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BOATS2020 cancelled over councils COVID-19 fears

Southampton City Council has pulled the plug on two 10-day outdoor boat shows on the eve of opening

At 6.34pm on Thursday 10th September, on the eve of opening day, the Southampton boat show organiser, British Marine received the ‘devastating news’ from Southampton City Council that its replacement smaller scale, outdoor boat show, BOATS2020 could no longer go ahead, due to the rising risk of COVID-19 and growing Government fears. The decision came in the eleventh hour before opening and has left 188 exhibitors, who had set up or were in the process of it, very disappointed.

The 10-day show, due to take place from 11-20 September 2020, was set to open on Friday (11th) and had seen British Marine collaborating closely with Southampton City Council to ensure that the existing Public Health England COVID-19 secure requirements were met. A purpose built marina with 5-metre wide pontoons and shoreside show areas of Mayflower Park had been engineered to allow for social distancing, and ticket holders were being reassured just hours before of the measures in place.

Lesley Robinson, CEO of British Marine, said; “We are desperately disappointed that BOATS2020 will no longer be taking place, especially receiving the news at the eleventh hour before opening. A tremendous amount of work has been put in and it was heartening to see committed exhibitors on-site today getting geared up for opening. British Marine has remained committed to staging this not-for-profit boat show to support the leisure marine industry and our host city of Southampton, and I am deeply saddened that it will now no longer be taking place. Alongside our exhibitors, we were ready to open a show that exceeded all safety requirements. We are truly perplexed as to why we are unable to run the show at least until Monday in line with the government restrictions imposed yesterday. The global pandemic and unprecedented times mean that the latest circumstances are beyond our control. Public health and safety come first and naturally, as the show organiser, British Marine must comply with all guidance.”

Neville Williams of said upon hearing the news “We were ready to go, but at the eleventh hour Southampton City Council have cancelled the permission for BOATS2020. To say we are disappointed with this double standards decision is an understatement. The council had plenty of time to cancel the event at an earlier stage.” Much efforts had been made to ensure motorboat models and equipment was delivered and in position by manufacturers, and in Neville’s case this meant trailing countless boats down from North Wales over the last two weeks.

Running over the same 10 days, the nearby Ocean Village Boat Show, hosted by MDL Marinas, has also been cancelled by the council. Sales and Marketing Director, Tim Mayer, released the following statement on social media “This is very disappointing for the industry, for both Ocean Village Boat Show and BOATS2020 who we understand are in the same position. We don’t agree with the decision but do understand that the council is worried about an influx of visitors, however, both shows have been very careful with the arrangements and for controlling visitor numbers. As you may know, we have from the outset strived to develop a show that offers visitors an appointment-only, controlled and safe show, specifically designed for serious buyers, so we are devastated by this last minute decision. As we have done over many weeks, we are working with Southampton City Council’s saftey advisory group to establish if we can open the show later in the week. But we wanted to let you know that the show will not open tomorrow, and we ask our booked customers not to come to Ocean Village. We are naturally very disappointed for all of our exhibitors, and visitors, who have all made significant investments into the show, whether to bring wonderful power and sail boats, or to travel to the city to look at a boat. We will keep you all updated.”

Southampton City Council released a statement on social media saying 'anyone who was planning to make the journey to one of the boat shows in Southampton should not now make that journey'. Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council, said: “Due to the increased spread of COVID-19 nationally, and the need for stronger control measures to reduce transmission both in Southampton and across the country, we unfortunately cannot allow the Ocean Village Boat Show 2020 and Boats 2020 presented by Southampton International Boat Show Limited to take place this month. We have therefore issued a Direction under Regulation 5(1) of the Health Protection Regulations 2020 prohibiting these events from taking place. In Southampton and the South East, we have seen a lower rate of COVID-19 transmissions since lockdown ended. However, the national picture shows a concerning rise in cases, and with these events set to attract around 20,000 people from different parts of the UK over a 10-day period, it’s important we act now to reduce the risk of infection.

“The people of Southampton have been doing a fantastic job of supporting their city through social distancing, regular handwashing and isolating if they start showing coronavirus symptoms. The event organisers have also worked incredibly hard to risk assess their activities and implement a range of safety measures. So, I’m very sorry to disappoint them and everyone who was looking forward to attending these events. The decision, while regrettable, has been made after detailed analysis of the public health risks and discussions with our colleagues in the city, including the police. COVID-19 is still very much with us and we all need to stay alert, particularly at this sensitive time. Anyone who was planning to make the journey to one of the boat shows in Southampton should not now make that journey. Officers from Southampton City Council and Hampshire Constabulary will be visible in the area to engage with the public and help explain the Direction that has been issued.”

For those with still planning to be in Southampton for the boat show period, as far as Motorboat Owner is aware there are several used boat shows going ahead at Swanwick, including the WhyBoats Used Boat Show at Deacons Marina and a display at Solent Motoryachts. Many exhibitors are also bringing their boats back to the Hamble River, Swanwick and thereabouts, including Fjord/Inspiration Marine, Sealine/TBS Boats, Princess Yachts, Ancasta/Beneteau/Prestige Yachts and Clipper Marine/Bavaria.

PHOTO: Image taken by Neville Williams of shows the purpose-built marina occupied and ready for visitors on the eve of opening, Thursday 10th September

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