Canal & River Trust looking to sell BWML

Published: Thursday 1st March 2018

The Canal & River Trust has this week announced that it is seeking a new owner for British Waterways Marinas Ltd. Outlined below is further information giving background to their decision.

About BWML

Set up in 2004, BWML is as an arm’s length subsidiary of the Canal & River Trust (‘the Trust’).  Originally set up with 10 marinas BWML now operates 18 marinas across England:

  • 3 coastal, 15 inland (of which 4 are on river navigations, including some outside the Trust’s navigations)
  • 17 ‘Gold Anchor’ accredited by The Yacht Harbour Association
  • 2,520 berths in total of which 28% (699) are residential
  • Statutory reported income in 2016/7 = £8.1m

Why is the Canal & River Trust looking to sell BWML?

The Trust is looking to focus more on its core priorities and to secure long-term revenue from its investments.  Having received a number of private approaches, and following an internal review, it has decided to explore options with a number of potential purchasers.  The waterways have always benefitted from private sector investment and this is also a good opportunity to introduce more private sector capital and energy into the sector.

How much does the Trust expect to earn from the sale?

The Trust would only sell for the right price and anticipates it might receive some attractive proposals given market interest in the marina sector.  It has engaged BDO LLP and Vail Williams, leaders in the marina and leisure industry field, to support it with the sale, and secure the best return on its investment. BDO LLP and Vail Williams will seek to ensure that the opportunity receives exposure to relevant investors and maximise the price that the Trust receives.

How will the proceeds of the sale be used?

All the proceeds from the sale of BWML would be invested in other income-generating assets, so as to deliver further sustainable revenue funding for maintaining the historic waterways in the Trust’s care.

After a sale, the Trust would continue to receive income from network access agreements from the purchaser of the business.  By reinvesting the capital from the sale, it would also generate a long-term revenue income.

How much does the Trust earn from BWML at present?

In 2016/17 payments made to the Trust from BWML were:

  • £1.018m in rents and access charges, and
  • £1.2m* in profit distribution by way of Gift Aid. (*£950k paid in year, as Annual Accounts and a subsequent £250k paid during 2017/18)

What share of the marina market does BWML represent?

5.8% of the inland marina market and 0.8% of the coastal marina market

Is the Trust still supportive of the development of new marinas?

Yes, subject to planning and where sufficient water resources permit.  The Trust provides advice to prospective developers through its new marinas process which can be found on

Will the Trust treat the new owner of BWML in the same way as the rest of the marine industry?


What will happen to BWML’s 86 staff?

All staff will remain employed by BWML under their existing terms and conditions.

Will the proposals involve any changes to public use and enjoyment of the waterways?

No. BWML will, under any new ownership, largely continue to use and occupy the same properties as it did before any change. This would include, for example, some online moorings on our waterways which the company lease from the Trust in the same way as other operators up and down the system.