Norfolk Broads boat hire firm bans alcohol after boaters ‘seen urinating off deck’


A charter company in the Norfolk Broads has banned alcoholic drinks aboard its vessels after a spate of antisocial behaviour by drunken guests.

Hippersons Boatyard, based in Beccles, Suffolk, says it has introduced new rules around the use of alcohol as a direct result of behaviour by intoxicated customers.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mary Sparrow, the director of Hippersons Boatyard, describes how a minority of boaters would visit the Broads to spend the day drinking on board. As a consequence, some boaters had been seen urinating off the deck. Others were rude to staff when challenged over their actions.

“We started to see a minority of our guests loading up the day boats with crates of beer and things, and it was causing problems,” Sparrow told The Telegraph — adding that the firm’s location near several pubs was fuelling the problem.

“Our guests would be sitting in the pub or the beer garden and drinking, and then getting back on the boat and drinking more, and it just became too much. If you’re over-refreshed and driving a boat out on the river it can be quite problematic.

“If you hire a car you’re not going to buy a six-pack of beer and sit there drinking it while you’re driving along,” she adds.

“There was some damage done to the boats a few years back, and it meant it was affecting our income. Some guests were coming back drunk and being abusive to staff, and that’s really not fair on our staff – if they behaved that way in a pub they’d get banned.”

Sparrow says the policy did not impact business over the Easter weekend, with the company being “fully booked” over the bank holiday.

“We wondered if we would lose all our customers and we haven’t. A lot of people are really pleased with the rule and think it’s a good thing,” she says.

The issue is likely to be raised at the next meeting of Visit the Broads — the voice for Broads tourism-related businesses, of which Sparrow is the chair.

The Broads Authority says it encourages ‘a sensible approach to drinking’ and that individual boating companies should determine their own policies around alcohol and boating under the influence.

Rob Rogers, director of operations at the Broads Authority, tells the BBC that boat hire companies should put their own mitigation measures in place.

He says he appreciates that people were “often on holiday” when on the waterways in Norfolk and Suffolk and wanted to have a “good time, and enjoying good food and wine often goes with that”.

“We always tell people to balance their alcohol intake,” he adds. “Always wear a life jacket, and don’t overindulge in alcohol.”

A boating byelaw states people should not navigate a vessel while under the influence of drink or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of taking proper control of the vessel.

In 2022, The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) proposed to grant rangers additional powers, including issuing fixed penalty notices if byelaws are broken.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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