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Dive charters ruled out in England

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DIVING NEWS

Dive charters ruled out in England

Day boats

Picture: N Chadwick.

Hopes of an early resumption of dive charter-boat operations in England have been dashed with the publication by the UK government of new guidance to the industry yesterday (11 June). 

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has specified that operators “should not allow skippered dayboat hire or skippered day charter-boat hire”. There is no indication of how long the restriction is likely to remain in place.

The British Sub Aqua Club, the sport’s governing body, had published detailed guidance on divers’ use of charter-boats on 21 May, in readiness for an easing of restrictions on boat-diving in England. 

Constraints on private and club boat-diving were relaxed at the start of June, as reported on Divernet, and it had been widely assumed that the same would apply to charter-boats as operators took the necessary steps to comply with coronavirus safety requirements.

The new DEFRA document is understood to cover both diving and fishing dayboat charters, with no exemptions. The Professional Charter Association (PCA), “the independent voice of the boat charter industry”, appeared to have had no warning of the decision.

In response to a comment on its social media it said that the document had “taken many weeks to publish – despite us asking for notice”.

 

12 June 2020

Individual PCA members are now discussing petitioning local MPs to make clear to the Treasury that charter-boat operators are unable to benefit fully from government financial-support schemes, because these fail to reflect the seasonal nature of the businesses, berthing costs and other factors.

The news is all the more frustrating for boat owners and skippers who, aware of pent-up demand, have been preparing for socially distanced and sanitised operations.

“The good news though is that we were getting loads of bookings in, so the appetite for trips is still out there from people,” said one PCA member.

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