This thread is posted following John’s request for me to start a discussion on the subject. I sincerely hope that I have not made any mistakes but this is a bit of a minefield of an area and the rules are constantly changing – and indeed vary according to which authority you speak to. I have tried to break this topic into manageable chunks – if you have questions please post them and I will do my best to answer them. Paul
What type of charter do you want to use your RIB for - Skippered or Bareboat?
The requirements for both are pretty much the same in terms of the RIB, the key difference being with skippered charter the skipper must have their qualifications ‘commercially endorsed’ (more of which later). The vast majority of RIBs available are only for skippered charter which is not hugely surprising when you consider how poorly some people treat items like hire cars. Check out www.spare-ribs.co.uk
for a site where you can advertise your boat (very very expensive to advertise though) for charter.
Do you have to code - can’t you get a local authority ‘licence’?
There was a way some while ago where some local authorities ‘licenced’ charter boats to operate within very strict areas. This is almost totally phased out now and there is no doubt that if you wish to charter your vessel you need to get it ‘coded’ (you will have probably noticed the MCA posters in boatyards asking you to call their hotline to inform them of unlicenced charterers)
What is ‘coding’
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) in association with numerous other organisations including the RYA have devised a set of rules and levels of coding that must be adhered to. In essence there are seven levels of coding which define the geographical area in which the charter vessel is allowed to operate:
Category 6: Within 3 miles of a Nominated Departure Point (NDP) and never more than 3 miles from land in favourable weather & daylight
Category 5: Within 20 miles of a NDP in favourable weather & daylight
Category 4: Up to 20 miles from a Safe Haven in favourable weather & daylight
Category 3: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven
Category 2: Up to 60 miles from a safe haven
Category 1: Up to 150 miles from a safe haven
Category 0: Unrestricted service
A RIB can be coded fairly easily (a broad interpretation of the word easy here!) to reach Cat 4 and subject to having “a substantial enclosure for the protection of persons on board…” might be accepted for Cat 3 or 2
What are NDPs and ‘Safe Havens’
The best way to consider a NDP is by example. The NDP for a boat operating from Poole is the chain ferry at the mouth of the harbour. The 3 or 20 miles is from this point. However if you operate from Lymington then the NDPs are at Hurst Castle and the Nab Tower thus giving a huge operating area – this is probably an exceptional example though – but does explain the attraction of basing a charter boat in the Solent!. A safe haven is simply a point of refuge like a harbour.
What kit do you need?
This varies according to the length of the vessel and the cat rating you choose to go for and the number of persons the vessel is being coded for. The best way to consider this is to look at the coding of my vessel and look at a reasonable number of the bits needed.
The boat: Avon 5.6m Dive Rescue (the forerunner to the Adventurer series – different colour same boat) with a 90hp Mercury. Originally I was seeking to get the boat coded to cat 3 however trying to create a ‘substantial enclosure’ on a 5.6m RIB I thought would prove too difficult/expensive (Jon Clift though has coded an identical boat to cat 3), I’ve thus settled on cat4.
Liferaft!! When the codes were first published it was stated that RIBs under 6m didn’t need liferafts. This has been recinded following an objection by ‘The Professional Boatman’s Association’ who objected to the fact that RIBs under 6m were as likely to catch fire as any other RIB thus why exclude them. Cost for 4 person liferaft c£800-£1000. I don’t actually have a problem with this as I can understand the logic however my brand new liferaft with a four year service interval needs servicing every year to accord with the rules!
Electrics: Twin battery installation, twin high powered bilge pumps (one manual), fixed & h/h VHF (optional), searchlight (for Advanced course work)
Radar reflector, VHF, Barometer (yes a barometer), 4kg fire extinguisher (very big!!), two anchors (both with c15m chain, c30m warp – one c6kg, the other c8kg – very big), lots of flares, a grab bag for the liferaft (more flares, thermal bags, inflatable radar reflector (c£200!!!), knives, lifejackets ( for 4 persons I must carry 6 lifejackets as mine are inflatable), deviation cards, safety instructions, big first aid kit and lots lots more!
There is a lot of kit to buy and I estimate I’ve spent c£1800, ironically the hardest part is storage as there is a real limit re space and accommodating a liferaft and an enormous anchor is not easy!
Why bother coding?
I think there are two reasons to code:
- To offer boat charter services
- To broaden the scope of the courses a RYA school can offer.
My reason was the latter with the boat charter being an added bonus. When the RYA accredited my school (accredited for up to/including Advanced courses) they code the boat to a slight variation on Cat 6. The boat can operate up to 3 miles from the NDP day or night. I felt this limited the ability to offer passages and cruises as part of extended courses and also prevented me doing any corporate entertainment work. I questioned the MCA and the RYA about how they view the extra day ‘bolted’ onto a level 2/advanced course. The MCA said no one had ever mentioned this and they felt it fell outside the ‘licence’ applied by the RYA whilst the RYA said they were okay if the course/extra day followed the ‘essence’ of the RYA scheme – yes I was confused too!
What about the skipper?
If undertaking skippered charter the skipper must hold ‘commercially endorsed’ qualifications. For cat 4 this means
- Advanced course
- MCA medical
- Sea survival course
- First aid qualified
- Approved (30 hour) engine course
Cat 5 & 6: ‘Red book’ – The code of practice for the Safety of Small Vessels in Commercial use for Sport or pleasure operating from a NDP’
Cat 4 – 0: ‘Yellow book’ - The safety of small commercial motor vessels – a code of practice
These are available from the Stationary Office on 0870 600 5522
Legally any charter boat must be coded. I know plenty of boats that aren’t but still do charter work and this is a decision for each owner to make. I made the decision that I couldn’t run the risk of being held ‘at fault’ in the event of an accident and therefore am adhering to the code. I don’t believe these codes are well understood and I think some RYA schools fall foul let alone ‘normal’ charter companies. I believe it is very difficult to make much money from chartering (except Cowes/Americas Cup type events) and most boats just contribute to their costs. I suspect I may have put many people off the thought of chartering - hopefully I might have saved some some money
I am no expert on this subject but do feel free to post questions and I will try to answer them
Questions for the forum
- Who of you are making money from chartering
- Are many chartering and falling foul/don’t know about the rules
Powerboat Training UK, Poole & www.powerboat-training.co.uk