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News - 20/06/14

Annual Report – Chairman’s Introduction

2013-2014 has been a busy year for Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC). Last year I reported a reduction in visitors to Cowes; for 2014 we are hopeful of seeing a start to a recovery in visitor numbers. Key projects have been progressed with the harbour breakwater now under contract, progressive development of the Kingston site, and re-design of the Trinity Landing pontoons to overcome long-standing problems. 

This Annual Report summarises the activities and salient features of the year and an accompanying ‘Report of the Commissioners and Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2013’ details the financial results. 

This year, two Commissioners stood down following completion of their second term of office; both having provided excellent service to CHC. Peter Morton, Marine Services, and Capt. Peter Jackson, Safety and Security, have made significant contributions to their portfolio activities and to the CHC Board as a whole. CHC thanks both Peters for their efforts and contributions over the last six years. In accordance with our Governance procedures, a recruitment campaign was launched during March and April 2014. The positions were advertised widely and we were pleased to receive an extremely good response with a very high calibre of applications returned. An interview panel of CHC’s Chairman, a stakeholder representative and an external independent interviewed a shortlist of candidates in April. The selected new Commissioners are Andrew Cooper, Safety and Security, and Howard Pearce Marketing. We welcome them both and I feel sure they will be valuable additions to the CHC Board.

The Advisory Committee, under the Chair of Ben Willows, has continued to play a key role in facilitating and providing two-way communications and consultation on the major issues and developments impacting on the harbour. In particular, during the last 12 months, they have fulfilled a valuable role in the consultation process on the Cowes Breakwater Project throughout the planning and pre-construction phases. We consider two-way communications with our stakeholders to be critical on all main issues.

Financially, 2013 was a busy year for the Commission and a successful trading year. Turnover amounted to £3,036,328, a 6.4% increase compared to the previous year. Surplus before tax amounted to £699,645 ahead of budget projection and an increase on the previous year’s figure of £602,540. After the end of the year, the Commission committed £7,500,000 to the building of the Cowes breakwater, the most substantial financial commitment ever made by the Commission. CHC is financing the £7.5 million project from a combination of cash reserves, accrued over many years, and a commercial bank loan plus a £3 million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency.

Following many years of determined effort, with a fair share of disappointments, CHC was delighted to be able to confirm contract signature for the construction of the Cowes breakwater on 27th February 2014. A fixed price competitive tender with five bidders was run during the autumn of 2013. CHC awarded Boskalis Westminster as the contractor and Atkins as our Programme Managers. Harbour construction commenced in May and is phased over two years with a nine month break to allow for bed settlement. Full details are in the body of this report and on the CHC website at cowesharbourcommission.co.uk.

This is the most significant development for the future of Cowes Harbour and will facilitate ongoing growth for generations to come. Cowes Harbour Commission is grateful to the Homes and Communities Agency for their continued support and grant funding contribution without which, this would not have been possible.

The construction of the breakwater can only be practically delivered during the summer months. Thus, the unavoidable overlap with Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in 2014 and 2015, the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race and other events. The Commission is in constant discussion with both Boskalis Westminster and Atkins; safety is paramount in our thoughts as always, and disruption must be minimised. CHC has always been flexible in managing often conflicting requirements between regatta and commercial traffic, maintaining an open port policy. CHC, as the harbour authority, has statutory responsibilities to safely manage the port for all stakeholders. By working in partnership with stakeholders, we have been able to agree to regatta plans and de-conflict with other port users. We desire this to continue and expect the continuing partnership will ensure minimal disruption to racing and the breakwater construction programme. The purpose of the breakwater is to deliver a better protected harbour environment. Future events will greatly benefit from this. Hopefully, all users will recognise this and accept some inconvenience now for a better future. CHC thanks stakeholders for their support to date and looks forward to continued support and encouragement to deliver this important evolution of Cowes to a harbour for today and the future. 

As reported last year, following acquisition, CHC launched a phased development plan at the Kingston site. There are now 10 small business units providing facilities and employment for marine based local companies. The total site now houses 28 permanent local personnel and a further 18 personnel who are attached to larger businesses which are not exclusively based on the site. A long overdue repair programme to Kingston Wharf’s concrete piling and decking structure is underway. This will maintain this critical commercial Island facility, importing 99% of the Island’s bulk oil and a strategic aggregate gateway.

Trinity Landing has become a major harbour facility since CHC installed it in 2006. Unfortunately, it has suffered problems with its pontoon joints requiring re-engineering, which took longer than expected to rectify. The opportunity was also taken to carry out routine maintenance. We apologise for the delay in reinstatement, which we are pleased to say has just been successfully completed.

Port safety will always be our priority. The unusual fire incident on the motor yacht Kahu has provided lessons learnt all round. CHC are working with Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service and other Solent harbour services to introduce new fire incident protocols and a pooling of resources. We have introduced a new General Direction on the Chain Ferry over passage right of way to improve safety in this bottleneck. There has been continued investment in a new safety and risk management software system and an independent review of CHC safety management operation and systems has confirmed compliance with the Port Marine Safety Code.

CHC has continued investments in stakeholder communications with regular E-newsletters, frequent press releases and a new improved website cowesharbourcommission.co.uk. We encourage you to access our site and where appropriate provide feedback. We also continue regular presentations to yacht clubs, local councils and stakeholder organisations.

We would appreciate your feedback to find ways to encourage CHC and our staff to continue to endeavour to deliver you a Cowes Harbour to be proud of today and for future generations. If we fail anywhere, please let us know. If we excel, please also let us know. This is a stakeholder / CHC partnership. My thanks to the Commissioners, Harbour Master, the executive team and employees for their continued commitment. Also, many thanks to the Advisory Committee and various stakeholders for their valued assistance and input to the cause of Cowes Harbour.

Roger Mathias
Chairman, Cowes Harbour Commission
May 2014

Extract from the Cowes Harbour Commission Annual Report for 2013-2014.

• Cowes Harbour Commission Annual Report 2013-2014