BSS Examination Preparation Linked To COVID-19

Boat owners and BSS Examiners should work together at the preparation stage if an Examination is to take place successfully.

Examiners must take reasonable measures to prevent: –

  • Acquiring COVID-19 and taking it back to their homes
  • Transmitting the disease to others, making them ill, raising the ‘R number’ and threatening NHS capacity

For boat owner this means taking extra time in preparing for examination and extra conditions being imposed.

Prepare your boat well for examination so it passes first time. A return examination can cost you more and it is essential to reduce the number of visits.

This information on this page could be amended at any time subject to changes in Governement guidance.

According to the Government, until there is a vaccine, the only protections against COVID-19 right now are good hygiene and keeping a distance.

There are two types of distance:

  • Distance of time – it is best to have a gap of some days between someone leaving the boat and the BSS Examination happening and then again when the Examiner leaves and the boat used again.
  • Distance of space – a BSS Examination cannot be done with anyone aboard. This means that in poor weather you will need somewhere safe (also distancing) to shelter while the examiner is aboard. Depending on the complexity of the boat, this could be between a half hour and to two-and-half hours

Note for anyone self-isolating or because they are in the vulnerable category of people that are shielding. You cannot have a BSS Examination until the situation changes, and you are no longer isolating. This means it is vital that you talk with your navigation authority or harbour authority and explain your personal circumstances related to your inability to have a BSS Examination on your boat (and insurance company if cover is dependent on BSS Certification).

Distance of Time

According to the Gov.UK website (link below) The infection risk from coronavirus (COVID-19) following contamination of the environment decreases over time. It is not yet clear at what point there is no risk. However, studies of other viruses in the same family suggest that, in most circumstances, the risk is likely to be reduced significantly after 3 days.

This means if the boat can be prepared well in advance and left with some ventilation and without anyone going aboard for three days before the examiner is due, that will be the best scenario.

Then after the Examiner leaves, the best protection is to again not have anyone aboard for three days.

The Examiner must spend the least amount of time aboard without compromising the quality of their examination:

  • there should be nothing in the Examiner’s way of gaining access to all pipe joints, all hoses, shut-off valves and switches.
  • If there are gas fuel or electrical systems the Examiner needs to see in certain cupboards, please empty those specific cupboards.
  • Ensure all fire extinguishers, fire blankets and carbon monoxide alarms are in the right place.

They are unlikely to provide you with a report at the time of visiting. This will be done afterwards.

Good Hygiene

The risk of infection depends on many factors, including:

  • the type of surfaces contaminated
  • the amount of virus shed from the individual (also related to time)

If you haven’t de-cluttered all the areas the examiner has to get to, the more things the examiner will need to touch (and take more time, see above)

The examiner will probably ask you to pay remotely through back transfer, contactless card payment, PayPal, etc to avoid handling cash.

An Examiner is likely to be disinfecting the places and surfaces they have touched. They will probably use standard household cleaning products, so if you have any allergies or concerns about this, raise your points when you book the examination.


This is based on Government advice and instructions.

  • The examiner will not come out if they or someone in their household develops any COVID-19 symptoms
  • They will not examine a boat with anyone aboard
  • They will abandon an examination of a boat where a crew member is showing any symptoms of COVID-19
  • They will not examine on a boat in which any crew members are isolating because one or more family members has symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield – it’s critical that the owner must talk with the navigation or harbour authority about your boat’s licence or registration

The four basic conditions above are for the best of reasons for you, the examiner, and the country. Please make alternative arrangements with the examiner for a later date as appropriate.

The latest information on symptoms

Here Are Some Typical Scenarios

Scenario 1 – You have a pleasure boat is in a marina and has not been used for many weeks or months. You are prepared to open-up the boat, recommission the gas system, provide water, undo access panels and open the boats windows, etc. at least three days in advance of BSS Examination. The marina office has the keys and will make sure the boat is opened-up and ventilated. No one will be present at the BSS Examination.

Please confirm all the arrangements with the Examiner and marina/moorings management, on the face of it this is the safest examination situation, but if the examiner suspects that someone has been aboard in the previous three days they may adopt their risk assement relevant to Scenario 2.

Scenario 2 – The pleasure boat is in the marina and you have been preparing eagerly for the BSS Examination since the marina re-opened and you are on site on the day of examination. 

The Examiner will call prior to examination to check if you have and/or note if you are showing any symptoms of COVID-19 on the day. They may adjust their risk assessment accordingly. You will be asked to leave the boat for the duration of the examination. If part of the examination raises concerns, the examiner may agree to send you photos to your phone or tablet. Any report is likely to be sent electronically.

Scenario 3 – You and your family are living aboard.

Advise the examiner of this in advance because there are specific preparatory questions for residential boat owners. All your household will need to leave the boat for some time, which could be and hour or two, possibly more. So please have somewhere to go, but will it be weather dependent; and are there any other potential problems about leaving the boat? Let the Examiner know if there are. The boat will need to be clutter free everywhere the Examiner need to gain access including relevant cupboards, lockers and hatchways. Please make sure all access panels are removed and everything else is in place. Can you wipe down surfaces and open windows in advance of the day of examiner arriving. Are you happy about the brand/type of disinfectant cleaner the Examiner is planning to use?

