In line with the UK Government’s continued guidance to make only essential trips and to observe social distancing at all times, the message to harbour users is still, please “stay off the water”.
Cowes Harbour Commission can report that the majority of boat owners are complying with the Government’s instructions and the Cowes Local Notices to Mariners relating to the COVID-19 crisis.
Cowes Harbour Master Capt. Stuart McIntosh said: “I would like to thank all harbour users who are adhering to the stay at home message and thereby helping to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus disease. Our Patrol Officers are continuing their daily on-water rounds and duties to ensure the safety of the harbour. We are investigating recent occurrences of small craft on the river during lockdown who were there without a legitimate reason, and where necessary as a last resort, we will seek the assistance of the Hampshire Marine Police.”
The Hampshire Police Marine Support Unit has stated: “We would like to echo the Harbour Master’s thanks as we have also seen a large reduction of vessels in the Cowes area. We have had a few incidents where the restrictions have been breached and in those cases we have engaged, explained and encouraged boat users to stay at home, which on the whole has been adhered to. Our work with CHC will continue until the restrictions change, so our advice is to stay off the water.”
All CHC’s sites currently remain closed to the public, that is the Harbour Office, Shepards Marina, the Fuel Berth and Cowes Harbour Services Boatyard. The Harbour Commission has taken various steps to support our stakeholder tenant businesses to help them through the challenges of the current situation. Based on the Government’s advice for working, and whilst CHC is still operating a closed yard policy, we are permitting a limited number of marine contractors access to carry out work on boats via a permit to work licence.
Cowes Harbour has an ‘open port duty’ and policy, as determined by UK legislation, which the Government has confirmed remains unchanged during the current COVID-19 crisis. CHC, along with other southern and south coast harbours, has received enquiries from superyachts looking for berths, moorings or anchorages. These requests are not unsurprising due to the high percentage of British crews on superyachts. CHC policy is based on the principle of providing safety for crew and protection to a yacht in cases of need, and each request will be considered against this policy, health and safety safeguards and a risk assessment.
Whilst the Harbour Commission’s messages to stakeholders are in line with the Government’s stay at home instruction, CHC has started to consider how a phased and controlled opening up of our sites may be considered. CHC is working closely with the British Ports Association, British Marine, and marina organisations to discuss and formulate potential plans for when there is an easing of lockdown. In the meantime, please continue to follow the Government’s guidance, with the hope that we can all get out on the water again before too long to participate once more in the the yachting, racing, cruising, powerboating and other watersports that can be so fantastically enjoyed around the Isle of Wight and the Solent.