Fears for historic Richmond passenger boats over changes to safety requirements

A Richmond passenger boat company owner fears proposed new security requirements for boats could force him to stop transporting tourists up and down the Thames on vessels that took part in Dunkirk.

Danny Collier (pictured above), who runs Colliers Launches near Richmond Bridge with his two brothers, has enlisted the support of local MPs, Ruth Cadbury and Vince Cable, to fight to convince the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to reconsider.

The agency, which answers to the Department of Transport, wants boat owners to raise decks to improve safety, but Mr Collier says the cost of adapting his craft, like the nearly one-hundred-year-old Princess Freda, would be ruinously expensive.

HISTORIC: The boats would require expensive adaptations to meet new safety requirements.

He said: “We carry several thousand people here from Westminster, Kew, Hampton Court. There’d be a loss of our carrying capacity. It would not be cost effective. Each boat could cost £250,000.”

Even if he shouldered the cost, he estimates his boats would carry 70 to 80 fewer passengers a trip, reducing economic viability.

As well as a significant historical loss, he thinks the area’s economy would suffer if his business went under.

“There’d be the loss of a tourist route, to dry docking facilities that do the maintenance, and to my crew. At the height of the season I employ 9 people. I don’t know if they’d find other jobs. The dry docking companies wouldn’t go out out of business but they’d lose out,” he said.

Despite having a database of vessels, the MCA didn’t contact Mr Collier directly about the consultation, which ran from 6 November to 29 January.

“I think the consultation has failed in a lot of respects. Someone else told me about it and even he had heard over the river grapevine. That is not a consultation,” he said.

He says he welcomes proper regulation of the passenger boat industry, but his vessels have transported millions of people without any safety issues, so doesn’t see the point of the proposals.

Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham, and Ruth Cadbury, Brentford and Isleworth MP, have written to Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, on behalf of the worried boat owners.

The MCA said only four out of a total 198 Dunkirk Little Ships could be affected by the proposals and exemptions could be granted on a case by case basis.

It added that it tried to ensure that all interested parties and stakeholders of the UK domestic passenger ship sector were engaged with the initial consultation and further consultation will continue.

The MCA stressed it intends to increase safety of the domestic passenger ship fleet.

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