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Narrow channels

Narrow channels

30 March 2022
Message from the Harbour Master:

As the busy summer season approaches, all mariners are reminded of their obligations under Rule 9 – Narrow Channels - of the International Rules for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea Regulations (IRPCS).

Cowes Harbour is a popular yachting destination and the busiest port on the Isle of Wight. Not only do vehicle and freight ferries enter and leave the harbour regularly throughout the day, but also commercial ships up to 100m in length enter the harbour to get to berths in Cowes and further up the River Medina.

As there are many different types of vessels all navigating within the same area, it is important to ensure that all mariners have a thorough understanding of their obligations to each other under the Collision Regulations and in particular Rule 9.

Under the Cowes Harbour Commission General Directions, the Outer Fairway is designated as a narrow channel, therefore Rule 9 of the IRPCS Regulation applies to all vessels navigating within it.

Rule 9 states that: “A vessel of less than 20 metres in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway”.

Commercial ships and ferries have limited navigable water when entering or leaving the Harbour, so other vessels should have due consideration when navigating in the same area. 

All vessels should keep a listening watch on VHF Ch69 for any movement broadcasts and maintain situational awareness at all times - this includes making sure to look behind you!
If you hear 5 short blasts, it means your intentions are not understood and you should make them known whether by alteration of course and / or speed.

Under Rule 9, vessels navigating in a narrow channel shall keep as near to the side of the fairway on her starboard side as is safely practicable. It is important for all mariners navigating in the vicinity between No. 2A Buoy and No. 4A beacon to be mindful of the cross current that runs from approximately HW-2.5hrs to HW.  When navigating in this stretch of the fairway extra precautions should be taken to avoid being set across the fairway by the current, into inbound or outbound traffic.    

In addition, care should also be taken when entering or leaving the Eastern Channel, with particular attention being taken not to cross in front of any vessel which is required to have its passage unimpeded.

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