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Cowes Harbour General Directions

General Directions

Cowes Harbour is regulated using a set of General Directions (GDs) designed to promote safe navigation, the safety of persons, and the protection of property, flora and fauna in the harbour. Please show consideration to other harbour users.

The Cowes Harbour General Directions were introduced on 2nd April 2013, after being ratified by Cowes Harbour Commission. The General Directions replaced the previous Cowes Harbour Byelaws.
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2020 General Directions Review & Amendments Ratified
The General Directions were reviewed in January 2020. The CHC Board agreed at the February 2020 Board meeting to change the two Temporary General Directions on Restricted Visibility into permanent General Directions, and also to change the definition of the Inner and Outer Harbour to clarify the area of regulation for the 6 knots speed limit and no wash.

Statutory consultation on the changes to the General Directions has been completed; this included the Cowes Harbour Advisory Committee, the Chamber of Shipping and the RYA, under Section 12 (1) of the Cowes Harbour Revision Order of 2012. 

The CHC Board ratified the changes to the General Directions at the April Board meeting on Friday, 24th April 2020.

Changes to General Directions on 'Restricted Visibility'
The two Temporary General Directions introduced in response to the Red Funnel ferry incidents of 2018 in restricted visibility are now included within the set of permanent General Directions. This follows the February 2020 publication of the MAIB investigation report into the 2018 Red Falcon/Greylag incident. The two new, permanent General Directions on Restricted Visibility form part of CHC’s safety control measures for navigation in the harbour in restricted visibility conditions. A recommendation to review the General Directions after 12 months was also agreed by Commissioners.

New General Directions are highlighted below in red font (See also Chapter 3):

3.18.1. RESTRICTED VISIBILITY (less than 0.2nm or 370m).
Vessels 48 metres and above, LOA, should not navigate in the Inner Fairway or River Medina, if visibility is two cables or less (0.2nm or 370m).

3.18.2. RESTRICTED VISIBILITY - PASSENGER and COMMERCIAL VESSELS less than 48 metres L.O.A.
Passenger vessels and commercial vessels less than 48 metres LOA, should not navigate in the Inner Fairway or River Medina, if visibility is less than 100 metres.

This General Direction applies to all passenger vessels, small and large commercial vessels and pleasure vessels carrying passengers as defined by United Kingdom Statutory Instruments 1998 No. 2515, 1998 No. 2771 and 2002 No. 1473 respectively.

Patrol, enforcement, emergency and rescue vessels are exempted from this General Direction.

Changes to General Directions on interpretation of 'Inner Harbour' and 'Outer Harbour'
New wording better describes the limits of the Inner and Outer Harbour areas. This provides improved clarity and definition of where the Inner Harbour 6 knot speed limit and no wash applies. The Inner Harbour 6 knot speed limit and no wash applies up to 100m from the Mean High Water Mark along the length of the shore within Cowes Harbour Commission’s area of jurisdiction, as shown in the diagram below.

Speed limit and wash diagram
Inner Harbour speed limit is 6 knots - no wash. Inner Harbour speed limit applies south of red line as per diagram.

New wording for General Directions is highlighted below in red font (See also Chapter 2):

2.3. “Outer Harbour” - means the area of the harbour as lies to the northward of a straight line drawn from Egypt Point following the limit of Cowes Harbour Authority’s area of jurisdiction until it reaches 100m from the Mean High Water Mark thence to Number 1 buoy thence to Number 2 buoy thence to the Shrape Beacon to Old Castle Point.

2.4. “Inner Harbour” - means the area of the harbour as lies to the southward of a line drawn from Egypt Point following the limit of Cowes Harbour Authority’s area of jurisdiction until it reaches 100m from the Mean High Water Mark thence to Number 1 buoy thence to Number 2 buoy thence to the Shrape Beacon thence to Old Castle Point East Cowes.

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Cowes Harbour General Directions 1st April 2013 (as amended April 2020)




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