A look into the pages of Fear Naut magazine
The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), who campaign for the rights of itinerant boaters, say this is ‘social exclusion eco style’ highlighting the cost as a major challenge for boat upgrades, which will leave many boaters unable to use the new eco-moorings. The NBTA argue that the project is more about restricting the ‘type’ of boater who moors in the area, rather than being about environmental issues. As part of my master’s degree in Sustainable Cities at King’s College London, I conducted research on the new scheme,specifically looking at how itinerant boaters may be affected by the changes and how they envision not only environmentally, but also socially sustainable canals in the future. I collected forty-eight online surveys and conducted four in-depth interviews with itinerant boaters.
The findings confirmed that boating technology used on the canals has generally progressed little towards cleaner heating and energy generation, although there have been some promising inroads to renewable energy use from solar power. Much of the respondents still rely on fossil fuels for heating,with 85% of respondents relying on a multi-fuel stove to heat their boat and 51% and 47% using diesel engines and instant gas boilers, respectively, to heat their water. A similar, but more promising picture transpired when it comes to energy generation. 100% of respondents have solar panels installed,with 85% using a diesel engine as an alternative source of power. Even with solar panels’ high seasonal reliance, 76% of respondents used solar panels for 70% or more of the year for their energy generation, topping up their energy needs in the winter with diesel engines and occasionally generators. 7% of respondents used solar power for 100% of their energy needs.
Considering restrictions which will come into force after a two-year trial period of the eco-mooring zone, only 6%of respondents’ boats would be compliant year-round without any changes or modifications, with 50% of respondents only being able to moor there part of the year and 42% not being able to moor there at all. 2% of respondents were unsure how they might be affected.
The findings showed that the biggest challenges for boaters when it comes to electrifying their heating and energy systems would be cost, space, and the reluctance to upgrade all their systems to only use them for a few weeks a year when moored in the eco-mooring zone. 91% of respondents are currently not in a position to be able to upgrade their systems to the level required. A key challenge was retrofitting boats which were originally built to older specifications, with limited space to alter layouts or include additional systems. A boater living on a 32-foot narrow boat explained: