British Waterways Marina

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by British Waterways Marina's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from British Waterways Marina is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Jeff Whyatt, managing director
British Waterways Marinas Ltd
Establishing what a well-operated marina brand represents
has been the goal of Sawley-based British Waterways
Marinas Ltd (BWML) for the last four years. Under
the direction of Jeff Whyatt, a “four-point plan” has been
established as the business’s guiding principle, and this has
informed the decisions made by the management team since
2014, during which time BWML has reinvented themselves and
their approach to their customers.
The inland marina market in which BWML trades was a challenging landscape
during the years of the recession, although new marina growth in the period
following 2006 added a further 6,000 berths to the existing 29,000. The choices
of inland boating customers have increased substantially and, with it, competitive
pressures on operators have risen.
BWML owns and operates a chain of 18 marinas across England, 15 of which are
sited on inland waters and three classed as coastal, including Limehouse Basin
(London), Hull Marina and Glasson Basin (Lancaster).
In our efforts to establish ourselves as a leading brand within the market and
grow our customer base, we developed a “four-point plan”, the focus of BWML
management these last four years. These steps of action entailed:
»modernising the business – including investment in systems, processes and
performance goals to deliver improvements in customer interaction
»investing in people – with most marinas operating with fewer than two people
on site and customer satisfaction scores lacklustre, a focus change was required
»Managing director:
»Established in 2004
»Based at Sawley Marina,
»No. of employees: 84
»Turnover: £8.5 million
»Gross profit: £2.5 million
»18 marinas operated
»Invests £400,000 per year into
key infrastructure
»2,600 berths in total
»700 residential berths – 30 per
cent of total
British Waterways
Marinas Ltd
Sawley Marina, home to
the BWML head office
»getting closer to the customer –
through a programme of customer
surveys outlining clear points of action
»pursuing areas of growth – involving
residential moorings and specific
new areas of business.
Modernising the business
Harnessing new technology to drive
efficiencies has been the most fulfilling
challenge we’ve embraced. We had to
modernise the business, and invest in
systems, processes and performance
goals to deliver both improvements
in customer interaction and business
The customer interface has historically
been complex, with contract details,
records and communications held
manually, including invoicing and debt
collection. Investigations over the course
of 2015/16 led us to purchase “Harbour
Assist”, a newly launched, personalised
marina management system which
was introduced as an administrative
tool allowing harbour authorities to
collect payments effectively. It quickly
became apparent that this base system
could be adapted to cater for the
full breadth of marina operations,
something BWML desperately needed.
Two years after initial implementation,
we now have cloud-based technology
accessed via staff smartphones and
iPads which can manage the full
spectrum of the customer account,
our own marina operations and asset
We have installed a cost-effective
system giving our customers a
much better account management
experience, including an online
portal where they can manage their
marketing and contact preferences,
complying with new data protection
regulations introduced in May 2018.
New “point of sale” terminals were
introduced, replacing an outdated
system that was difficult to interrogate
and gave no visibility across our six
retail outlets. Since December 2017,
we have been able to manage all stock
variables centrally and ensure prices and
margins are controlled. Autovend diesel
pumps have been rolled out, replacing
manual systems, and HMRC have the
declarations submitted electronically
when customers justifiably benefit from
reduced duty fuel. We believe BWML is
the first marina chain to achieve this.
Investment in people
People are our biggest asset. With the
objective of including our staff in our
growth agenda we launched “Growing
BWML” in 2015 and appointed eight
representative volunteers, known as
“champions”, across all our sites to
drive improvements from the bottom
up. Improvement in our systems
and business-wide process and
communication flows were defined for
action. Most of these were addressed by
the spring of 2018. An additional specific
output has been the introduction of
free health screening for all staff.
Staff engagement is measured by
way of a confidentiality survey. Our
annual survey in 2016 went up to 80
per cent on positive staff engagement,
significantly ahead of the “Harris
Interactive” external benchmarks.
We have invested in a two-year
contracted term training and
development manager, and we employ
technology to
has been an
essential part
of the journey
Limehouse basin in
London, attracting
worldwide visitors
Highlighting best practice
a rigorous training programme.
Modules for all frontline staff now
include customer excellence, product
knowledge, business development,
media and marketing and customer
specialisation. Additionally, we have
developed a range of practical skills
courses aimed at facilitating successful
completion of the British Marine
Accredited Marina Operatives Course.
Getting close to our
Talking with and listening to our
customers and acting upon their
requirements is one of the most
important functions our business
undertakes, and it underpins
everything we do. In addition to the
annual customer satisfaction survey,
we now conduct both a new customer
survey that asks how the customer’s
initial stay with us has been, and
an exit/non-renewal survey which
enquires as to what has provoked
their exit. These measures have proved
essential in pointing us in the direction
of areas where we can do better and,
in some cases, where local staff have
let us down.
These analyses are complemented by
“mystery shops” undertaken by the
Yacht Harbour Association as part of
their Gold Anchor accreditation scheme
to which we subscribe. A result of the
2016 survey was a specific call for more
marina activities, so we introduced
the Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
“Active Scheme”, sponsored by the
RYA. Though primarily a coastal
marina scheme, BWML has been the
first inland marina chain to introduce
this scheme to its larger locations.
Residential mooring growth
and other new products
Fifteen of 18 sites have planning
approved residential moorings,
accounting for 699 (30 per cent) of the
total berths available across the BWML
estate. This total has grown by around
200 in the last two years, reflecting the
growing demand of people living on
water. Compared to leisure moorers,
who require a berth for their boat near
attractive cruising waters, residential
moorers force us to rethink our
proposition within the marina.
Allowing a residential community
within the marina environment
challenges our operation in many ways,
including the provision of services
such as car parking, shower blocks
and laundry facilities. When managing
many social/community environments
at once the key is always to maintain
good two-way communications and all
our marinas host a “customer forum”
to focus discussion.
Not all marinas enjoy high occupancy
of the water space, and so at our
Sawley (Nottingham) and Priory
(Bedford) marinas we have converted
planning permissions for residential
floating homes – 12 at each location.
This is the culmination of three years’
worth of research into the market and
particularly the manufacturing base,
and now the key challenge for us
going forward is finding more space to
leverage these opportunities.
Capturing and
acting on
feedback is
the most
obligation of a
Hull marina, a cultural
focal point

This article was sponsored by British Waterways Marina. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy