The Harbour Board has established an annual River Hamble Forum, held in late March or early April each year.
Should there be any issues or matters of concern which you wish to raise as a River-user or stakeholder in the intervening period between Forum meetings, you should contact any member of either the Harbour Board or Management Committee.
It has been an interesting year since my last Annual Report, not least because of the extremes of weather. Last year started very cold, achieved something approaching a warm summer then turned very wet and windy. But, despite nature’s best efforts, quite a lot has been achieved.
The team remains largely unaltered since my last report, although last summer saw a change from the usual recruitment of summer coxswains – instead we brought in two seasonal Patrol Officers - both have been regular members of the team in the past and are very familiar with the River. This worked extremely well and will be repeated this summer. Stability of staffing is extremely valuable, enabling us to consolidate our regular training needs and implement new, improved ways of working.
The County Council elections last year brought a number of changes to the Management Committee and Harbour Board – five new Councillors on the Management Committee, including a new Vice Chairman, Councillor Rob Humby, and one new Councillor on the Harbour Board – Councillor Peter Latham taking over from Councillor Geoff Hockley. We also saw the departure of Dr Susie Tomson after eight years of outstanding service as the environment expert on the Board, and the appointment of Nikki Hiorns as her successor.
On the financial front, I anticipate a small deficit for the current financial year. Much of this is due to the unbudgeted costs of dealing with the exceptional winter storms. Income streams have been much as expected, although visitor income remains depressed. Expenditure has been in line with the approved budget, with the exception of replacement engines for the Patrol Boats, the costs of which are rising faster than inflation. Harbour Office staff remain alert to opportunities to enhance income and to minimise expenditure where it is safe to do so. As a result, Harbour Dues were only increased by 1% for 2014.
Our compliance with the Port Marine Safety Code has been audited twice during the year by our Designated Person and I am delighted to say that, once again, there are no major incidents or non-conformities to report this year.
As mentioned earlier, the winter storms caused a lot of problems and damage on the River. Staff were heavily involved with the clear-up operation and everything is now more-or-less back to normal. As a result, Harbour Authority staff were able to identify a number of ‘lessons’ which could be implemented by mooring holders to enhance the resilience of their boats to storm damage. These have been widely promulgated to River users.
On the development front, we continue to run the highly successful Consents Advice Panel (formerly the Streamlined Consents Group), which is recognised nationally as an example of best practice. The Panel is a chance for people wishing to undertake works in the marine environment on the River to meet informally with consenting organisations prior to an application being submitted and marine consents sought.
There has been a steady flow of applications for Harbour Authority works consent during the last year:
Consent was granted for The Crown Estate to install piles for three pontoons just off Hamble River Sailing Club and to install three long pontoons off Mercury Gardens. These projects have now been completed.
The previously approved works to reconfigure Deacon’s Boatyard have also been structurally completed.
A joint application by the Royal Southern Yacht Club and Royal Air Force Yacht Club to rebuild the sea wall, carry out a capital dredge and reconfigure pontoons was approved and work is expected to start over the winter of 2014/15
An application to change the design of the Swanwick Marina lift dock was approved and work is now underway.
An application to rebuild the quay wall at Cabin Boatyard was also approved, but work has not yet started. There have also been numerous applications to install pontoons on pile and fore-and aft moorings at various locations throughout the River. Each of these also requires planning permission and each is considered on its merits from the navigational safety point of view before Harbour Works Consent is granted.
Finally, the Harbour Authority has recently submitted a planning application to extend the Hamble public jetty, as part of a list of projects to be funded from the Asset Enhancement Reserve.
Work is currently underway to produce detailed drawings for improvements to the Warsash slipway, in advance of applying for the various consents required. If approved, this project will also be funded from the Asset Enhancement Reserve. Part of this project involves shortening the landward end of the Fishermen’s pontoons at Warsash and installing a short bridge from the boardwalk. A gate has been installed on the pontoons which will restrict (but not entirely prevent) public access to what is, technically, a private facility. Limited access will still be available for those launching boats from the public slipway.
