As a result of RYA lobbying, the Government has extended the “grace” or transitional period for marine licensing requirements for maintenance/hydraulic dredging for a further two years from 6 April 2012 to 6 April 2014 in respect to English waters.

Historically maintenance/hydraulic dredging has not required any consent, but changes brought about by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 meant that from 6 April 2011 all marine dredging activities in English waters would require a Marine Licence.

The original transitional period gave a year’s “grace”, until April 2012, before which these changes would take effect.

Great news for clubs and training centres

The extension to 2014 is great news for clubs and training centres carrying out small scale maintenance/hydraulic dredging because they will not need to apply for a Marine Licence from 6 April 2012.

For those clubs and training centres whose dredging activity involves moving large quantities of material, which could give rise to significant pollution levels and/or if it takes place in a protected marine site, a Marine Licence could still be required from 6 April 2012. 

Existing legislation that predates the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 still holds and these laws, designed to protect water quality and sensitive marine habitats, are enforced through the new marine licensing system.

Together we made a difference

The announcement by Government follows extensive lobbying by the RYA and others on this matter, based on evidence provided by clubs and training centres in the RYA Dredging Survey.

As a result of this evidence Government has recognised the ‘large number of small-scale maintenance dredging operations that should pose little or no environmental risk and where the requirement for a licence may therefore be onerous’.

Furthermore, the extension of the transitional period will allow Government further time to ‘review the licensing of dredging’ and ‘explore the scope to exempt certain low risk activities’.

We are delighted with this outcome. Maintenance/navigational dredging has not previously been an activity subject to licence and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) therefore had limited experience to draw upon in ascertaining how much it would cost to administer and therefore what the licence fee should be.

The evidence we provided, together with clubs and training centres, was valuable information that the MMO has been able to use. It clearly demonstrated the small scale, low impact types of dredging activity typically undertaken by clubs and training centres.

The RYA will continue to work to ensure that the regulatory system for managing consent and the marine licence fee is fair and proportionate, in terms of both the regulatory and financial burdens on clubs and training centres.

How do I know if I still need a Licence?

The MMO will shortly be issuing guidance to allow you to make an initial assessment on whether or not your dredging activity requires a licence within the transitional period.

This is anticipated to be available from the MMO website by the end of March 2012. We will be publishing this information to all clubs and training centres as soon as it is available.

The formal statement from the Government on this is available on the Defra website and Marine Management Organisation website.    

You can read further information on marine licensing here.   

Results of the RYA Dredging Survey

Over a period of 10 days in November/December last year, we surveyed clubs and training centres to find out what types of dredging activities you undertake.

We were very pleased to receive over 200 responses from you, particularly given the short timescale set in order to feed this information to the MMO before they confirmed their plans for the new marine licensing system.

Of the RYA clubs and training centres who responded to the survey:

  • 80% operate on tidal water bodies which are regulated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. 
  • 17% of those operating on tidal water bodies undertake some form of dredging activity.
  • Over 50% of those that dredge do so for less than 1 day at a time
  • 40% estimate that they dredge less than 500m3 of material per annum
  • Approximately 60% of the dredge material is not collected owing to the small scale of the activity and the nature of the dredge method.
  • Approximately 30% of the dredging is done by hand by individual members of clubs, in many cases with shovels or by using a hose to wash down slipways for safety.
  • Over 85% of those that dredge on tidal water bodies do so in order to maintain access to their club/training centre or their moorings.
  • Only 5% of those operating on tidal water bodies undertake weed cutting when needed.

As a result of the survey, the RYA were able to highlight the importance of proportionality with respect to the licence fees associated with dredging.

  • 100% of clubs and training centres pay less than £50,000 per annum for their dredging activities.
  • 74% of clubs and training centres pay less than £10,000 per annum for their dredging activities, and 90% of those pay less than £2,000 per annum.
  • 100% clubs undertaking weed cutting activities pay less than £500 per annum.

Notably, the results of the survey further support the case the RYA has made for the fees and legislative burden associated with dredging licensing to be minimised.

The dredging and weed cutting activities undertaken by clubs and training centres are small-scale in nature and therefore call for proportional management by the MMO.

A licence fee of even £450 as in Tier 1 (‘fast track’ application fees) Band B would be excessive given that 50% of the dredging completed costs less than £500 per annum.

The results further support the RYA’s proposal to the MMO to increase the limit in Tier 1 Band B from £10,000 to £50,000 to encompass more routine small-scale marine activities including maintenance dredging.

There is too much of a gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 where the minimum fee is £2,700 and works can range up to £1 million.

During the transitional period which takes us up to April 2014, the MMO are undertaking a review of their licensing fees and charges. We continue to lobby in favour of a more proportionate fee structure for our small-scale activities.

You can read more about the current MMO licensing fees and charges here.

Alana Murphy, RYA Planning and Environmental Officer