press release (amended)

Lymington Harbour Commissioners

New Ferries River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders – No. 4

Wightlink have defied the will of all the regulators in deciding to introduce their new ferries before the necessary safety trials are complete and the environmental concerns have been resolved.

They have taken this action despite repeated requests from the LHC and their previous undertaking not to do so. They claim that they are justified because of the needs of the Isle of Wight, but the real problem that has lead to this situation is Wightlink’s determination to design and build ferries in advance of meaningful consultations with all the regulators. As a result, all subsequent consultations have taken place against the commercial necessity on the part of Wightlink to introduce ferries that had already been paid for.

We have once again requested Wightlink to desist from this action, and are contacting all the relevant Government Departments for support in preventing it. However, if Wightlink go ahead without completion and acceptance of the risk assessment we will be providing whatever harbour patrols are appropriate to help safe guard other river users. These actions will be taken by the Commissioners in order to minimise any threat to the safety of other river users but without condoning the introduction of the new ferries. It has been confirmed to us by Government that as presently constituted, the Commissioner’s do not have the power to prevent the new ferries sailing.

We expect the full BMT report to be available by 5 March and it will be circulated to stake holders for consultation as soon as possible.

In this fast developing situation, we will keep you all informed as they occur.

Peter Griffiths – Chairman LHC


River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders - No5

There have been a number of developments since 24 February. The Harbour Commissioners have renewed their request to Wightlink to refrain from operating the new ferries until the environmental concerns have been resolved. Whilst they have ignored this request, Wightlink have confirmed that they are operating within the requirements for safe operation that LHC have laid down following the latest recommendations of our risk assessment consultants BMT Seatech. Our own observations confirm that this is the case. 

The draft Phase 2 report from BMT Seatech has been distributed to the stake holders for consultation. This will be followed at the end of this week by an addendum to include the results of the final strong wind trials that were carried out last Tuesday (3/3/09). 

The aim is to complete the consultation process and publish the report by the end of April. 

At the beginning of this process the Commissioners were clear that once we had definitive advice that we may need powers to regulate for environmental concerns, we would take the necessary steps to acquire them. Now that we have received Natural England’s advice, the Commissioners have resolved to seek a Harbour Revision Order that will enable us to make general directions with regard to environmental matters both in response to this current advice and any future situations that may demand such action. 

Peter Griffiths – Chairman LHC


Risk Assessment River Trials : Stakeholder Update No.6

My previous update to stakeholders issued on the 11th March indicated that the draft Phase 2 risk assessment report by our marine risk consultants BMT SeaTech (BMT) had been circulated to stakeholders for consultation.

At the end of the consultation period a meeting with stakeholders was held on the 2nd April to discuss the conclusions of the report and on the 5th May, the report was finalised and published.

The primary conclusion of the report is that the overall level of risk within the harbour remains very low provided the recommended risk control measures are adopted. As previously stated, Wightlink have confirmed that they are operating in accordance with the requirements for safe operation that LHC have laid down following the latest recommendations from BMT.

During the consultation process it was agreed by all parties that the operation of the new ferries should be kept under review. In particular it was recognised that the trials to date have not yet observed the ferries when river traffic is at its busiest at the height of the summer. LHC have asked BMT to provide a scope for review that will provide further observation on peak season dates and a review with stakeholders in the autumn.

Peter Griffiths - Chairman LHC

15th May 2009

River Trials Information Update to Stakeholder No.7

Following our previous update in May, I am now able to report that in line with our earlier commitment to keep the situation under review, we have commissioned BMT to monitor operations on both the ferry bridge and from the river on a number of occasions during this summer including weekends, major open meetings, and during other organised racing/sailing events.

BMT’s conclusions will be made available to stake holders in the autumn, when we will hold a further consultation to consider the results. However, what they and our harbour patrols have observed so far appears to indicate that reasonable co-existence is possible between commercial and leisure activities.

It is also pleasing to note, that despite some earlier concerns, the ferry is not having any adverse effect on visitor numbers. These are presently up 15 % on the same period last year.

The events of the last year have shown that the Harbour Commissioners existing powers are insufficient to respond to changing circumstances in a timely manner. As presently constituted, any directions not directly supported by a particular byelaw may be ignored unless specific to an immediate situation. For this reason we are promoting a Harbour Revision Order to obtain Powers of General Direction. If granted by the Secretary of State, this would provide for the future regulation of the harbour to be more responsive to changing circumstances.

Meanwhile an environmental monitoring system has been set up in the river to capture evidence of any significant short-term detriment to the protected sites

Peter Griffiths - Chairman LHC

6 August 2009


horizontal rule

New Ferries Stakeholders Update – No. 8

Safety & Risk Assessment

My previous update to stakeholders issued on the 15th May indicated that the operation of the new ferries would be kept under review following publication of the

Phase 2 risk assessment report by our marine risk consultants (BMT).

In particular, at a meeting with stakeholders on the 3rd April to discuss the report, it was recognised that during the risk assessment trials it had not been possible to observe the ferries when river traffic was at its busiest, i.e. at the height of the summer.

