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Rule of six set to have a significant impact on the private charter of passenger vessels

Published on: 16 September 2020


The recent announcement and implementation of the new ‘rule of six’ in England has reversed the private hire side of the passenger vessel industry’s exemption of the 30-person cap on gatherings. 

SI 2020 No. 986 was laid before Parliament on Monday 14 September and amends SI 2020 No. 684. These amendments bring in the changes with the new ‘rule of six’. Although the amendments allow for COVID-19 secure business premises’ to have as many people on their vessels as the COVID-19 risk assessments allow, each individual group cannot be greater than 6 (unless a single household or ‘bubble’ totals more than 6). This therefore allows standard day tripping to continue with additional checks at the point of booking, to ensure that the individual group does not break the law.

For private hire however the new rules have more serious implications as no group larger than six/one household/bubble can now hire a vessel for a private function. Before the industry enjoyed an exemption from the 30 person cap, however this has now been removed (the exemption under regulation 5, paragraph 3(a) has now been omitted through the amendments). There appear to be a few exemptions that would allow for the private hire of a passenger vessel which British Marine are looking to get further clarification from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on as follows:

  • Wedding receptions (capped at 30 people max)
  • Other significant events (capped at 30) defined as : 5B) For the purposes of paragraph (3)(g) “significant event gathering” means a gathering for the purposes of a ceremony, rite or ritual— (a) to mark or celebrate a significant milestone in a person’s life, according to their religion or belief, such as events to celebrate a rite of passage or entry into a particular faith (other than a birthday) or coming of age, or (b) to mark a person’s death or celebrate their life following their death, such as a funeral, according to the deceased person’s religion or belief. (5C) For the purposes of paragraph (5B), a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief
  • Religious send off’s such as ashes scatterings (capped at 30) (see above under significant events)
  • Work purposes where the work is deemed reasonably necessary (numbers only limited by the vessels COVID-19 risk assessments) – for example if a company wanted to hold a meeting but had no meeting rooms available that are large enough so they hired the vessel
  • Charitable work that is deemed reasonably necessary (numbers only limited by the vessels COVID-19 risk assessments)  
  • Protests (must be organised by a business, political group, charity etc) (numbers only limited by the vessels COVID-19 risk assessments)
  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has confirmed that business meetings and events for up to 30 people can continue

If you need any further clarifications or advice on the new ‘rule of six’ and how it affects your business please contact the British marine technical team via