The RYA has successfully reached agreement with the British Ports Association (BPA), UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG) and the UK Chamber of Shipping (UKCoS) on a ‘Code of Conduct on Harbour Directions’.

Harbour authorities will be expected to abide by the Code when making Harbour Directions under extended powers provided by the Marine Navigation (No.2) Bill.

Code provides a safeguard for harbour users

“The Code will provide harbour users with a means of challenging proposed harbour directions through a local Port User Group (PUG). If no resolution can be found, organisations such as the RYA or the Chamber of Shipping will be able to refer the disputed directions to an independent third party,” Gus Lewis Head of Legal and Government Affairs.  

The Code was developed by the RYA, BPA, UKMPG and UKCoS in response to the Marine Navigation (No.2) Bill, which has now received Royal Assent and is the Marine Navigation Act 2013.

Assurance from Shipping Minister

“We will need to be vigilant to ensure that the powers granted under the Bill are not abused by harbour authorities to impose unreasonable restrictions on recreational boating activity.  

“In the committee debate in the House of Lords, however, Lord Attlee repeated the Shipping Minister's assurance that the Government would expect any harbour authority applying for designation to have agreed to the Code of Conduct.  

“He went on to say that he did not anticipate that the Code would be ignored in future years; furthermore, the designation order would be kept under review and a harbour authority could be de-designated if that were warranted.  

“In light of the comments of both the Shipping Minister and Lord Attlee, we expect harbour authorities to act in accordance with the Code of Conduct”.  

Checks to govern the exercise of power

The RYA was concerned that, whilst the Bill provides extended powers to harbour authorities to regulate activities in their harbours, there was no provision for a check or balance to govern the exercise of this power that would safeguard users against inappropriate or unjustified directions.

Particularly since the failure to comply with a harbour direction will be a criminal offence.

“We would have preferred a statutory safeguard to be included on the face of the Bill, and we were successful in harnessing support for this from a number of MPs and Peers”

“However, any amendments would have delayed the Bill’s passage such that it ran out of Parliamentary time, which neither the Government nor the Opposition were prepared to countenance.”

Julian Hansen, RYA member and Chair of the RYA Cruising and Government Affairs Committee: “I attended some of the meetings the RYA had with BPA, UKMPG and the Department for Transport and was impressed by the respect in which the RYA is held by legislators, who realise that we are an effective organisation that they need to listen to”.