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period for which the consent is valid without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.


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