National Historic Fleet Review

Update: March 2016

In 2014, a consultation was published on the National Historic Ships UK (NHS-UK) website detailing work being undertaken to review the composition of the National Historic Fleet (NHF) and the methodology used to assess craft on the National Register of Historic Vessels (NRHV).  32 responses were received from the sector, reviewed by the Registration Working Group and subsequently summarised on the NHS-UK website.  The original intention had been to move forward with proposals to refine the methodology following the consultation, putting in place changes to the NHF resulting from the pilot study on two vessel groups and inviting applications from the sector for reviews of vessel status.   However, it quickly became clear that in order to undertake the full NHF Review with any accuracy, all vessels on the NRHV needed to be reassessed and therefore, the small team of staff at NHS-UK, with their supporting Council, had neither the resources nor the manpower to deliver something of this scale in-house.

Consequently, NHS-UK is actively seeking external funding to launch the NHF Review as a project in its own right, with a dedicated staff team who can carry out assessments in conjunction with the Council and also make a series of visits to unknown vessels or those whose status is likely to undergo a change.   NHS-UK is also reviewing its overall fundraising strategy in the current economic climate and will consider how best to fit this project into its overall long-term work plan.  As further details are known, these will be published on the NHS-UK website and in the Annual Review so that vessel owners are kept informed.  Until this time, the current freeze on changes to vessel status remains in place, so that no vessels will be added to or removed from the NHF (unless they move to the National Archive of Historic Vessels) until a full assessment has been carried out.

To ensure that momentum is not lost and to keep moving forwards internally with the resources at our disposal, work has continued on the following areas:

  • Vessel grouping charts continue to be updated and amended following comments received during the consultation process
  • A small working group has been formed to assess the Registers database and the way in which the new vessel groups will be integrated into this in future
  • Statements of significance continue to be written for vessels on the Registers, with 81 completed to date, and a more detailed template has been drafted to assist vessel owners with this process
  • Meetings continue to be held with specialist groups, such as members of the Inland Waterways network, in order to advance work on the methodology relating to particular types of craft
  • NHS-UK is working closely with the National Small Boat Register (NSBR) to ensure the registration and assessment criteria for both Registers is closely aligned, pending future inclusion of those vessels from the NSBR meeting the necessary criteria on the NHF
  • Work has continued on the pilot groups of ‘luxury steam’ and ‘rescue’ taking into consideration the amendments made to the groupings as a result of the NHF Consultation which has required a re-scoring of the vessels involved.

The National Historic Fleet – Vessels with current requests for inclusion

Over time we have received a number of vessel requests for inclusion in the National Historic Fleet (NHF), none of which we have been able to process due to lack of capacity, linked with our determination to employ our new methodology that where-ever possible vessels should be evaluated in groups, not as stand-alone entities.  The significance of any vessel, and thereby the validity of any claim for inclusion in the NHF can only be justifiably assessed in relation to similar vessels on the National Register of Historic vessels (NRHV).  On the rare occasions where there is only one vessel of the type, or approximating to it, the significance of the vessel as a stand-alone will be evaluated in terms of the technological development that the vessel represents or her associational links.  Rarity of itself is not sufficient.

As indicated elsewhere in this document there are also vessels on the National Small Boat Register (NSBR) administered by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) which investigation will demonstrate meet NRHV criteria in all but Length Over All, and are of demonstrable national significance.  We have reached in-principle agreement with NMMC that such vessels should be brought into the NHF as part of our review process.

One particular difficulty we all face is where vessels in both of these categories are seeking grant–in–aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund or other grant sources and need to confirm their NRHV or NSBR status.  We cannot abandon the principles we have set for evaluating potential NHF vessels but we do recognise this particular conundrum.  We have therefore taken the view that the best way of ameliorating this situation will be to draw the potential grantor’s attention to the NHF criteria so that the organisation concerned has an informed context within which a judgement can be made on the significance of the vessel concerned.  We are very happy to assist in this process as an integral part of our role as advisors to grant-giving bodies.

In due course this will not be a problem once the NHF review has been carried out. Thereafter NHF applications will be addressed in order as they come forward.

To accompany this statement, the latest vessel grouping charts and the template for writing statements of significance have been published on our website.   Please view these for further details of the Review and feel free to email us any feedback or comments to:

Thank you for your patience during this ongoing work.

NHS-UK Team, March 2016

thole pin:

a single pin or one of a pair rising vertically from the sheer and acting in a variety of ways to provide a fulcrum for the oar