Harbour Dues (Non-Commercial) Consultation 2023

2024 Update:
The Maldon Harbour Dues (Non-Commercial) Order has been published.  Available on this website  https://mhic.org.uk/maldon-harbour-dues-non-commercial-order-2024/

Printable pdf Notes of Consultation – Non-Commercial Harbour Dues, October 2023
Thursday, 5 October 2023, 7.30 pm, Maldon Little Ship Club, Hythe Quay, Maldon

G Courtney, MHIC Chairperson
D Patient, MHIC Vice Chair
P Ellum, Commissioner
M Harwood-White, Maldon District Council
N Harmer, MDC River Bailiff
6 representatives of boatyards/mooring/boat owners (referred to as C, D, F, H, J, K)
Apologies:  from 1 boatyard who had stated they would happy to contribute to non-commercial Harbour Dues.

1.         Welcome and introductions
G Courtney welcomed the meeting.  Participants introduced themselves.

2.         Background to Non-Commercial Vessels Harbour Dues
G Courtney gave the background to the need to consider Harbour Dues for non-commercial vessels.  This included:-
●          an overview of the work undertaken by the Commissioners,
●          the Commissioners no longer having a boat to maintain the buoys, hence having to contract out this work (which was previously done voluntarily, free of charge, by Commissioners),
●          non-commercial vessels benefit from navigation in the Harbour but do not contribute,
●          it was noted that commercial vessels do pay.
The financial situation was reviewed:-
●          MHIC income pre-Covid over two years £5,500,
●          fixed costs of £3,649 excluding new equipment, boat, labour,
●          depending on the state of the buoys, Commissioners worked 50 – 100 hours pa on maintenance, all free of charge,
●          a contractor would charge approx £65/hr, so estimated cost would be upwards of £1,400 minimum to £4,600 maximum.  Fixed costs plus minimum maintenance excluding new buoys would be £5049 approx,
●          with an average income of £5,500, MHIC could only just cover costs providing no new equipment was required.

There was a need for more contribution to maintenance of buoyage.
Other harbours’ charges were cited for comparison eg Burnham on Crouch where charges started at 15’ 6” length, £49 and increased to £75.50 for over 26’ 6”.

3.         Outline of proposals
Various proposals had been considered and a flat rate seemed most appropriate.  With approx 200 leisure vessels in the Harbour, a flat rate of £20 – £25 could be considered.  MHIC needed assistance in collection of the dues and were seeking assistance from boatyards/moorings owners.  Eventually an increased income might enable a Harbour Master to be employed.

4.         Views of Harbour Stakeholders/Yard Owners
For confidentiality owners identified by alphabetic letter.
Feedback from this meeting would be brought to the MHIC meeting on 10 October 2023.  G Courtney addressed each stakeholder in turn.
H – had discussed with owners and was happy to collect dues with a 10% retainer for collection service.  The bills go out in February.  It would only apply to those afloat.  A flat fee would be favoured because it was straightforward on number of vessels.  Would like extra licences for those who arrive in the summer, houseboats included.  Suggested a minimum length of 15’.
River Bailiff – MDC has a small number of moorings.  This proposal had been put to Members some time ago and they were happy to help.  An MHIC Invoice could be included with MDC invoice.  However, they could not enforce it.  Need for an ID sticker to show who had paid.  For GDP confidentiality MHIC could liaise with MDC who would retain the identities of their customers.
J – has about 9 residential, non-moving boats with no engine, which pay Council Tax and therefore should be exempt.  For the remainder, would collect MHIC dues when the organisation issued their bills.  Stickers were a reasonable idea.
F – happy to pay per vessel/berth in the yard.  Situation is complicated by the irregular flow of customers in and out of the yard.  The meeting clarified that dues must be collected for vessels not berths.  The yard would pay a set total amount for vessels.
C – would not administrate the scheme and would prefer a voluntary contribution.  Happy to pay commercial dues.
With respect to non-commercial dues D Patient reiterated that it was a simple scheme and suggested it could be tried for a year.
F asked what fee is proposed per vessel.  G Courtney stated £20 – £25.  C suggested a minimum length of 20’.

River Bailiff asked if sailing clubs had been approached.  K – Blackwater Sailing Club were happy to make a voluntary contribution.  G Courtney – gigs use the buoyage and should contribute.  River Bailiff has some moorings at the Yacht Club and would ask them for a voluntary contribution.  K – possibly voluntary contributions from yards as well as clubs.  D Patient – identification of those that have paid is essential.
D Patient considered exemptions, eg a houseboat without an engine, but what if they also had a yacht?  The meeting considered immobile vessels, including if Council Tax was paid.  Some vessels were a grey area, ie could move but didn’t.  In summary – exemptions limited to houseboats paying Council Tax.
River Bailiff reiterated the suggestion to try the scheme for a year and then meet again.
Flexibility of arrangements was raised.
G Courtney emphasised the need for a legal basis that could stand up to scrutiny.  What if boatyard changed ownership?
P Ellum – in view of the stakeholders’ willingness to assist, he would draft a Harbour Order that covered the suggestions, classifying in various ways.

5.         Plan of action to feed back to the Harbour Commissioners’ Meeting on 10 October 2023
P Ellum would draft an Order.
H – most owners will pay but what if some refuse?  P Ellum responded that the Order will contain a penalty.
Houseboats paying Council Tax will be exempt.
Recommendation for minimum vessel length including bowsprit – 18’ was agreed.

6.         Meeting close
G Courtney thanked the meeting for their contributions and patience.
Meeting closed at 8.35 pm
Contact:  Email the Clerk   clerk@mhic.org.uk