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Domestic passenger vessels exempt from having gatherings of up to 30 people for charter groups

Published on: 26 August 2020

The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed to British Marine that passenger vessels taking charter party bookings are exempt from the maximum 30 people gathering under SI 2020 No. 684.

SI 2020 No. 684 is the public health England statutory instrument which outlines the current COVID-19 restrictions for mixing households. One such restriction is that gatherings of more than 30 people are against the law unless the exemption under section 5 of the SI applies. Section 5 (3) of the SI outlines the exemptions as follows:

(3) This paragraph applies where— 
(a) in the case of a gathering described in paragraph (1)(b)(ii) or (iii)— (i) the gathering has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body,
(ii) the person responsible for organising the gathering (“the gathering organiser”) has carried out a risk assessment which would satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999(a), whether or not the gathering organiser is subject to those Regulations, and 
(iii) the gathering organiser has taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19, taking into account the risk assessment carried out under paragraph (ii)

There has been some debate to whether the gathering organiser was the charter vessel company or the charterer.
 
The MCA has confirmed that it is their interpretation that due to the fact the vessel is permanently skippered and crewed, at the point of booking the charter, the gathering organiser becomes the passenger boat company, and as a business that has carried out the necessary risk assessments is exempt from capping gatherings at 30 people.

This means passenger boats can take charter bookings for as many people that their COVID-19 risk assessment allows. Passenger vessels that take charters of over 30 people must ensure they have properly undertaken a risk assessment and follow all appropriate guidelines.