Boats down; volunteers up; river warnings soar


The dramatic effect of 2012’s bad weather has been illustrated in the Environment Agency’s annual report.

Boat registrations were down – mainly due to a fall in visiting boats – as was traffic through locks. And the number of river conditions warnings soared to over 10,000. Overall expenditure on the waterway in 2012/13 was £17.5 million.

Total boat registration figures fell by 5% compared to the previous year – 13% compared to 2010 and 11% to 2009. And the agency estimates around 10% of boats are still unregistered. This would amount – our estimate- to some £300,000.

The number of private, annually licensed boats in 2012 was 9010 (2011: 9032); visitors numbered 3958 (4871); commercial and hire boat numbers remained at just over 400.

Some of the figures in the report are for the calendar year 2012, others for the year up to March this year. And the boat figures for this year are expected to recover thanks to the good summer.

The agency has stepped up its efforts to catch boat licence dodgers with spot checks along the whole non-tidal river.

The report says: “Annual powered boat numbers have remained stable over the last four years, increasing gradually up to 2011 and dipping marginally in 2012. Trade vessels such as hire boats and passenger boats have also remained stable, with numbers increasing gradually over the past four years.

“Visitor numbers however have fallen gradually over the four years, with a fairly significant drop in 2012, most likely due to the very poor weather and the impact of the Olympic and Paralympic Games over the summer.”

Boat traffic through locks dropped from 504,759 to 374,299, a 25% decrease.

Red boards (advising boats not to navigate) and yellow boards (warning of increasing or decreasing stream) are displayed at locks. And last year 10,696 boards -  5885 red and 4811 yellow - were displayed, compared to just 16 the previous year and 3,557 in 2010/11. Not a single red danger warning was displayed during 2011.

Despite the decline, income from boat registrations increased to £3.8 million mainly due to the number of private annual registrations (which contribute the most income) remaining stable.

Volunteers increased from 86 to 149, volunteer days from 1,100 to 3,176.

Overall expenditure on the waterway in 2012/13 was £17.5 million. £2.8 million was spent on maintaining major structures like locks and the agency says 89% are in “target condition.”  2012/13 saw a 29% drop in lock breakdowns.

Howard Davidson, Director, EA South East said: ”2012/13 proved to be a year of highs and lows for the River Thames. Over the summer we came under the world’s spotlight, hosting some truly memorable events with the spectacular Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pageant and the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“Amidst all this joyous celebration, the Thames experienced unprecedented extremes of drought and flooding, impacting on local communities up and down the river and requiring our teams on the ground to go the extra mile, supporting those affected.”

Story dated Sept 27th 2013



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