We are calling for additional assistance for waterway businesses

Wyvern Shipping hireboats lined up and not in use Covid19Canal boats ready for hire. With thanks to Wyvern Shipping Co. Ltd for the photograph

The image of a narrowboat cruising along the canal is a quintessentially British scene, but sadly many trip boat companies, hire boat providers and other waterways businesses are under serious threat despite this new loan scheme. We recently ran a survey in partnership with Waterways World magazine to better understand the situation being faced. Almost 1500 waterway businesses were contacted and the responses paint a very bleak picture, with the majority of businesses reporting that they are at significant risk of collapse and some already closing. 

It is seasonal businesses that are being hit hardest due to the timing of this lockdown. The inland waterways leisure industry is worth approximately £1.5bn to the UK economy, but almost 90% of these businesses rely heavily on the summer months (April to September) for the overwhelming majority, if not all, of their income. Without this income, they will have no means to repay any sort of loan and rather than get into further debt, will have no option but to cease trading. The timing has hit many businesses doubly hard off the back of the hard winter which caused widespread flooding and closures of some waterways.

Read the full news story here

Read Paul Rodgers' Opening Statement to the APPG for the Waterways on 14th May 2020

Support Our Campaign


We have written to Defra alongside British Marine, the Broads Authority and CRT asking for more financial assistance for waterway businesses and we have written to every MP with a waterway in their constituency.

What we want from Government:

  • A financial package, similar to that recently announced for the fishing industry, to enable navigation authorities to underwrite licence and mooring fees for waterway businesses for this year.  This would relieve waterways businesses of a significant cost and allow navigation authorities to continue to maintain the waterways so that everyone can safely use these waterways when the current restrictions are over.
  • Additional financial schemes for the businesses that are still falling between the gaps of those grants and loans already on offer

Write to your MP

Please write to your MP to raise concerns you may have for the waterway businesses and organisations in your local area.  You may want to use some of the following key points as part of your letter, but it is best if each letter is unique. 

The key issues are:

  • The inland waterways leisure industry is worth approximately £1.5bn to the UK economy but waterways businesses are disproportionately impacted because the majority do not have land premises that qualify them for existing Government support.
  • The high dependency on income during the spring and summer months means that the Covid-19 crisis has hit at the worst possible time, with annual expenditure already having been paid out in maintenance and running costs over the winter. 
  • Most waterway businesses have had to cease trading completely while the current restrictions are in place.  Some businesses have already closed permanently, with many more at significant risk of collapse before the end of the year.
  • Many inland waterway businesses have little or no access to the grants, loan schemes or rates rebates currently being offered by Government.  Business owners are wary of taking on loans which would have to be paid back next year despite having lost this year’s income. 

Please ask your MP to raise this matter with George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs and Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer as a matter of urgency.  

You could also suggest that your MP asks a Parliamentary Question on the subject.  Some example questions that they could ask are:


  • Question for Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:  “To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to support the call by national waterway organisations for £20m Covid-19 funding to support waterway businesses; and will he make a statement."

  • Question for Chancellor of the Exchequer:  “To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps the Treasury is taking to protect inland waterway based businesses impacted by Covid-19; and will he make a statement."

  • Question for Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:  “To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to protect heritage and tourism on the inland waterways from the impact of Covid-19; and will he make a statement"


    You can find out who your MP is, and how best to contact them, by looking at the Parliamentary website.

    To see a full list of MPs with waterways in their constituency please take a look at our Directory of MPs.  The database is fully searchable by MP name, constituency, waterway and IWA branch, enabling you to work out which MPs you need to contact for any particular stretch of waterway.

    Contact your MP

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