Weymouth's charter boat industry could be left high and dry

Weymouth's charter boat industry could be left high and dry

Published by Maria Greenwood at 8:09am 28th April 2020. (Updated at 8:10am 28th April 2020)

Dorset's charter boat industry is struggling due to a lack of government support, according to the Professional Boatman's Association.

The group have written a letter to the Chancellor saying they feel 'overlooked' in his financial support.

Yesterday, the Rishi Sunak announced small firms will be given extra support with "micro-loans" worth up to £50,000 on top of relief grants that are already available. 

But, charter boat businesses are not able to claim this support because they do not have a premises. 

That means they do not meet the criteria to apply for the government's relief funding.

Weymouth Bay Rib
Weymouth Bay Rib

Ben Taylor runs Weymouth Bay Rib Charter, he says their fees are crippling.

"We're losing 100% of our passengers and our trade coming in which is seasonal 

"So even though we've got thousands upon thousands still going out in mooring fees, insurance, coding requirements, which all can't be paused, there's no one giving us any support at all.

"These vessels obviously cost a lot of money so they need to be looked after and the cost for that is extreme as well.

"I think it's just been overlooked."

Photo of Weymouth Harbour

Ben says he's going to struggle to keep going given that his season started, in theory, in April.

"Companies like myself, we need to start trading from day one. As soon as April comes we need to be trading.

"Realistically, we've probably got 2, maybe 3 months in us and that's it. It will all be folded."

  • Charter boat businesses include angling, diving and commercial operations.
  • In 2012, £831 million was spent on recreational sea angling with approximately 15% spent on charters. 
  • But every Charter boat will have fixed overheads of £5,000 to £20,000 per year.
Weymouth harbour entrance

The letter to Rishi Sunak asks for 

"Immediate access to the small business grants fund to ensure industry survival for all leisure and commercial based businesses operating vessels under the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Small Commercial Vessel Codes of practice. 

"The suspension of all payments for berthing fees and local licencing fees that contribute to the private marina or local authority marina operator's business rates for the duration we are unable to operate.

"Support for directors of the small limited companies to an equivalent level to that offered to the self employed.

"Support for self employed/sole traders who have only recently established trading in our industry, (often with significant capital expenditure) or hold less than three years worth of accounts.