One in five berths empty at BWML

Published: Thursday, 09 September 2010

FIGURES published in British Waterway Marinas Limited (BWML) annual report indicate that mooring occupancy has fallen, over the last two years, from 90% to 81%. In other words one BWML berth in five lies empty, double the number two years ago. writes Allan Richards.

BWML  is a wholly owned subsidiary of British Waterways and operates many marinas (and several thousand berths) across a wide geographic area.

Boaters have reported a falling demand for moorings in recent months, whilst BW is still actively encouraging developers to build new marinas due to a perceived shortage in moorings, it would seem that supply has now outstripped demand. This certainly seems to be the case with BW online moorings where many fail to meet reserve at auction.

Markets forces

Has BWML surrendered to market forces and reduced mooring charges to counteract this trend in the core part of its business? It would seem not. After tax profits have jumped in the same period from £515,000 to £687,000. No doubt, NbW's editor, who is known to moor in a BWML marina, will be able to confirm that his mooring charges have actually risen over the last couple of years rather than fallen.

Every cloud has a silver lining. At least Nbw's esteemed editor can rest assured that, even if he is subsidising empty berths, BWML is profitable and returning profits of over half a million pounds a year (net of tax) to British Waterways as a dividend which is being used to maintain the waterways.

Not true

Unfortunately, it is not true. Annual reports indicate that BWML has enjoyed after tax profits of over £500,000 for each of the last three years. However, has never declared a dividend in its six year existence preferring to retain those profits within the business.

As with BW's joint ventures, millions of pounds of public money have been used in BWML to provide equity but our waterways see little or no return on our investment. Perhaps it is time to sell whilst it is still profitable.

[The photographs from the top show sections of  Limehouse Marina, Sawley Marina, White Bear Marina and Ripon Marina.]