new waterwatch initiative

new waterwatch safety and surveillance initiative

the initiative

  1. The WaterWatch Safety and Surveillance Initiative is committed to promoting the aims of the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to reduce the number of fatalities resulting from drowning on the coastal and inland waterways of the UK by utilising the experience of members of the Merchant Navy Association (MNA) Boat Club and other organisations with whom we have a partnership, such as the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) who promote WaterWatch on The Broads.
  2. Members of the MNA Boat Club and partner associations who volunteer to participate in WaterWatch, known as WaterWatch Crew Members, have an interest in, and a concern for, the safety of the increasing number of recreational boaters and other waterways users on and around our rivers, canals, lakes, Broads, coastal waters, harbours and marinas.
  3. WaterWatch Crew Members are experienced boaters and skilled observers who can be relied upon to spot potential incidents and hazards and respond  with detailed information about the nature of  the incident when reporting  to HM Coastguard, to the appropriate inland waterways authority or other emergency services.
  4. WaterWatch Crew Members will inevitably come across incidents where immediate assistance is required before reporting the incident. In such circumstances members should always ensure that any action they take does not put themselves or any member of their crew in jeopardy.
  5. In most circumstances, having reported an incident to the appropriate authority, WaterWatch Crew Members will need to stand-by ready to assist the co-ordinating authority according to need. For example by maintaining a visual watch over the site of the incident, providing on-going  situation reports, liaising between the co-ordinating authority and the rescue services, relaying messages and, where appropriate, by taking photographs..
  6. By participating in WaterWatch members will not only help to promote the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign but also have the opportunity to develop and maintain good relationships with local stakeholders such as boatyards, marinas, the local navigational authority and local emergency services.
  7. WaterWatch volunteers will be part of a motivated and enthusiastic team having the opportunity and satisfaction of putting their boating experience and expertise to good use by helping to enhance  safety on and around their local waters (perhaps even to the extent of helping to save a life), whilst protecting the boating environment and promoting responsible boating behaviour.

The MNA Boat Club is a member of the National Water Safety Forum.

members' checklist

Spot significant sightings of:

  • People or craft in difficulty likely to require urgent assistance
  • Unexpected hazards
  • Dangerous or suspicious behaviour
  • Behaviour threatening the boating environment (e.g. speeding & making a large wash)


If the incident appears to be life threatening requiring immediate action (such as pulling someone out of the water)  WaterWatch Crew Members should of course render such assistance as they can manage without putting their own safety or that of their crew in jeopardy at any stage.


  • If the incident appears to be life threatening, requiring the assistance of the emergency services, WaterWatch Crew Members should contact the appropriate  emergency service, such as HM Coastguard, by calling 999
  • If the incident appears to be a criminal act in progress call 999 for the police
  • For other significant Incidents contact the appropriate authority such as HM Coastguard or Local Navigational Authority direct
  • In all cases Indicate:
    • type of incident
    • time of Incident
    • precise location (GPS co-ordinate if possible)
    • number of persons involved, including children and animals
    • other pertinent information (e.g. persons wearing lifejackets)
    • type of assistance required

Stand-By to further Respond if required

WaterWatch team members should:

  • provide their name and contact details and advise the authorities of their activity as a member of the WaterWatch scheme before offering to assist by standing by at the scene (or elsewhere as directed)
  • be prepared to provide a visual and/or listening watch and to monitor the situation and assist with liaison, relaying messages, providing up-dated situation reports (SITREPS) or other assistance as required.
  • At no time should WaterWatch members put at risk their own lives or the lives of their crew


WaterWatch team members should use the digital Incident Report form to submit a brief summary of the incident as quickly as possible after the incident has been terminated by the relevant authority, with a view to possibly being asked for a more detailed report at a later stage.

typical types of incidents responded to by members of the waterwatch crew

People (none wearing lifejackets) pulled from the water after falling off vessels on the Broads; in one case the vessel concerned had steamed away oblivious to the fact that they had a crew member missing!

Use of ladder fixed to the transom of our WaterWatch crew member's boat to recover another vulnerable person from the water before calling an ambulance

Standing by to assist broken-down craft,  and escorting hire craft holed in a collision to the appropriate boat hire operator's base.

Alerting police and coastguards to incident involving theft of an expensive electric launch, subsequently recovered undamaged and miscreant arrested.

Use of boarding ladder to recover an elderly yachtsman who fell of the deck of his yacht into the river whilst hoisting sail.

Reporting to waterway authority several incidents of hire vessels speeding and/or helming without due care and attention, causing a danger to other craft.

Towing grounded craft into deeper water to re-float.

Standing by to assist Broads Authority Ranger’s launch to recover grounded hire cruiser .

This entry was posted in Editorials on by .

About Clive Edwards

Clive has been a Coastguard Rescue Officer, Station Manager of a Coastwatch Station, and a RNLI Water Safety Officer. He is Commodore of the MNA Boat CLub, and was recently elected Chairman of the Institute of Seamanship. Clive now does most of his boating on the Norfolk Broads, where he and his wife Lois keep their boat "Elsa ll" and carry out safety boat duties as a Guardship for the famous annual Three Rivers Race. They also undertake shore crew duties for Hemsby Independent Lifeboat Station and their "Lifeboat for the Broads"