River Safety March 2016



1.      Welcome and Introductions

Adrian Fluker welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked Blackwater Sailing Club for providing the venue.  He introduced the Maldon Harbour Improvement Commissioners, the representatives of the Maldon Barge Operators’ Group and the representatives of Maldon District Council, the Police and the Coastguard.

2.      Essex Police Marine Unit

Paul Rawson (MPU) explained that although the Marine Policing Unit had moved to a more counter-terrorism role, it had not disbanded and would continue to operate out of Burnham on Crouch for at least 2 years.

a)      If anything out of place or suspicious was seen, the public should phone 101 to report it.

b)      Immigration – the MPU carried out patrols.  Smaller ports were likely to be targeted for illegal immigrants, as there were now greater controls at the major ports.

c)      IS was now operating an albeit small marine unit in the Mediterranean.

d)      Major arms hauls had been found on private vessels in the past year.

Trisha Staerck, Crime Prevention Tactical Officer, explained that there were plans for crime awareness days for river users and further information would be available in the future.

R Lancaster, Heybridge and Tollesbury Parish Councils, stated that there had been problems with boats anchoring on the oyster beds.  Requests from the oyster men to move had sometimes been met with heated discussion.  The advice from the Police was to dial 101 if the yachtsmen felt they were in danger of assault.

M Dickinson, Maldon Town Council, asked how the MPU dovetailed with the Border Agency.  It was established that intelligence was shared and that the current national review of marine policing should strengthen that liaison.

There was further discussion about levels of policing.  It was clarified that there was still a police presence and that it was intelligence-driven.

3.      Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Andrew Rudge, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, stated that all Thames Coastguard operations had moved to the National Maritime Centre at Fareham.  Their system is now modernised and fully digitised.

Recent concerns had been with large vessels suffering breakdowns.  The public should be aware that the vessel might not be able to respond or be in control of manoeuvrability and should stay clear if there was even the slightest doubt.

Further discussion took place on health and safety issues.  A Rudge reiterated the need to wear lifejackets.  It was established that vessels should still carry flares and radar reflectors were advisable.  The Thames Coastguard station at Walton still existed but was not manned 24/7.  They would take in out of date flares but an advance phone call would be advisable to check on appropriate times.

Clint Swann, CRS Marine, raised concerns regarding the lack of local knowledge now that the Coastguard was based at Fareham.  He cited lack of knowledge of local features and landmarks used in navigation and the problems of vessels reporting their position.  A Rudge stated that some of the local Thames team had relocated to Fareham and they looked after the old region as much as possible.

4.      Hythe Quay and Visitors’ Pontoon

Ben Brown, MDC, stated that the Quay was now finished except for a few small items.  There would be a dedication to the Queen on 21 April 2016 on the Quay.  It was established that the Quay was still public.

The matter of houseboats mooring on the Visitors’ Berth had been raised.  The River Bailiff stated this was only permitted between October and April and that it raised revenue.

5.      River Safety and Proposed Changes to MDC Enforcement Capability

Nigel Harmer, River Bailiff, reviewed the MDC Quay guidelines. He thanked Stone Water Sports and the leisure parks for their support.  He also reviewed the arrangements for patrolling and enforcement in the river.  Penalties could include a speed awareness course, fines and prosecution for repeated or extreme offences.

R Pusey, BSC, asked who to contact if a PWC was seen to be a nuisance.  The River Bailiff responded that it would be himself, mobile number 07818 013723.

There was discussion about speeding and behaviour on the river.  H Bexley, National Trust Northey Island, reported vessels over protected areas at high tide, and disturbance to wildlife and damage to the saltmarsh.  These actions could be prosecutable offences.  The first point of contact should be the Police.  The correct VHF channel would be established and circulated.

The MDC PWC would deploy from Stone Water Sports.

6.      Updates from Maldon Barge Operators’ Group, Maldon Harbour Improvement Commissioners and Maldon District Council

P Jeffries, MBOG, reported that the year had gone smoothly.  Cadets’ week had been successful, with safety talks given at the start.

Jim Dines and I Hiner, MHIC, reviewed navigation and safety in the Harbour including locations of buoys and news of The Granaries wall.

Ben Brown, MDC, gave an overview of MDC activities.  There would be a “tidy up” of Heybridge Creek with the removal of rubbish and derelict vessels.  He reiterated measures for enforcing speed limits and good behaviour on the River.  There was no budget for dredging the Visitors’ Pontoon.

7.      Commercial Vessels/Dinghies/Yachts/Buoys

There had been few problems.

R Lancaster, Heybridge and Tollesbury Parish Councils, raised the matter of a buoy in the north channel.  It was clarified that this marked oyster beds.  Permission was required for placing buoys, with the River Bailiff being the first point of contact, to be followed up with Trinity House/MMO depending on the situation.

8.      Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ)

R Titchener, MBOG, reviewed the current guidelines.  It was suggested that K & EFCA be invited to talk about the latest developments.
9.      Northey Island

H Bexley, National Trust, reviewed the work at Northey Island on the eroded sea wall.  A Notice to Mariners had been issued and a licence from the MMO was in place

10.    General Issues for Discussion

a)      Sea Plane, Osea Island – The sea plane service into and out of Osea Island was discussed.  The authority would be the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  MDC was seeking further information but they had not yet received replies.

b)      MMO Marine Plan – R Lancaster raised the issue of the MMO Marine Plan and the need to ensure that Maldon’s maritime assets were included.  The deadline for the national MMO marine plan was 2020.

11.    Events for Information

Barge Match – 11 June 2016
Burnham Regatta – 25 June 2016
National Trust event – 8 – 10 July 2016
Marconi Three Piers – 10 July 2016
Maldon Triathlon – 31 July 2016
Blackwater SC Cadet Week – 31 July – 5 August 2016
Stone Watersports Club week – 1 – 5 August 2016
Row for a Reason – 16 – 18 September 2016
Maldon Regatta – 17 September 2016
Barts Bash – 18 September 2016
MLSC Sponsored Rowing Race – 31 December 2016