The community ferry boats bringing local people in Bristol together 364 days a year

Based in Bristol Docks, Bristol Community Ferry Boats offer a fleet of five ferry boats to help local people and visitors get around the city quickly and discover the historic waterways. Alongside running a timetabled ferry service an impressive 365 days a year, they improve the lives of local people.

They help young unemployed people train as skippers and crew members, and combat social isolation felt by many elderly residents by providing a safe space to come together.

Pictured is the Brigantia, a 45-50 person ferry boat with an accessible lift for wheelchair users and other disabled people with mobility limitations.

Philippa Bungard of Bristol Community Ferry Boats says “We’re the only ferryboat here offering disabled access, and it’s great for us. Not only does it ensure we are able to welcome more members of the community and be more inclusive, but it allows us to widen our customer base, which benefits our sustainability as a community business.”

We provided a grant of £256,875 including £7,500 of business development support, to ensure Bristol Community Ferry Boats have a sustainable future. The grant will enable them to replace one of their oldest boats with a new environmentally clean electric boat, providing 10 additional seats, a more comfortable experience for passengers, extra private hire trips and additional school trips.

How did they do it?

Bristol Community Set up in 2013 as a community benefit society after a public share offer in which 874 Bristol residents and others bought shares of a minimum of £100 each and a maximum of £1000, so the company would not be dominated by large shareholdings. Each member receives one vote irrespective of number of shares. The Board is made up of 10 members, with 3 stepping down annually and their replacements being elected by members at AGMs.