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Is C&RT's Boat/Location Logging System Fit for Purpose?


Tony Dunkley
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Well, it would seem not, having recently produced a printout showing my boat's current Home Mooring as the same location since 2003.

Not only is this some six years before I bought the boat, but it also omits the period up to the end of September 2011 when I was renting a Long Term Mooring from BW/C&RT at Holme Lock on the Trent. When questioned about this C&RT's local Enforcement superstar, Stuart Garner said . ." Oh it's that `thing` with our system". He obligingly went on to explain that when a new location for a boat is being entered how their system can erase the previous locations and re-enter them as the same as the new location.

Keen to find out more I contacted a specialist IT company and from their appraisal of what had been said, their advice was to ask C&RT the following :-

 

Since being made aware of the problems with your computer system by Stuart Garner during a telephone call on 14 July 2014, I have sought advice from a specialist IT company experienced in providing software systems for process management and record keeping for such as Government Departments and Police.

They have indicated that the constant retrospective Location Record changes at the time of new entries against Customer or Contract numbers may well be due to the lack of a secure and valid audit trail, rendering the system unfit for purpose.
Obviously more information is needed for full assessment of your system and the implications for boat owners, and C&RT, of your use of it. I am unsure whether we should ask for this information as an FOI Request or an SAR. Please advise.
Signed A.K.Dunkley.
Unsurprisingly there is, as yet, no reply.
Edited by tony dunkley
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In theory CRT doesn't need historical boat sighting records, it only needs the period in question from a notice to "move on" (probably CC1) until the revocation of a licence (after this, they'll undoubtedly start Section 8 procedure to remove the unlicensed boat from the water). So it would depend on the relative times of the history they do keep vs the length of time between these 2 points.

 

In any case, it doesn't really matter unless the granularity of sightings is much finer. They can't (nobody can prove a negative) prove that a boat HASN'T moved, even with daily sightings of it in the same place. They can only postulate that the boat's not moved. But they don't need to prove the boat hasn't moved (in law), the owner needs to prove it has. CRT advise keeping a movement log. There's been much discussion on here about how individuals can use technology (such as taking geotagged pics etc) to prove this, but its probably not necessary. All they have to do is have a log which is more believable than CRT's records. If they CRT's records are poor (too infrequent) or poorly guarded against subsequent changes, then the owner's log is likely to be believed over it in a court situation.

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As the author of the only logging app specifically written for the UK inland waterways I have followed the discussions about CaRT's logging system with considerable interest. Unfortunately it's specification is not public. Incidents reported, mostly on the Internet boating forums leads me to the conclusion that the CaRT system is rather primitive and relies on subsequent sightings to prove boat movement. If those sightings do not take place the boat is still considered to be in it's last recorded position even if a data logger has subsequently been along the same piece of towpath and not recorded the boat. This is wrong as the boat concerned may have a) moved temporarily from CaRT waters cool.png be in a marina that is not checked as it's users do not require boat licences c) be on a hard standing, or d) simply not be recorded elsewhere due to oversight.

 

Time for CaRT to give boaters chapter and verse over their system and whether they fulfill the systems input requirements as regards regularity of data logging.

Edited by Quinafloat
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I used to run a 4GL environment on a Unix systen which supported a system with 20,000 customers and 50,000 invoices a year. Full order tracking, order history of 10 years or more, incorporating stock control and linking a note system to the customer account. In other words, the system was dealing with a similar number of transactions as (the then) BW were dealing with. It could very, very easily have been expanded to incorporate boat sightings etc. Running this system, once it was up and running, took about 20% of my time, plus I was constantly tweaking the system. I wasn't involved in actually processing the data, we had one person doing stock control and order processing, another doing invoicing and statementing. At very busy times (the business was partly seasonal) we might have switched someone else to help out.

 

I spoke to someone at BW about 10 years ago and said I could replace the disfunctional system that was costing them millions a year to staff, support and develop whereas my system could have been installed for about £70K with a fraction of the running costs. I know this is making me sound like a clever t####, but there were hundreds of people as good or better than me that could also have done it.

