Posted: 24/03/2020

Covid -19 Update 25 March 2020

​The safety of our customers and staff is always a top priority, no more so than during this unprecedented time. Waterways Ireland is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and is in regular contact with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Ireland) and the Department for Infrastructure (Northern Ireland).  All decisions made on the provision of facilities and services will be undertaken in line with official advice, informed by the authorities.  We are aware that guidance is continually evolving and our actions to protect our staff, all our stakeholders and the wider community have been reflective of that changing environment.

In order to maximise social distancing Waterways Ireland administrative offices have been closed to the public from Friday 20th March 2020.  Staff are working from home with the ability to undertake business as usual functions.  All have access to email systems and audio and video conferencing facilities, providing the ability to conduct business meetings virtually.

Operational staff, with the exception of essential teams who manage water levels on the Shannon Navigation and the Canals, and those who provide pump-out services to people who live in Grand Canal Dock, will not undertake their normal functions from close of business on Wednesday 25th March, in order to adhere to the protocols of social distancing.  This will restrict boats navigating through locks on most of our navigations.

  • As Water Patrollers on the Grand Canal, Royal Canal and the Barrow Line are involved in management of water levels, they will continue to operate locks for boat passage under reduced hours of opening.  This position will continually be under review.

  • As Operational staff on the Shannon Navigation are also involved in management of water levels, they will continue to operate locks for boat passage under reduced hours of opening.  This position will continually be under review.

  • Waterway Patrollers on the Shannon-Erne Waterway do not regulate water levels and  will not be at work to provide support to boaters.  The lock operation systems on the Shannon-Erne will be switched off and vessels will therefore not be able to make any lock passages.

  • There will be no navigation infrastructure maintenance activities carried out on the Erne System.

  • Waterway Patrollers on the Lower Bann do not regulate water levels and  will not be at work to provide support to boaters.  Vessels will therefore not be able to pass through the locks on the Lower Bann.

Please check the Marine Notices page on for details of issues affecting the inland navigable waterways

We all know that nature is a powerful force for good and in these uncertain times enjoying the outdoors is vital for our mental health and wellbeing.  Our network of waterways and canal towpaths continue to be accessible to the public.  However we encourage all to do so responsibly, taking care of each other, taking care of our local environs, our wildlife, and our lands and waters.  We ask that our users:

  • Enjoy active outdoor recreation in your local area;

  • Do not travel to popular tourist areas and reduce the risk of groups gathering in one place;

  • Avoid public transport and social gatherings – keep active by travelling on a vessel, by foot or bike;

  • Follow social distancing rules - do not congregate, keep moving, and allow space for others to pass.  Please strictly observe Government guidance at all times in ensuring a 2m distance between yourself and other people.

As this crisis continues to develop we will keep this under constant review and ask everyone to act responsibly, and respect the safety of other users and our staff.  

We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help answer some questions you may have.  If they do not cover a specific query, please email and we will get back to you as quickly as we can.

Frequently Asked Questions  

  • Are the locks operating as usual?

The Locks are operating on reduced hours on the Shannon Navigation, the Royal Canal, the Grand Canal and the Barrow Line.

The Locks on the Shannon-Erne and the Lower Bann navigations are not operational from Wednesday 25th March, until further notice.  Navigation between locks is still possible on these navigations.

This position is under continuous review and any changes will be issued as a Marine Notice and also be posted on the Waterways Ireland website.

  • Does Waterways Ireland have any general advice for boaters?

We know that most of the boating community is very supportive of one another. In such times as these, we ask all boaters to look out for the more vulnerable members of the community in case they are self-isolating and may require assistance. We ask all boaters using the public moorings to keep in small groups, and ensure that you respect the 2m physical distancing measures.

  • What happens if Waterways Ireland staff have to self-isolate?

We have contingency plans in place to ensure we continue to provide an emergency level of service.  This position will be continually under review.

  • Are service blocks open?

Waterways Ireland is following government advice and has closed all our service blocks.

  • Are electricity and water services available at jetties?

Electricity and water services will be turned on over the coming weeks, following completion of assessments of health and safety issues in the aftermath of the recent flooding.

  • Can I continue to moor my vessel under 'winter mooring' regulations?

In these exceptional circumstances, to ease the pressure on our boating community, and maximise the impact of social distancing, it has been decided to extend the 'winter mooring' period for 1 month until 30 April 2020.  In this way boaters will not feel obliged to travel to move their vessel.

  • How do I reduce the risk of transmission through touching facilities or locks that have been used by others?

In line with the government advice to all, it is advisable to wash your hands, or use hand gels, frequently to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus.

  • Can still I go cycling, paddling and walking along the towpath?

The network of canals, towpaths, docks and river navigations managed by Waterways Ireland remain open, but we are strongly encouraging people to stay local, and strictly observe social distancing measures. We are asking our users not to congregate, to keep moving, and allow ample space for others to pass in accordance with social distancing.   In line with Government guidance we ask all our users to strictly observe the 2m social distancing protocols. We will continue to keep this under constant review and ask everyone to act responsibly.

If you are intending to pay us a visit please check the public health websites in  Ireland and Northern Ireland  for the latest government advice and follow this to help keep yourself, our staff and other users safe.

  • I had planned an event and applied for support through the Event Programme – is it going ahead?

Applicants for funding through the Waterways Ireland Events Programme should have received communication indicating that in light of the current COVID-19 situation and the need for social distancing, we will not be awarding any funds to applicants until further notice. We will take advice from Government and will review the situation over the coming months.  We will continue to communicate with applicants through our events programme online system.

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