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Cowes Harbour General Directions

General Directions

Cowes Harbour is regulated using a set of General Directions designed to promote safe navigation, and protect property, flora and fauna in and around the harbour. 

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.

Please note that two temporary General Directions are currently in force:

Under The COWES HARBOUR REVISION ORDER 2012, PART 3 Harbour Regulation Section 12. Para 7a. 

3.18.3 (T).
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).

21st July 2019

3.18.4 (T).

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 temporary 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 temporary general direction.

7th August 2019


A revised set of Cowes Harbour General Directions came into force on 1st July 2018, after consultation with the Harbour Advisory Committee, the Chamber of Shipping and the RYA.

The amendments to existing Directions (2.31 and 3.19) are designed to further improve the safety of navigation in the harbour.

The amendments to 2.31 and 3.19 of the Cowes General Directions are highlighted in red font:

2.31. “Grounded” - means a vessel that unintentionally makes significant contact with the seabed but does not include incidents of minor touching of the seabed where no damage to the vessels watertight integrity occurs.

3.19. VHF Communications within Cowes Harbour

Except where such a requirement is suspended by the Commissioners in relation to a particular event or circumstance, all vessels of 20 metres length overall and above and all vessels engaged in towing are required to give notice of entry, movement affecting the fairway or departure within the area of jurisdiction of Cowes Harbour on VHF Channel 69.

All vessels required to give VHF notification shall give an ‘ALL SHIPS’ call on VHF 69 when approaching Cowes, prior to departure from any riverside berth or prior to entering the fairway from any marina within Cowes Harbour and when passing the following positions:

• Prior to entering the Outer Harbour.
• 250m north of Cowes Chain Ferry (at Shepards Marina).
• Folly Inn (vessels bound for Newport).

• Folly Inn.
• Kingston Wharf.
• 250m south of Cowes Chain Ferry (at Cowes Harbour Fuels).

The call shall give the following information:
• Vessel's name.
• Vessel's position.
• Intention.

Any vessel to which this Direction applies and under way within the area of jurisdiction of Cowes Harbour shall, if a close quarters or passing situation is likely to occur, respond to an ‘ALL SHIPS’ call from another vessel and state her name, position and whether inbound or outbound.

In addition, vessels to which this Direction applies shall maintain a listening watch on VHF Ch 69 at all times when under way within the Cowes Harbour area of jurisdiction.

The ‘ALL SHIPS’ call as required by this Direction does not entitle any vessel priority or sole occupancy of the main fairway. All vessels are required to navigate in Cowes Harbour in compliance with the Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations (as amended) and Cowes Harbour General Directions.

It is emphasised that this Direction applies to all vessels of 20 metres and above and all vessels engaged in towing, leaving Newport Harbour and entering the jurisdiction of Cowes Harbour.

Nothing within this Direction shall relieve the Master of any vessel of over 20 metres in length of his obligation to give due notice to the Cowes Chain Ferry by VHF radio call on Channel 69 as required under Section 6 of the 2014 Cowes General Directions (as amended).

See the relevant chapter for full details on individual General Directions.

 Cowes Harbour General Directions 1st April 2013 (as amended October 2018)

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