top of page
  • Writer's pictureCharlotte

A Guide to Hiring Commercial Work Boats

In a previous blog we have talked about all things work boat, looking at the different types available, alongside the various attachments that can complement a marine engineering project. But once you have decided what you need, how do you go about getting hold of the equipment? Whether you’re new to canal-side construction or have 35 years to 40 years’ experience, this is a very important question.

Though you may need commercial work boats, most organisations will not require work boats for sale, and should instead look for work boat hire options. With that in mind, we have used our years of experience and specialist data to help us create a guide covering everything that you need to know about work boat rental. Alongside other aspects of marine engineering, we’ve highlighted the key areas of consideration for hiring vessels on rivers and canals.

Types of workboats

By way of a quick review, it’s worth outlining the main types of work boats that you are likely to need on a project, and are available for work boat hire.

Crane boats – commercial work boats that are ideal vessel for piling, dredging, bank stabilisation works, marine engineering and getting materials to awkward access sites, a crane boat is a workboat with a mounted crane. These work boats are available at lengths of 40ft, 50ft and 70ft, and a 70ft Hiab Crane & Grab Boat in both narrow beam and wide beam configurations available.

Pontoons – the Swiss army knife of commercial work boats. A pontoon is effectively a floating platform on which a range of plant solutions can sit. The Rothen Group offers a variety of pontoons depending on the solution in question, including narrow and wide beam digger pontoons, narrow and wide beam crane pontoons, and welfare and survey pontoons.

Digger boats – a specialist machine transporter and/or operating platform, generally powered. These digger boat vessels, available for work boat hire, is capable of transporting machines to awkward access sites or the machine can operate from the boat itself.

Pusher tugs – a highly powerful and manoeuvrable boat, and the ideal workhorse for moving boats up and down the waterways. Can be paired with material hoppers or pontoons to assist with dredging, piling or transporting materials to site, assisting with marine engineering tasks.

Powered carrying boats – a really versatile powered boat which removes the need for a pusher tug when carrying out work on rivers and canals. This is ideal if you require room to store a small chipper/generator, while also providing a safe working platform.

Hoppers – commercial hopper work boats are designed to carry large amounts of material on rivers and canals, but cannot move around by themselves. Hopper work boat types include the material hopper, shallow drafted hopper, wide beam hopper, and small work boats and flat punts for laying brickwork on top of piling and inspection works.

Punts – shallow drafted work boats suitable for laying brickwork on top of piling and inspection works weighing approximately 1.5 tonnes.

Reed harvesters – a self-propelled reed and weed harvester that not only cuts and self-loads, but can also store reeds until they can be discharged onto another boat or onto the bank for disposal.

Reed cutters – these types of commercial work boats remove reeds from canals, rivers and lakes.

Open a dialogue

Perhaps the most important step in work boat hire and work boat rental is to open a dialogue with those who have years of experience. The Rothen Group has experience of operating on UK waterways for over 25 years, and can help to provide advice on what work boats individual projects might need.

This might be through a site visit, if the client is relatively new to marine engineering, or via email if there is sufficient knowledge to do so. Obtaining a quote is part of this process, and there are certain aspects of a project which help to define what type of commercial work boat is required. This includes:

Width of the waterway – this will help define the size of the work boat required.

Depth of the waterway – again, linked with the size of the vessel suitable for the project.

Nature of the work – are you lifting, piling, dredging? The type work will dictate what boat is required.

Materials needed – this includes the length of piles, the weight of the materials, where are you trying to load and unload to, and whether a pontoon is required.

Access restrictions – how easy is it to transport materials to and from site, and how do you get the boat to site? This information can be crucial to marine engineering works.

Work boats can often be interchangeable depending on the work they will be doing and we use this data to help us create the optimum solution in terms of availability, costs, and ultimately the ability of the boat to undertake the required work.


The logistics associated with work boat rental and boat hire can be just as important as the boat itself. The time of year can have a drastic effect on how quickly, and by what means, boats are transported to site. For example, there are a lot more stoppages during winter, which means moving by water can take a lot longer than by land.

The key to effective delivery of commercial work boats is to plan, ensuring that delays are minimal by navigating the country by water and road. With the capability to rapidly mobilise commercial work boats and facilitate work boat rental rivers and canals nationwide, The Rothen Group is able to meet demanding timeframes.

Final thoughts on work boat hire

Out of everything we have covered here, the most important thing to take away is to have a discussion with marine engineers who have years of experience. By opening a dialogue and talking through the options, contractors can be assured of making the right decision when it comes to work boat rental and marine engineering.

63 views0 comments


bottom of page