Scenario 4 – Your boat is a liveaboard and you or others are shielding and are extremely vulnerable.

You need to talk with your navigation authority about your licensing or egistration renewal (and insurance company if cover is dependent on BSS Certification). You cannot have, and the examiner cannot provide a BSS Examination.

Scenario 5 – You are responsible for a workboat. You ensure the boat has not been in use and no-one has been aboard in the last three days. You ensured that all systemwere place and ready to be examined before the boat was vacated.

The Examiner should be able to approach this job with some confidence. Is it safe to leave the windows of any cabins left open in that vacated period? Let the examiner know at the time of booking if you expect to see a copy of the examiner’s risk assessment or insurance documents – can this be done electronically in advance. Will the examiner still be required to undertake post-examination hygiene and cleansing? Expect to have all examination reports sent electronically and to make payment remotely.


When booking the Examiner

The examiner will ask whether you can be off the boat in advance or if the boat is in use

They will ask is anyone is showing any symptoms of COVID-19 who has been on the boat recently or is on the boat now. 

They may ask about the disinfectant cleaner they may use at the time of the examination

The Examiner will want to know if the relevant parts of the boat (i.e. where fuel and power systems are) can be left totally clear of all objects that may be in the way of a clear, unimpeded access?

The examiner will ask that access panels be removed. They are also likely to discuss the subjects hidden or difficult to find pipe joints, hoses, fuel shut-offs, mater switches etc.

Agree with your examiners on the whereabouts of the boat keys, how to access to the mooring site and any names of people who the Examiner will have to talk with on site.

Expect your examiner to ask about use disinfectant cleaners, advise the examiner if you have any concerns/allergies

Expect to pay by a remote method such as band transfer, PayPal, contactless card payment, etc.

Expect all reports and findings by electronic delivery such as email, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.


If the boat is unattended and vacated well in advance (at least three days) – planning for Examination

Use the BSS Examination Checking Procedures to try to ensure boat is fully compliant and accessiblecan be BSS Certificated and prevent a re-visit.

Remember to leave some windows or hatches partially open for ventilation if it is safe and secure to do so?

Reminder – Will the key be left somewhere for the examiner (e.g. marina office) then keep away from the boat for at least three days?

Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces if you have used the boat recently


Day before the BSS examination

Check BSS and Government websites for latest information

Anticipate a call from the Examiner, to check on your wellbeing and provide you reassurance about their health; double check time slots

Anticipate questions from the Examiner about all previously agreed actions and processes?


After the BSS examination

If you can, keep away from the boat for three days following the examination

Expect the Examination reports electronically


Day of Examination if you are attending or the boat is in use

Anticipate a text/call from the Examiner that all is well e.g. does the weather prevent the you and other crewmembers from leaving the boat.

Open some windows or hatches if the the temperature allows and it is safe to do so.

It would be best if you can clean and disinfect objects and surfaces before examiner arrives.

Don’t offer the examiner refreshments, they will have their own.

Expect to pay by a remote method such as band transfer, PayPal, contactless card payment, etc.

Expect all reports and findings by electronic delivery such as email, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.


Q&As Related To The Effect On BSS Examinations Of COVID-19 Protection Measures And The Related Restrictions Announced By The UK Government.    



Can you tell me what happening as I need to re-licence/register my boat but my BSS Certification has expired?

Navigation authorities and licensing bodies are recognising the last BSSC until 31 July, so you should be able to register or licence your boat as usual. However, Examinations have now restarted, so start making arrangements for Examination as soon as you are able.

If you run into a problem, please contact your licensing or registration authority directly.  The authority will likely write to you asking you to organise a BSS examination as soon as possible.

I staying on my boat and I am in the extremely vulnerable group and have been strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks [Note, this period of time could change based on Government advice]. This goes beyond your suspension timeline. My BSSER expires in this time. What can I do?

If you are in the situation where you need to register or licence your boat while you still need to be self-isolating – and your BSS Certification will have expired at that point, you should discuss you options with your navigation authority as soon as possible. Please explain you are in the most vulnerable group and cannot expect to have non-household person attend your boat as you are following the Government advice for most vulnerable people.

Can you extend my BSS Certificate as I need it to support my insurance policy?

Please contact your insurance company/broker to discuss your options. Where a boat’s BSS Certification has expired, navigation authorities are allowing customers to licence or register their boats with the expectation that the BSS Certification will be renewed as soon as possible.

Can you extend my BSS Certificate as I need it to support my mooring policy?

Please contact your mooring’s management to discuss your options. Where a boat’s BSS Certification has expired, navigation authorities are allowing customers to licence or register their boats with the expectation that the BSS Certification will be renewed as soon as possible.

My BSS examination is due in a date very shortly, but I cannot get to the boat currently to prepare it?

Watch out for the latest advice from your navigation authority. It is probable that the navigation authority will want you to have a BSS Certification on your boat as soon as reasonably possible and at least before 31 July 2020. Examiners are now taking bookings, so see if you can one or more who are available within a reasonable time frame. If your certification has already expired, let your navigation authority know the date of your booked BSS Examination.