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  • Writer's pictureRobin Howard

11th June 2020 - The day DEFRA destroyed my business...

Skippered day-boat hire and skippered day charter hire

Operators should not allow skippered day boat hire or skippered day charter boat hire.

Holiday boat hire (self-drive and skippered)

Operators must not allow hire or charter holiday boats with overnight stays.

Tourist boats and trip boats

Tourist and trip boat operators must remain closed. For updates, operators should read the government guidance on ticketed leisure venues

Wow... here is a thing. I am a law abiding citizen. I get law. It is there, to protect, and to ensure calm living in busy places. It is there to protect people from infection, in times of pandemic. I am a big fan of all of these things. And then, there is, bureaucracy. No less important, as it also has a very important place in the running of civilisations. However, the bureaucracy does need to be defined to the task it is trying to achieve. DEFRA's "guidance" has failed to do this, with devastating consequences to an industry, left to die by governments with regards financial support, that was just slowly beginning to show the seeds of recovery. Huge investments in financial modelling and physical sanitation and risk assessment planning have been made, that we could honour Boris's appeal, that if we can work with social distancing implemented, we should return to work.

Backed up by various research models, including a South Korean one, where of 350 cases of Corona virus, just one wast transmitted outdoors, skippers everywhere were gearing up to be able to offer their services, to the many for whom, a trip back out onto the ocean, is the right therapy for all of the stresses of confinement, either alone or with family. The sea is always a great escape.

DEFRA already came out with some advice back in May. To harbour masters that all commercial passenger vessels should not be allowed out of port... Over-reaching their authority rather, the cross channel ferries, for one example, carried on. This was rescinded very quickly, as it was clearly aimed at broads cruises, far more than coastal vessels.

Charter boats are actually regulated by the Marine and Coastguard Agency. Through all of this, no skipper has received instruction not to sail. With the original lock down, clients were not allowed to travel to me. With the first easing, travel allowed, one on one at six feet meetings allowed, and angling from boats allowed, I began to work, being in the lucky position of being able to create cash flow one on one. My bigger floaty things colleagues were unlikely to get anyone that could afford to whole boat charter their vessels.

Then, six people allowed to meet if observing social distancing and these guys are all gearing up to come back in the game. Initial reception to the government guidance through DEFRA was, thanks for your guidance, but, as we are operating implementing full social distancing, we shall continue. I also, was very happy for this stance. But then, the sting in the tail. After double checking with my insurance brokers, the following came back from the insurance underwriters, KGM...

"In respect of the email we can advise as follows

Our mantra is that Insureds must follow HM Government guidance so we would have to say that we will not provide the cover.

We can’t unfortunately pick and choose which guidance people should follow and which they can ignore.

Await your reply

Kind Regards

Adam "

So... I am not insured to be a skippered charter until DEFRA realise they are pushing CORVID 19 SECURE businesses into the ground for no good reason. Perhaps they are infiltrated by PETA??... Because those that are sailing again are sailing again because they ARE able to implement social distancing. Yet most, will be sailing, perhaps even unaware they are not insured, as it took me really pushing to find out from my insurers.

I am desperately attempting to find another policy. There is one broker, "Traffords" who has a company offering quotes, but sadly, they do not offer anything for vessels under 25 feet. I have a couple of other brokers sniffing around, but it isnt looking good. Best hope, is for DEFRA to rescind this advice, and rather than generalise, distinguish between businesses able to offer Corona secure services, and those that are not. And if you feel as strongly as I do about it, especially if you have recently sailed and agree that social distancing is easily maintained, please join me in asking DEFRA why they wish to destroy my livelihood, at a time when recovery is the goal of the government? There is a lot of "bolting the stable door" about this...

You can contact DEFRA by emailing ... and here, we hit a snag... DEFRA have lots of email addresses, for all the departments they are responsible for. If I was stopped working by an agricultural disease, I could email them. If my dog developed rabies, I could email them. But when their advice has removed my income,. there is not a department described that I can email. The reasonj? Because again, they have over-reached their authority. Guidance for skippered charters AT SEA comes from the MARINE ansd COASTGUARD Agency. So, now we see, the problem with badly defined bureaucracy. Guidance issued by DEFRA has given INSURANCE UNDERWRITERS a reason to not honour their policy provisions. I, and many others, cannot sail without insurance.

This raises lots of questions. One is, why do the insurance companies not have a better understanding. I do not believe DEFRA is talking about Chartered angling trips, but Inland skippered charters, such as sailing cruises on the broads. Here they have authority. So, maybe it is the stupidity of the insurance underwriters, or DEFRA arrogance in using the word COAST in their guidance. Why havent the MCA quietly pointed out to DEFRA to bugger off? I dont really care. What I care about, is until this is sorted out, the only person that will be sailing on BIF1 will be myself. And Captain Bruce, as we did have the foresight to enable the insurance for PRIVATE USE also. However, I cannot take paying clients without insurance. This is a criminal act, punishable with big fines, or, in the event of a tragedy, a long prison sentence. Until further notice, ALL SAILINGS ARE SUSPENDED.

The Angling Trust are on the case. Fingers crossed they get a result. Im fairly sure DEFRA's intention is not to punish CV19 secure businesses. Time, and compensation claims, will tell.

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