Other Asset Enhancement projects include the slipway safety and information signs at Warsash, Hamble and Swanwick, which will soon be augmented with additional signs showing an outline chart of the River which should be useful for visitors who are unfamiliar with all our facilities. The project to provide educational web-based resources for schools is now complete, with four short videos featuring people who work on the River added recently – well worth a look.
Our crime deterrence project started at Easter last year, with the issue of SmartWater forensic marking kits to many of the boats in the River which pay annual Harbour Dues. Take-up has been good, but we still have kits available and we will be pro-active in issuing these as the boating season gets underway this year. There is considerable evidence to indicate that this project has resulted in a significant reduction in reported crime on and around the River over the past 12 months. The trick now is to maintain the momentum.
Harbour Authority staff have been involved in many River-wide activities, including support for the Annual Harbour Master’s Charity Pursuit Race for dinghies, the Bursledon Regatta and the Hamble River Raid. Our annual Crabbing Competition raised £470 for MacMillan Cancer Support and saw over 100 kids and parents taking part. We will also be helping with the organisation of the River Hamble Games 2014, scheduled to take place on 12 July. Please see the Games website to enter.
Once again, we have worked with the Hamble River Combined Clubs on the preparation of the latest edition of the River Hamble Handbook and Directory which was published in February. We have also produced our own Visitor Guide which provides more detailed information aimed primarily at visiting and local yachtsmen but also of use to walkers, birdwatchers and those who simply want to enjoy the River scene. Its main purpose is to encourage more yachtsmen to visit the Hamble by explaining what is on offer here.
We have continued with the management of the mid-stream moorings and the moorings Waiting List, on behalf of the Crown Estate. The waiting list is still longer than we would like and very few moorings have been surrendered in the past year.
The Crown Estate has undertaken a large pile replacement programme this winter. This is now complete, although progress was hampered in the early stages by the weather.
Members of staff have given a number of talks and presentations about the management of the harbour, at a variety of venues including sailing clubs, a class association AGM and a local school.
On the environmental side, we continue to ensure that all staff are fully trained, to the required level, for oil spill response, and that our equipment stocks are maintained. We undertook the required 3-yearly incident response exercise in July with our contractor, Adler & Allen, basing the scenario on a spill from the M27 motorway bridge. Our Oil Spill Response Plan has been given a major review and has been approved and circulated to the relevant authorities. All appropriate staff have also been updated with training in marine fire-fighting and first aid.
The Harbour Authority’s Port Waste Management Plan which covers all waste facilities at the Harbour Office, marinas and boatyards and Yacht Clubs has been reviewed and successfully audited by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
We remain an active participant in the Solent European Marine Sites Management Group, ensuring that we, along with other Relevant Authorities, exercise our statutory functions in such a way as to ensure that the Solent European Marine Sites are managed appropriately.
We continue to support the work of the Hamble Estuary Partnership (HEP), which has been showing a particular interest in potential pollution sources relating to the bridges cross the River. Staff and other interested parties have met with the local Fire and Rescue Service and representatives of the Highways Agency to discuss priorities in the event of a traffic accident on the M27 or A27 bridges. We have also begun looking into ideas for any potential to undertake beneficial re-use of dredged material in a manner that would enhance the conservation of saltmarsh areas.
The agreed River Hamble monitoring programme for the ABP dredge of Southampton Water was initiated in the summer, six months prior to the start of the dredging operation, and will carry on throughout the process. The purpose of the monitoring is to establish a baseline prior to assessing whether the dredge operation is having any adverse impacts on sedimentation rates in the River.
Finally, and following a request from a member of the public, we are experimenting with various sound systems in order to enhance the audibility of Harbour Authority meetings
Overall, it has been a good year and we can be proud of our efforts to keep the harbour as safe as possible for those who use it.
David M Evans
Marine Director and Harbour Master,
River Hamble Harbour Authority