The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) UK Coastal Atlas of
Recreational Boating is a GIS dataset of recreational boating activity around
the UK, comprising spatial data including indicators of intensity of use,
general boating areas, offshore routes, as well as the locations of clubs,
training centres and marinas.
This dataset is a powerful tool utilised by the RYA on behalf of
its members to help protect areas of importance to recreational boaters, and is
taken into account by developers in designing new development proposals and in
discussions over navigational safety. It is important that recreational boating
activity is given due consideration by the Government when it balances
competing interests in commercial, environmental and leisure sectors around the
The RYA has been collecting recreational boating information
since 2004, to gain a picture of the areas most utilised for general boating,
racing and passage-making in the UK, and the distribution of clubs, training
centres and marinas. This helps the RYA to understand
which areas are most important to the sport and our members so that we can work
to protect them. The information gathered also effectively demonstrates the
relative density of sailing activity around the UK.
The first dataset was released in 2005, with updates in 2008 and
2012. A new version with substantial changes to the data format was released in
The data have
proved to be vital when representing recreational boating interests: it is
taken into account when new developments are proposed along the coast and
offshore, and ensures we have a seat at the table when discussions about
navigational safety are underway. The Atlas is used by government, local
authorities, marine licensing authorities and renewable energy developers to
name a few. It has also been shared with the general lighthouse authorities and
the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to help improve the safety of
recreational boaters at sea and is used to inform marine planning processes.
The new edition
The newest edition of our
dataset, released in September 2016 takes a different approach to mapping recreational boating use from our
previous datasets. A new format of boating activity representation has been
created utilising a ‘heat map’ type approach around the coast based on Automatic Identification
System (AIS) data. This
new approach is based on tangible passages and accurately portrays the behaviour
of recreational vessels regardless of differing weather conditions, providing a
robust picture of UK cruising activity.
AIS heat map approach, indicating
a range from light to heavy vessel activity, provides a very useful data source
for those considering recreational boating activity when mapping proposed
offshore developments and areas for conservation. The data improves on our
previous datasets, where vessel activity was indicated by individual lines, so recreational
activity is no longer represented as confined to distinct routes with no
activity in the gaps between lines. Almost full coverage is now provided. A
limit of 12 nm is used for the AIS data coverage, as this is regarded as a
reliable limit due to VHF range, and for the type of AIS equipment many
recreational boaters carry.
The AIS data generally provides good coverage of the UK’s
coastal waters. There are however some data gaps, particularly in estuaries.
This part of the dataset is limited in that it only represents vessels that
carry AIS transponders, which may exclude a large proportion of recreational
craft that use the areas close inshore. It is assumed that these areas,
particularly estuaries, are frequented by vessels that are small and may not
carry AIS transponders. In areas where there is no AIS data coverage, we recognise this does not mean no recreational craft
visit the area. For this reason we also provide
a further dataset of general boating areas, using data supplied by RYA clubs and other sources, utilising in
particular the 2015 RYA club survey data.
To ensure that boating activity and cruising route information
further than 12 nm from the coast are still represented in some way, route
indication points are provided with approximate directional information as to
where routes are expected to carry on further offshore.
The RYA UK Coastal Atlas of
Recreational Boating is available under licence as a digital download from the
environment team at the RYA. Please contact us for further information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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