In view of this, LHC commissioned BMT to undertake a review of ferry operations at the end of the 2009 season. To inform their review, BMT spent a number of key

dates on the water observing the ferry operation and interaction with leisure users when the river was busy, as well as undertaking an analysis of incidents during the season.

Their report was published on the 19th November following a further meeting with stakeholders. In summary they concluded “that the W-Class ferries and the leisure users  were co-existing well and, although there were some areas  which could be improved, the conclusions and recommendations of their earlier report still stand.”  They also concluded that “The historically low levels of marine risk on the river have not, in the opinion of the BMT team, been eroded by the introduction of the W-class ferries.”  

Their report made a number of further recommendations which LHC will be progressing. As with all activities on the river, risk management of the new ferries will continue to be subject to formal review.

Not withstanding the above, stakeholders remained concerned about some aspects of the ferry operation, principally the impact of poor punctuality and an unpredictable timetable on dinghy racing activities, wind shadow and thruster wash on the approach to the berth. This latter item is being further addressed with Wightlink.

A copy of both BMT reports and the record of the meeting with stakeholders on the 13th November 2009 can be downloaded by clicking on the relevant PDF file below.

BMT Ferry Risk Assesment May 2009

BMT Summer Review 2009

Stakeholder Meeting 13 Nov 09


There continues to be concern about the introduction of the new ‘W’ Class ferries and their potential effect on the protected local environment.

Over the summer and autumn period, Wightlink’s environmental consultant has been undertaking monitoring in the river to a methodology agreed with Natural England to identify if there have been any significant short term effects. It is currently understood that no significant short term effects have been identified. Long term impacts will be monitored through a Bathymetric survey programme.

At the time of writing it is understood that Wightlink have submitted a mitigation proposal for a habitat replenishment scheme to Natural England following discussion with Natural England, regulators and a number of other interested parties.

There also remains considerable uncertainty on whether due process has been followed under the Habitats Regulations. This is the subject of a Judicial Review

which has been brought by some local residents. The outcome is anticipated early in the New Year.


Peter Griffiths

Chairman – LHC

16th December 2009


Small Craft Beware Ferries

Each year, Wightlink Ferries make thousands of crossings and it is therefore important that care is exercised by both the ferries and leisure users to ensure that incidents are avoided. For much of the year 4 ferry transits an hour take place within the river.

To reduce the risk of incidents between ferries and small craft, the following points should be noted.

When navigating in the Harbour mariners must comply with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and with the Harbour Byelaws.

Assess the height of tide before making a passage of the river: avoid the fairway if there is sufficient water for your vessel outside it. If you do use the fairway you must not cause obstruction to vessels which can navigate only within the fairway (Byelaw 6).

Please be aware of the navigation constraints under which the ferries operate. When using the fairway, keep to the starboard side of the channel. Avoid using the middle of the channel unless there are no other river users in the vicinity.

On the approach of ferries, or when the volume of traffic is high, keep in single file and only overtake when it is safe to do so.

If sailing be aware that the ferry is a large object and will take your wind. Plan accordingly and be prepared.

Keep a good look out so that you are aware of what is going on all around you. Don’t forget to look behind you, especially in bad weather.

The sterns of the ferries swing outwards as they negotiate bends in the river: keep well clear.

Ferries have powerful thruster units at each end of the vessel that can cause turbulence that may be hazardous for small craft. This is particularly noticeable if they need to stop and hold their position against the wind and on approach manoeuvres into the berth - be aware of the effect of the ferry’s thrust on your  intended course and keep clear at all times.

The wake of the ferry often looks deceptively calm. However, underwater eddies can affect the steerage of small craft. When following keep a sensible distance back – at least one ferry length.

The tide can sweep strongly across the fairway to seaward of navigation marks 5 & 6.  Allowance should be made for this effect to avoid being swept onto shallow areas, or across the channel and into the path of oncoming traffic. Look behind you to determine your position in the river.

Please be familiar with the note at the back of the Byelaws on the interaction between vessels: small craft may suffer a sheering action when passing or being passed by a ferry, drawing them towards the ferry. This is especially marked at low water. Keep well clear. If you can’t, speed up or slow down so as to minimise the time you are close to the ferry.

If you cannot see the ferry’s bridge, they will not be able to see you:  keep where you can be seen at all times.

Hoisting sails: yachtsmen (particularly those trying to make the start of a race) are asked not to hoist sails in the main fairway or in the water used by the ferries at the harbour entrance.

Remember that when ferries are forced to take avoiding action for small craft they may change their relationship to other small craft. Try not to force them to take avoiding action. If they do so because of another vessel, reassess your situation.

horizontal rule

General Code of Conduct for Recreational Craft

Formal regulation of the harbour is through byelaws and other measures that may result in enforcement action where all other avenues have failed. However, by far the greatest part of the Harbour Authority’s effort concerning control, regulation and discipline in the harbour is achieved through personal day to day contact between harbour users and staff, when information is exchanged and advice and education given.

