Boatshare and Timeshare – it’s time for uniformity
With galloping fuel prices, increasing scarcity of boat storage and boaters wanting to reduce debt and overheads, there is going to be greater focus on Boatshare and Timeshare. Boatshare has been around since the 1960s. But in the past decade Timeshare boats have developed as a viable and attractive means of enjoying boating.
Boatshare is where participants have an interest in the designated vessel and have the right to exclude others who have no interest. Participants must have risk in the boat, be able to exit at any time for an appropriate return, and be responsible for repair and maintenance – although this can be contracted out to a professional manager. But if the manager has a ‘golden share’ in the boat, it’s not Boatshare but Timeshare. It’s also no longer Boatshare if the boat is ever hired out or used commercially, it then falls within Commercial Vessels laws.
Timeshare boats are basically hire and drive vessels where the participant does not own, control or accept risk in the boat, but pays a set fee for an annual time allowance in one or more boats. Such boats are required to be in survey, like any hire and drive vessel. The mere hiring of a boat for recreational use is deemed commercial use under the various State Commercial Vessel Acts. The requirements imposed on vessels in survey are rigorous and add to the cost of original build and certification.
Regular periodic inspections also add to costs.
Accident statistics for recreational and commercial vessels have been maintained by State bodies for sufficient time now to measure whether there is a difference in serious incidents. For example, in the 9m range (say), is there a difference in safety record per 100 registrations between single owner recreational vessels, multiple owner recreational vessels and vessels in survey?
In NSW, records published since 1991 show there is no measurable difference to justify extending NSW laws to require boatshare vessels to be in survey.
Perhaps this is because boatshare vessels which are typically under the control of a professional manager, are well maintained, regularly checked for critical safety issues such as fuel vapour, and all users are required to undergo a briefing and competency test on safety and handling procedures.
Proprietors of hire and drive fleets often claim it’s not a level playing field, and there is unfair competition from Boatshare vessels. But if the rules are published and known, and rigidly enforced, and there is no demonstrated safety issue, why do we need more bureaucracy?
We don’t. But we do need more affordable, efficient and responsible ways to go boating in safety.
The boating public expects clarity on Timeshare and Boatshare as we move into another boating season. And industry seeks certainty and confidence in times which already provide their own uncertainties. State governments need to agree their position, desirably with uniformity, and let us all know where we stand – and keep it simple.