British Waterways recently sent round a circular email advertising their winter moorings, with the advice that boaters, if unable to move due to the canal being frozen, would have to ask their local patrol officer for permission to remain.
This prompted a FoI request regarding the numbers of craft with icebreaking capabilities in BW’s possession, and the number of hours for which they were deployed in this capacity during the winter of 2010-2011
BW have now responded:
- the numbers of craft in BW’s possession with ice-breaking capabilitiesCentral Shires: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
East Midlands: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
Kennet & Avon: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
London: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities, one tug that has enough power to break the ice.
Manchester & Pennines: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
North East: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities. However, we do have some vessels than can be used for this purpose. These vessels are only suitable for relatively thin ice, once the ice gets more than about 3 inches the vessels are unable to break the ice and damage can occur to the propulsion systems and the engines can overheat. The vessels we would use for thin ice breaking would be:
– Dredgers which plough through the ice or use their grab to break the ice.
– Tugs ploughing through the ice.
– Pontoons loaded at the stern to lift the bow to aid ice breaking and pushed by a tug.
North Wales & Borders: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities. However, they we have used maintenance craft to break ice dependant on the thickness of the ice and the location of the ice. In winter 2010-11 only one maintenance craft was deployed to break ice on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen canal.
North West: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
South East: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities, one work boat (Avon) with enough power to break the ice.
South Wales & Severn: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
West Midlands: No craft with designed ice-breaking capabilities.
- the number of hours for which they were deployed in this capacity during the winter of 2010-2011Central Shires: None
East Midlands: None
Kennet & Avon: None
London: None – staff were instructed to cruise with caution and not at all on frozen waters.
Manchester & Pennines: None
North East: No ice breaking was undertaken by BW in the NE to assist leisure craft. However, some was undertaken to assist freight passage. We did not record any precise details of timings but I have spoken to the supervisors and lock keepers who have confirmed the following.
- New Junction – Sykehouse Lock Area 2 days were spent trying to clear ice up to 5” thick with the grab dredger Ure. We only managed to clear about ½ a mile here and broke a hydraulic hose on the dredger. Although we cleared about ½ a mile the tanker could not get through the ice despite a couple of attempts. It did eventually get through under its own power and was probably more effective than our craft due to it being more powerful.
- SSYN – Long Sandall to Strawberry island The ice was not as thick at this location and the length was kept reasonably clear. A pontoon and tug were used here. We spent about 3 days at this location ice breaking. The ice was kept clear to assist the tanker when he finally got past the New Junction.
- SSYN – Mexborough Kilnhurst Including Swinton – One of our tugs and a pontoon were deployed to break ice. The pontoon made passage through the bridges difficult so it was removed and tug used on its own. Operations at this location lasted for about 3days.
- Aire & Calder – We did not undertake any ice breaking here. The tanker maintained regular passage and kept the canal open. BW operations staff did join the tanker on Passage from Lemonroyd to Bulholme to assess any potential ice damage to moored craft. Although the tanker only encountered ice in Castleford cut we did not see any potential for damage to moored craft.
North Wales & Borders: 41 Hours during the winter of 2010/11
North West: we have not used any craft to break ice for the purpose of navigation for some years. We did spend approximately 3 days breaking ice in the Bootle area in 2010 at the bequest (sic) of the Police to prevent pedestrians, cyclist and parents with prams using the ice as a short cut across the canal.
South East: approximately 30 hours to enable floating plant to move between stoppages.
South Wales & Severn: None
West Midlands: None
Note that BW staff in London “were instructed to cruise with caution and not at all on frozen waters.” Mr Simon Salem has, apparently, agreed to advise the Enforcement Team not to issue patrol notices when conditions could put boaters at risk, but one wonders how boaters are expected to proceed, when there are practically no icebreaking craft at work and the ice on the canal is 8 inches or more thick. Should we really have to appeal to a patrol officer under these circumstances? And if BW can’t keep the network open under these conditions, shouldn’t we be getting some sort of rebate? 😉