The enforcement process presumes prior contact with the customer for formal/informal warnings, evidence gathering etc.

For the harbour user who may not have visited Lymington Harbour before, or may never have been afloat before, it is important to understand some of the basic requirements of the Harbour Authority prior to setting off. This short Code of Conduct sets out these basic requirements, which should be observed by all users. 

  • Do comply with the COLREGS & Harbour Byelaws.

  • Do keep a good lookout and act with due consideration to others.

  • Do keep as far over to the starboard side of the channel as practical and appropriate.

  • Do give way to all vessels over 20 meters in length & vessels constrained by draught, i.e. ferries, dredging barges, large yachts (see separate safety advice on ferries).

  • Do secure properly to your mooring or berth & use adequate fendering.

  • Do follow the slipway safety & RNLI safety at sea guidance displayed on the slipway.

  • Do report safety incidents to the Harbour Master


  • Do not linger off the slipways.

  • Do not water ski, jet ski, wind surf or kite surf.

  • Do not dive in the harbour except with the permission of the Harbour Master.

  • Do not exceed the stated speed limits.

  • Do not moor/leave boats unattended on Emergency Landing on Harbour Masters Pontoon.


Further information and Byelaws are displayed on notice boards at Town Quay and Harbour Office.

horizontal rule

Slipway Safety

Our public slipway at the Bath Road car park provides an ideal launching base from which to launch and explore the Solent and the surrounding area.

Before use please pay the launching fee at the adjacent Harbour Office or to the Harbour Staff if they are on the slipway.

The slipway can get very busy at times and it is therefore important that for the safety and enjoyment of everyone, a few simple rules are followed.

Only trained and competent persons should use the slipway to launch.

 Check the tide tables in advance to ensure that you have enough water for launching and recovery. Details for the current month is available HERE.

To avoid delay and inconvenience to others, particularly at busy times please prepare your boat and rigging away from the slipway. Do not bring your boat to the slipway until you are ready to launch. Similarly, when retrieving your boat, remove it from the slipway immediately. Do not wash down or take down rigging while on the slipway.

When launching using a vehicle, ensure your tow vehicle will cope. Rear wheel drive vehicles will struggle on a slippery slope, while front wheel drives suffer from wheel spin if the weight of the trailer is excessive.

 DANGER SLOPE!  Remember you are on a slope when launching or recovering on the slipway. Always check and then double check that:

·        When not driving the handbrake is on and holding.

·        The trailer tow hitch is properly secured to the vehicle.

·        The boat is properly secured to the trailer.

·        If recovering with a rope extension, do not drive over the ‘hump’ at the top of the slipway because of the slope on the other side. Once the trailer is out of the water, chock the wheels and attach the trailer to the tow hitch before towing off the slipway.

Runaway vehicles, trailers or boats sliding off a trailer can kill or cause serious injury!

 When launching boats using a vehicle, always check that the slipway and the public footpath at the top of the slipway are clear before manoeuvring. When reversing, if available, always use a second person to guide you back. Remember that there will also be people launching and recovering small boats by hand.

 The slipway is used to launch the lifeboat which has priority for launching at all times. Please be vigilant, and do not leave your vehicle unattended on the slipway or on the yellow hatched approach area which marks the access route for the lifeboat.

Finally, follow the RNLI safety advice on the sign at the top of the slipway.

horizontal rule

Port Marine Safety Code

Safety Management System

In February 2009 the Commissioners appointed Nicholsons Risk Management as ‘Designated Person’ to provide independent reassurance to the Board that its Safety Management System (SMS) is fit for purpose, and compliant with the provisions of the PMSC.

The Safety Management System was reviewed and audited by Nicholsons Risk Management between the 3rd and 10th March 2009 and found to be compliant with the requirements of the Port Marine Safety Code.

Code Update

The Department for Transport formally launched the “refreshed” Port Marine Safety Code guidance on the 29th October following extensive consultation with the MCA and industry. The most significant revisions to the Code include:

·        A reference to relevant national legislation that has come into force since its original publication in 2000.

·        A two-page summary of the main points of the Code, and;

·        Clarification of key elements.

In conjunction with Nicholsons Risk Management we have commenced a review of the revised Code in order to identify if there are areas where LHC should consider making changes. Future annual reviews of our Safety Management System (SMS) will be audited against compliance with the revised Code.

Incident Statistics

The tables below give a breakdown comparison of the number of ‘safety’ and ‘non safety’ related incidents for eleven months, January 1st to 30th November.


Safety Incident








Capsize (with personnel)




Collision - Moored Vessels




Collision - Moving Vessels




Collision with Ferry




Collision - Navigation Aids












Impede ferry/Other craft




Man Overboard




Near Miss - Ferry




Near Miss - Other








Slipway Incident




Speed Infringement




Vessel Adrift




Wash other Vessels




Wash Ferry




Total 1st Jan to 30th Nov





Non Safety Incident








Boat Damage




















Total 1st Jan to 30th Nov




horizontal rule