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Ferries and Shipping in Cowes Harbour, Isle of Wight

Ferries and Shipping

All vessels in Cowes Harbour are strongly recommended to maintain a listening watch on VHF Ch69 (port working frequency).

Each year there are over 30,000 movements of commercial ships into and out of Cowes Harbour. Most movements are associated with Red Funnel’s vehicle and freight ferries operating to East Cowes, as well as their Red Jet fast passenger ferries to Cowes Town Quay.

Ships up to 100m in length (330ft) and up to 5.7m (18.7ft) draft transit the harbour, mainly to use the port’s wharves on the River Medina.

Sailing vessels and vessels under 20 metres in length must not impede the passage of these larger ships.

Vessels over 20m must give notice of their intentions on Cowes Harbour Radio VHF Ch69; prior to entering the harbour limits, when approaching the Chain Ferry from the north/south (sounding one prolonged blast), at The Folly, and prior to departing their berth. Leisure craft are well advised to pay close attention to these broadcasts so they can anticipate commercial movements and keep well clear.

There are frequent ferry movements in the harbour and its approaches. Large vessels, including Red
Jet passenger ferries and Red Funnel vehicle
and freight ferries, when entering or leaving the harbour between HW-2.5hrs and HW, may be required to remain towards the eastern side of the fairway between No. 2A buoy and the Eastern Channel beacon to avoid being set down onto the western shore. Small craft should be prepared
to alter their heading so as not to be set across the fairway when transiting this area and avoid impeding the safe passage of commercial shipping and ferries.

Two Inner Fairway Precautionary Areas are marked on Chart 2793 for the “Red Jet Turning and Eastern Channel Traffic Convergence Area” and the “Red Funnel Vehicle and Freight Ferry Berthing Area”.

Vessels should not overtake on the starboard side of inbound Red Jets approaching their berth at Town Quay, Cowes. Inbound Red Jets sound one short blast and swing to starboard towards the terminal ejecting a substantial wash from their propulsion units. Red Jets also sound one short blast on departure.

When joining the Inner Fairway from the Eastern Channel, always give way to vessels already navigating in the Inner Fairway, especially large ships.

Red Funnel inbound vehicle ferries turn to port at No. 6 buoy to approach their berth between the Union Flag building and the Chain Ferry, East Cowes.

The Red Funnel freight ferry service has a lay-by berth just north of the vehicle ferry berth. The freight ferries manoeuvre between the linkspan at the vehicle ferry berth and the lay-by berth and vice-versa to allow safe access/egress for the vehicle ferry.

Red Funnel vehicle and freight ferries, Red Jets, and cargo vessels can only safely navigate within the fairway. Sailing vessels, fishing vessels, and vessels under 20m must give way to these vessels. Sailing vessels are reminded to have their auxiliary engine, if fitted, ready for immediate manoeuvre.

In the vicinity of the commercial berths at Kingston Wharf and Medina Wharf, be aware of large commercial ships turning in the river when approaching or after leaving their berths.

Keep a good look out, both ahead and astern, when navigating the harbour. Remember, it is not always possible for pilots or Masters navigating commercial vessels to keep sight from the bridge of yachts passing close ahead or astern. Always take into account the interaction between that occurs between vessels in close proximity vessels (pressure and suction effects).

A good look out all round, a safe speed, and good seamanship are the keys to safe operations in Cowes Harbour.

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