 

And here we are in 2014, still with a disfunctional system, exacerbated with poor staff training and poor customer interaction.

 

Why do Government departments, quangos and other similar organisations get away with wasting so much of our money with management having no apparent accountability?

Edited by DHutch
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I know this is making me sound like a clever ####, but there were hundreds of people as good or better than me that could also have done it.

 

 

 

No it's an excellent point well made son.

Edited by DHutch
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I suspect it's not the datalogging that's at fault, but a failure to properly understand and report non-sightings of boats. If a boat which was in a certain place is not recorded as being in that place subsequently, and isn't recorded elsewhere within reasonable cruising range, then an error should be flagged - if the reasonable cruising range includes non-CRT waters, then that's the explanation for the lack of sighting, otherwise the loggers have missed it. If another boat is sighted in the same position as the boat was last seen then it's definitely moved (along or possibly down).

 

For a boat accused of not moving the report of boat position being produced is probably just a list of sightings and positions - with no reference to other boats in the same position at intermediate dates, or non-sightings at the location in question on intermediate dates. You really need to work from a record of the inspection walks taken that cover the location in question - not the sighting records alone.

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No it's an excellent point well made son.

 

You are dor's father??

 

Well I never!

 

 

MtB

I had a chat with one of the data collectors (input index number into gps enabled PDA) and he described the whole process as a 'ball ache'

 

One basic question about the dtat gathering that I've never seen answered on here, is whether the direction the boat is facing gets recorded.

 

I've just put Aldebaran back on the same VM at Braunston after a 16 day absence. I'm vaguely concerned I'll be mis-recorded as an overstayer.

 

 

MtB

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To methe OP's point did not seem to be about boat tracking, but about the records as to where your home mooring is, and that if you update the home mooring location the system keeps no history as to where the previous home mooring was and the dates at that mooring and the date the new mooring was taken up. If I am reading that correctly then the does sound rather poor but I don't understand why that would be an issue to a customer. What am I missing?

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I think TD is looking for ways to undermine the credibility of the data logging system for his court case.

 

The 'which way is the boat facing?' question is another data field I suspect is missing from the recorded data. Again, a really basic systems analysis failure if this is the case, and although not directly relevant to Tony, illustrates the general incompleteness of the data collected.

 

MtB

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I think TD is looking for ways to undermine the credibility of the data logging system for his court case.

 

The 'which way is the boat facing?' question is another data field I suspect is missing from the recorded data. Again, a really basic systems analysis failure if this is the case, and although not directly relevant to Tony, illustrates the general incompleteness of the data collected.

 

MtB

There's no need . . . C&RT have done that for me.

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It doesn't matter how sophisticated a computer system is...if you put crap in, you'll get crap out!

 

Unless the movement (or non-movement) of every boat is monitored every day it's useless.

 

Then there's the question of fiddling with the data to get the result you desire, which is why the data should be independently audited....

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Yes, the security of the sightings data against employees editing it retrospectively needs to be highlighted if undermining the credibility of the database in court is Mr Dunkley's intention.

 

Independent audit of the data is one way. There must be others.

 

Simply stating "C&RT have done that for me" in court isn't really going to cut it.

 

MtB

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I think TD is looking for ways to undermine the credibility of the data logging system for his court case.

 

The 'which way is the boat facing?' question is another data field I suspect is missing from the recorded data. Again, a really basic systems analysis failure if this is the case, and although not directly relevant to Tony, illustrates the general incompleteness of the data collected.

 

MtB

 

The way the boat is facing is only relevant for longer boats as shorter ones can turn within the limits of the canal. For those longer than the width of the canal it only indicates that they have moved to the nearest turning point for the length of that particular boat. Not really a systems analysis failure in my book otherwise anybody could stay twice as long at any mooring just by turning their boat.

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To methe OP's point did not seem to be about boat tracking, but about the records as to where your home mooring is, and that if you update the home mooring location the system keeps no history as to where the previous home mooring was and the dates at that mooring and the date the new mooring was taken up. If I am reading that correctly then the does sound rather poor but I don't understand why that would be an issue to a customer. What am I missing?

