COVID-19: Reopening of the marine industry in England

British Marine has released a statement about the confirmed guidance for the safe and full reopening of the marine industry, boating and watersports in England.

View the British Marine’s visual guide to the reopening of the marine industry here.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 22 February outlining the roadmap of when restrictions are likely to be eased across England, British Marine met with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to clarify the guidance specific to the leisure marine industry. Representatives from the Department for Transport, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, navigation authorities, and user groups from across the sector also took part in the meeting.

The following statement and matrix have been produced, and approved by Government, detailing how British Marine members should interpret the guidance:

On 22 February, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s roadmap to cautiously ease lockdown restrictions in England. The design of the roadmap has been informed by the latest scientific evidence and seeks a balance between our key social and economic priorities, whilst preserving the health and safety of the country. The scientific evidence shows that opening too early or too quickly risks a further lockdown.

The approach focuses on data, not dates. Each step has a “no earlier than” date, 5 weeks later than the previous step, to allow time to assess the impact of the previous step and provide a week’s notice before changes occur. The steps for easing restrictions will be taken at the same time across England in a national approach, in the absence of a significant regional disparity.

At each step the Government will make an assessment against the following four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

From 29 March, as part of the first step, Stay at Home restrictions will be lifted. The Government will continue to advise that people minimise travel up to and including Step 3. This means avoiding making unnecessary journeys, combining trips and avoiding travel at peak times where possible. People should avoid travelling further than is reasonably necessary to take part in their activity – for instance visiting shops or making use of services closer to home.

All references to permitted activities below assume that boats allow for social distancing rules to be adhered to. COVID-Secure guidance will also remain in place up to and including Step 3 (subject to a proposed review of social distancing rules ahead of Step 4).

Premises must not cater for groups larger than the legal limits at each step unless meeting the conditions for a permitted organised gathering. These will be reintroduced at Step 2 for outdoor gatherings and Step 3 for indoor gatherings. These gatherings or events must be operated by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation and can be organised subject to specific conditions: that they comply with COVID-Secure guidance including taking reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission, complete a related risk assessment; and ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits (unless another exemption exists, such as for organised sport or exercise, supervised activities for children or a significant life event).

British Marine is delighted that from 8 March all forms of watersports, including the use of privately-owned craft and self-drive day hire boats for single households, can go ahead in England (subject to local navigation and harbour authority guidance). Furthermore, it has been concluded that marinas can open from 8 March to allow recreational boating to take place and boat brokerage can open in line with non-essential retail from 12 April.

It is welcome news that outdoor recreation is again in the first wave of lockdown restrictions to be lifted. The physical and mental benefits of being on or near the water and the natural social distancing that all forms of boating and watersports offer will be invaluable this summer.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, notes; “This roadmap provides hope and reassurance, and I am pleased that the collaboration between Government, other user groups and ourselves has resulted in aligned guidance for marine businesses and participants. It is welcome news that parts of our industry should be able to re-open in time for the Easter holidays. I am cautiously optimistic about the months ahead, based on the assumption that, as the vaccine rollout accelerates, the phased easing of restrictions is achievable.”

Guidance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differs, and British Marine remains engaged with Government on the individual plans set out by the devolved administrations.

Members can keep up to date with the latest information by visiting British Marine’s dedicated Coronavirus hub.



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