A BOATMAN has slammed the “totally irresponsible” attitude of British Waterways (BW) over its handling of safety issues at Keadby Lock.
A row over the issues at the lock - where the Stainforth to Keadby Canal meets the River Trent - erupted last March, close to the end of its winter hours, when BW enforced strict closing times at the site.
Opening hours are from 8am to 6pm between November and the end of March and from 6am to 9pm between the end of March and the end of October.
Angry boatmen claim a small vessel, running around 40 minutes late, was trapped in a six to seven knot tidal river and the lock-keeper was told to go home.
The small craft anchored up river but had a close shave with a large coaster and then a gravel barge.
Boatmen maintain that in the past lock-keepers were available during tidal times when vessels needed to enter the safe haven - but this status has been removed.
Previously the lock stayed open until all vessels passed West Stockwith up to the end of the tidal section.
Lock-users maintain BW introduced changes prior to the review and without a wide enough consultation.
Boatmen are also unhappy with vessels protruding over the lock entrance, water flow and weeds on the canal clogging up engines and affecting their operation.
A BW spokesperson said the organisation does not provide 24 hour lock-keepers at the site, adding that users should familiarise themselves, in advance, with operating times.
It is likely current lock-manning hours will remain unchanged apart from mid-summer when daylight hours would extend beyond 9pm.
“British Waterways will always assist any user in difficulty where it is safe to do so and will never refuse a safe mooring to any vessel in danger where it can reasonably help,” the spokesperson added.
“It must, however, be noted that there is no obligation on British Waterways to provide a safe haven at any location.
“River users are also advised that the use of Keadby Lock is limited by tidal conditions which will vary depending on tide height and vessel dimensions.
“River users are reminded that jetties on the Trent, close to the lock, may be available in the case of an emergency. Some of these jetties may have ladder access enabling vessel evacuation.”
“It is the responsibility of the skipper to ensure the suitability of any safe haven or passage abort point nominated in their passage plan.
“It is the boater’s responsibility to plan safe passage taking into consideration any local lock operating times and to incorporate safety measures to account for any unforeseen difficulties.
Mal Nicholson’s historic sloop Spider T is moored at Keadby. He said: “British Waterways has taken upon itself to change the status of the lock and working hours without telling the users of the lock.
“It is a totally irresponsible attitude towards people and their safety.”
In emergencies mariners should ring 999 and ask for the coastguard. For more information contact BW on the 24 hour Freephone number 0800 4799947.