It doesn't `keep no history` . . . it amends previously recorded information. Really useful if, for instance, you want show that a boat is still at the same location as when last sighted.

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Missing the point as usual.

 

The reason for including the data is to stop people claiming they've moved away and come back again.

 

If the data shows them facing the same way every time they are recodred there, a court is likely to take this into account when assessing their evidence. If the data is not recorded, CRT have no way of showing them to be possibly lying.

 

MtB

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Yes, the security of the sightings data against employees editing it retrospectively needs to be highlighted if undermining the credibility of the database in court is Mr Dunkley's intention.

 

Independent audit of the data is one way. There must be others.

 

Simply stating "C&RT have done that for me" in court isn't really going to cut it.

 

MtB

It isn't employees editing retrospectively, it's the Computer System doing it . . . as I said in the OP.

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Yes, the security of the sightings data against employees editing it retrospectively needs to be highlighted if undermining the credibility of the database in court is Mr Dunkley's intention.

 

Independent audit of the data is one way. There must be others.

 

Simply stating "C&RT have done that for me" in court isn't really going to cut it.

 

MtB

If you've looked at the OP again to see what I said about the Computer System doing the editing, then you might also spot the mention of a "print out".

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If you have a home mooring, there is no requirement for proving a pattern of movement. Tony, are you now trying to fight the section 8 etc on the basis that you're now complying with CC regulations, ie you're not fighting the fact that CRT aren't satisfied with your home mooring?

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If you have a home mooring, there is no requirement for proving a pattern of movement. Tony, are you now trying to fight the section 8 etc on the basis that you're now complying with CC regulations, ie you're not fighting the fact that CRT aren't satisfied with your home mooring?

Have I mentioned Section 8, CC regs or C&RT's lack of satisfaction . . . no, I don't think so. Maybe you should join MtB in re-reading the OP.

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Having read your original post, in my view it's impossible to say whether the system you describe is fit for purpose.

 

I'm not even clear what the fault is that you are trying to describe. You say that the printout shows the boat's current Home Mooring as the same location since 2003.

 

If the boat's current Home Mooring is, for instance, Holme Lock, are you saying that the printout shows some other place and that's wrong, or are you saying that the printout showed that in 2003 the boat's Home Mooring was, for example, Holme Lock and that that's wrong. Or are you saying the printout showed a series of Home Moorings since 2003 and they all show the same location, e.g. Holme Lock and that that's wrong? Or do you mean somthing else?

 

Even if we can clear up what you mean, we can't simply jump to the conclusion that because the printout doesn't match your expectation, that the system is wrong, not fit for purpose or whatever.

 

It could be that the system isn't doing what it was designed to do, or it could be that the system is printing out exactly what it was designed to do, but that some incorrect data has been entered, or that the query which generated the printout wasn't formatted correctly..... or it could be that what the sytem was designed to do, isn't what you're expecting it to do. Any or all of those things or quite a few others can lead you to point to a printout and say; "That's wrong".

 

 

By way of anecdote, I had a problem with mail from CRT to my home address continually getting lost in the post. Getting to the bottom of the problem, it appeared that at some point between me giving them my change of address on a handwritten form, it was entered into a spreadsheet. The particular record within the spreadsheet in which the postcode was entered was set to format it as text, unless it was purely numeric in which case it was a saved as a number. I happen to have a non-UK postcode which is a 5 digit numeric code and in my case it happens to start with a zero. Storing the postcode as a number stripped the leading zero leading to all kinds of fun when mail from CRT reached the German postal system which is highly dependant on postcodes to work properly.

 

I am now getting my mail addressed correctly. CRT's system which stores my address can cope with exotic foreign postcodes. It just seems that before the data was entered into that sytem the f/u with the spreadsheet had occurred, very likely due to someone in an office somewhere thinking they could use it to temporarily capture the data from the handwritten form. It probably worked fine the other 2537 times they did it that way.

 

Am I entitled to say that their system is not fit for purpose?

Edited by NilesMI
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