The river Shannon
Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny recently called on Waterways Ireland to call a halt to its new policy of requesting €1,000 from businesses and individuals to apply for licence to use the Shannon Navigation System.
Deputy Kenny said: “Constituents have told me that since September 2019, Waterways Ireland have been requesting businesses operating on the Shannon Navigation to apply for a licence to continue operating on the river.
“This new Licence agreement seem to be just a revenue gathering exercise by Waterways Ireland with a new charge of €1,000 per annum being levied on all business. From one Licence Agreement I have seen, it looks like Waterways Ireland have gone overboard with the conditions they have inserted.
“Businesses have been operating on the Shannon Navigation for years and have complied with Bye Laws during that time. The number of boats on the Shannon Navigation has been declining over the last number of years and to add new charge to these struggling businesses is unfair and unjustified.
“Waterways Ireland must call a halt to this or else many of these businesses will sink.”
However in response to the statement Waterways Ireland told leitrimobserver.ie: "The inland navigable waterways for which Waterways Ireland is responsible, provide a wonderful opportunity for businesses to develop and prosper in response to a considerable increase in the appetite for recreational activity. Waterways Ireland, together with our tourism and recreational partners, are investing significantly in promoting waterway experiences.
"To ensure that activity provision is of a high standard, and a quality visitor experience is delivered, it is incumbent upon Waterways Ireland to continue to regulate business activity. Waterways Ireland welcomes new business ventures, and has, since its inception, always licenced those businesses via a Commercial Operating Licence. It should be noted that individuals who utilise the Shannon navigation for boating purposes are not subject to a charge.
"The majority of businesses operating on the inland navigations are in compliance with the requirement to hold a Commercial Operating Licence but we are aware that a small number of businesses operate on the Shannon Navigation system without such a Licence, and in doing so, are acting in breach of the Shannon Navigation Byelaws, 1992, and the British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999.
"Our Commercial Operating Licence system has been designed to be as streamlined as possible, with critical checks on whether there is a safe operating system in place to manage risk, and that there are adequate levels of liability insurance. There is no standard €1,000 fee for each Licence. The fee is assessed by a Chartered Valuation Surveyor using standard valuation techniques, taking into account the extent of Waterways Ireland property used.
"Each Commercial Operating Licence is tailored to the individual’s business activity and location, and this is reflective in valuation of the Licence fee charged. There are a general list of clauses which are common in each agreement. These include but are not limited to: Required Insurance Cover; Area of Operation; Permitted hours of Operation; Compliance with relevant Bye-Laws; Health and Safety; Environmental; Tax Compliance; Best practice when dealing with children and Vulnerable Adults.
"More specific examples of clauses may include compliance with Marine Surveyor Office regulations in relation to passenger vessels or compliance with food hygiene regulations in the case of food being sold as part of the business activity. These clauses have recently been reviewed and the requirement for listing of personnel and rights over the appointment of new personnel, among others, have been removed from the Licence.
"Waterways Ireland actively promote waterway visitor experiences through our marketing campaigns, publications, and on digital channels, and work in partnership with Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, to generate awareness and attract users from around the world. However, we can only promote those businesses who hold an appropriate Commercial Operating Licence, and it is therefore in the best interest of businesses to obtain a Licence and in doing so take advantage of additional marketing and promotion opportunities.
"Waterways Ireland is keen to ensure that all business activity on the Shannon navigation is regulated and will continuously work with the private sector to ensure that that highest standards of service provision and regulation is available for users."