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Coronavirus statement

18 May 2020
Updated Monday, 18th May 2020: 
COWES HARBOUR COMMISSION (CHC) VISITOR PONTOONS - Cowes Harbour Commission’s temporary policy for CHC visitor pontoons at Cowes is for no short stay berthing or overnight berthing. Therefore, in this current phase of lockdown release CHC is not recommending that visitors should come over to Cowes with their boats from the mainland or even from other Island harbours. CHC will keep this policy under review in line with UK Government guidance and inform harbour users on any further updates. 

Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020: 
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday evening, 10th May, Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) has been working closely with the British Ports Association and UK Harbour Masters Association with the aim of managing a co-ordinated and safe, phased return for recreational boating.

I accept this aim has not been entirely successful due to some mixed messaging in the boating press and social media and understand the resulting frustration for some boat owners. CHC’s decisions and timeline have been governed by our Statutory Harbour role and responsibilities to take appropriate and considered decisions prioritising the safety of our staff, local boat owners and the local community. CHC only received the required Government guidelines for recreational boating last night. 

The CHC Board of Commissioners agreed today our policy: “To encourage and facilitate a controlled return to safe, family recreational boating, allowing boat owners to access their boats for day use to and from their local mooring and for maintenance purposes”.

We have issued two Notices to Mariners today providing further guidance. I trust this E-newsletter provides you with further helpful information.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your patience and hope that you will support the approach of CHC, prioritising the safety of our staff, customers, harbour users and the local and Isle of Wight community.

I realise that this is a first small but important step back towards a more normal type of boating we all love.

Read the full 14th May 2020 Newsletter here.

Updated Tuesday, 12th May 2020: 
Following this week’s UK Government announcements on the phased lifting of COVID-19 restrictions across the economy, Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) recognises that there has been understandable interest from many leisure users who want to get back out on the water.

The Government has not yet issued any specific guidance on leisure marine activities and a number of important issues surrounding the potential reopening of marinas, slipways, pontoons etc. and access to leisure vessels still require urgent clarification by Government. Although it is expected that specific Government advice will confirm that certain sailing activities and watersports will be able to start shortly, marine leisure facilities around the country will need to be assessed and prepared to accommodate social distancing and hygiene measures.

The British Ports Association (BPA) and UK Harbour Master’s Association (UKHMA) have been in daily contact with relevant Government departments and are assured that further guidance is expected to be released shortly. The more general Transport Sector guidance released today, 12th May 2020, makes it clear that organisations are expected to consider it in full and translate its principles and examples into specific actions. To comply with their legal Health and Safety obligations organisations also need to ensure that risk assessments (which take account of relevant guidance) have been carried out and suitable policies and procedures put in place. To do this properly and safely takes time, to ensure safety for users, staff and also the public. This also means that there are likely to be certain measures we all need to follow that could alter what leisure users can do.

The BPA and UKHMA have therefore suggested that Cowes Harbour Commission considers waiting for the more specific guidance to be issued before easing our current restrictions. The intervening period can be used to consider the newly released Transport Sector guidance and to prepare the relevant policies and procedures. These can then be adapted following the release of the more specific guidance.

For the safety of everyone, recreational marine leisure users are asked to remain patient and understanding as the BPA and UKHMA continue to cooperate and work closely with Government.

Cowes Harbour Commission will be in touch again with stakeholders shortly once we have a further update. In the meantime, CHC is developing our opening plans for our marine service sites at Shepards Marina, the Cowes Harbour Services Boatyard and Fuel Berth, and we hope to be able to confirm full details to all our customers as soon as possible. Please also read Cowes Local Notice to Mariners No. 14(T) of 2020 that has just been issued.

Updated Monday, 11th May 2020: 
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the UK on Sunday evening, 10th May 2020, Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) can confirm there is no immediate change at the moment to ‘stay off the water’ messages. CHC is liaising with the South Coast Harbour Masters’ Association, British Ports Association, Government, RYA and British Marine to clarify what the latest Government announcement means for port and marine operations and policies, and we aim to update stakeholders further by this Wednesday, 13th May. 

CHC has been following the Government’s advice in respect of Coronavirus and we have put measures in place to limit risks to port users, our staff, emergency services and the public. As the country moves towards the easing of certain provisions of the lockdown there will be an understandable interest from many leisure users who want to get back out onto the water. Whilst we are keen to see this eventually, we will need to assess the Government’s latest guidance in respect of what activities and essential travel will be permitted. 

Furthermore, even when we are able to reopen CHC’s facilities, stakeholders should be aware that arrangements to preserve social distancing will be needed. This means that there are likely to be certain measures we need to enforce that could alter what users and visitors can do. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience and support. We will continue to monitor the situation and will advise of any further updates as soon as possible this week.

• View the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy (Published May 2020)

Red Funnel Ferries:
Visit the Red Funnel COVID-19 FAQs web page for more information.

HM Government:

HM Government information following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), including guidance for British people travelling: 



Latest NHS advice:


World Health Organisation:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

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