Lack of maintenance causing failures

Published: Thursday, 10 January 2019

THE lack of maintenance is causing an increase in boat failures through lack of maintenance.

River Canal Rescue (RCR) tell us that it attended a massive 1081 call-outs caused by the lack of maintenance, that is increasing year upon year, and is urging boaters to pay more attention to boat maintenance and safety.

Put themselves at risk

 RCR operations director, Jay Forman, comments:

“Boaters who fail to maintain their vessels or pay attention to boat safety put themselves and others at risk.

“With rental costs spiralling across the UK, boats are a cheap accommodation option and so increasing in popularity. Yet we find many boaters unfamiliar with even basic engine workings and therefore unlikely to pay attention to maintenance.

 “This can cause a problem if a vessel moves from its mooring, breaks down and obstructs the waterway. And we’re not always able to meet expectations and undertake all repairs or do a ‘quick patch-up’ job; it depends on how many systems, ie fuel, cooling, drive or water, are affected.”

No smoke or CO alarms

 RCR reports engineers frequently come across vessels with no smoke or CO alarms that have fire risks and ventilation issues, with Jay adding:

 “It’s frightening when you think of the hazards on boats such as diesel, oils and combustible materials. The most common fires are electrical, engine space and solid fuel related so it’s vital boat owners pay attention to these areas."

 When one of RCR’s partner insurers, GJW, spoke to liveaboards moored on a 45 mile stretch of the Grand Union Canal in London, Middlesex and Hertfordshire last summer, it found boaters voiced similar concerns or professed maintenance ignorance, with boaters being worried about neighbouring boats with little fire protection and little knowledge of engine maintenance.

Importance of alarms

RCR people have spoken to many boaters and are amazed at what little knowledge some boaters have, not even understanding the use of bilge pumps or importance of CO alarms and how often important air vents are blocked off.

In May 2018 the London Fire Brigade warned fires on houseboats had reached an eight year high and firefighters reported that 11 of the 20 boat fires they attended in 2017 started on liveaboard vessels.

In June last year, four people were hospitalised after carbon monoxide levels ‘high enough to kill’ were found on a Broads cruiser. At the time the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group conceded ‘we’ll only see a reduction in the 50 fatalities in the UK every year, when more people, including boat users, understand the symptoms and dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning’.


River Canal Rescue runs monthly boat and engine maintenance and electrics courses which cover; diesel engines, transmissions, boat plumbing, boat electrics, lay-up and refit procedures. To find out more call 01785 785680, visit