New Ferries Stakeholders Update – No. 8

Posted on 14 Jan 2010

Safety & Risk Assessment My previous update to stakeholders issued on the 15th May indicated that the operation of the new ferries would be kept under review following publication of the Phase 2 risk assessment report by our marine risk consultants (BMT). In particular, at a meeting with stakeholders on the 3rd April to discuss the report, it was recognised that during the risk assessment trials it had not been possible to observe the ferries when river traffic was at its busiest, i.e. at the height of the summer. In view of this, LHC commissioned BMT to undertake a review of ferry operations at the end of the 2009 season. To inform their review, BMT spent a number of key dates on the water observing the ferry operation and interaction with leisure users when the river was busy, as well as undertaking an analysis of incidents during the season. Their report was published on the 19th November following a further meeting with stakeholders. In summary they concluded “that the W-Class ferries and the leisure users  were co-existing well and, although there were some areas  which could be improved, the conclusions and recommendations of their earlier report still stand.”  They also concluded that “The historically low levels of marine risk on the river have not, in the opinion of the BMT team, been eroded by the introduction of the W-class ferries.”  Their report made a number of further recommendations which LHC will be progressing. As with all activities on the river, risk management of the new ferries will continue to be subject to formal review. Not withstanding the above, stakeholders remained concerned about some aspects of the ferry operation, principally the impact of poor punctuality and an unpredictable timetable on dinghy racing activities, wind shadow and thruster wash on the approach to the berth. This latter item is being further addressed with Wightlink.

Environment There continues to be concern about the introduction of the new ‘W’ Class ferries and their potential effect on the protected local environment. Over the summer and autumn period, Wightlink’s environmental consultant has been undertaking monitoring in the river to a methodology agreed with Natural England to identify if there have been any significant short term effects. It is currently understood that no significant short term effects have been identified. Long term impacts will be monitored through a Bathymetric survey programme. At the time of writing it is understood that Wightlink have submitted a mitigation proposal for a habitat replenishment scheme to Natural England following discussion with Natural England, regulators and a number of other interested parties. There also remains considerable uncertainty on whether due process has been followed under the Habitats Regulations. This is the subject of a Judicial Review which has been brought by some local residents. The outcome is anticipated early in the New Year.
Peter Griffiths Chairman – LHC 16th December 2009

New Ferries River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders – No. 5

Posted on 11 Mar 2009

There have been a number of developments since 24 February. The Harbour Commissioners have renewed their request to Wightlink to refrain from operating the new ferries until the environmental concerns have been resolved. Whilst they have ignored this request, Wightlink have confirmed that they are operating within the requirements for safe operation that LHC have laid down following the latest recommendations of our risk assessment consultants BMT Seatech. Our own observations confirm that this is the case.

The draft Phase 2 report from BMT Seatech has been distributed to the stake holders for consultation. This will be followed at the end of this week by an addendum to include the results of the final strong wind trials that were carried out last Tuesday (3/3/09).

The aim is to complete the consultation process and publish the report by the end of April.

At the beginning of this process the Commissioners were clear that once we had definitive advice that we may need powers to regulate for environmental concerns, we would take the necessary steps to acquire them. Now that we have received Natural England’s advice, the Commissioners have resolved to seek a Harbour Revision Order that will enable us to make general directions with regard to environmental matters both in response to this current advice and any future situations that may demand such action.

Peter Griffiths – Chairman LHC


SPS Regrets Wightlink Decision To Operate New Ferries

Posted on 04 Mar 2009

The Solent Protection Society (SPS) whilst supporting the need for a regular ferry service, deeply regrets the decision by Wightlink to bring the new ferries into operation before all the tests are complete and before the Marine and Fisheries Agency has reached its decision taking into account the advice provided by Natural England and before Lymington Harbour Commission has produced a full safety report.
The Solent Protection Society has been actively engaged in attempts to resolve the difficulties posed by the new ferries. A working party of the SPS has been closely following developments for the last 18 months and the SPS is fortunate that its Council contains members who have professional expertise in the regulatory and environmental fields. As a result the SPS has available to it the necessary expertise to seek to ensure that the decision makers take all necessary steps to protect the environment.

Our present position is that we take note of the advice given by Natural England that the new ferries will have an adverse effect on the environment of Lymington Harbour.  For the Ferries to run in an acceptable manner it is important that there is a rapid conclusion to the discussions between Wightlink and the competent authorities about such matters as the speed of ferries, whether more than one ferry at a time should be in the River and the extent of any environmental mitigation.

The proposal to run the new ferries is complex and multi-faceted, involving the safety of sailors, potential damage to the environment and economic and social factors. The Solent Protection Society by virtue of its constitution can only concern itself with the protection of the environment and will support the Lymington Society and the Lymington River Association and the yacht clubs to seek a resolution to the present impasse, and ensure that a rigorous monitoring programme is implemented to measure future changes to the harbour.

New Ferries River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders – No. 4

Posted on 25 Feb 2009

Wightlink have defied the will of all the regulators in deciding to introduce their new ferries before the necessary safety trials are complete and the environmental concerns have been resolved.

They have taken this action despite repeated requests from the LHC and their previous undertaking not to do so. They claim that they are justified because of the needs of the Isle of Wight, but the real problem that has lead to this situation is Wightlink’s determination to design and build ferries in advance of meaningful consultations with all the regulators.  As a result, all subsequent consultations have taken place against the commercial necessity on the part of Wightlink to introduce ferries that had already been paid for.

We have once again requested Wightlink to desist from this action, and are contacting all the relevant Government Departments for support in preventing it. However, if Wightlink go ahead without completion and acceptance of the risk assessment we will be providing whatever harbour patrols are appropriate to help safe guard other river users. These actions will be taken by the Commissioners in order to minimise any threat to the safety of other river users but without condoning the introduction of the new ferries. It has been confirmed to us by Government that as presently constituted, the Commissioners do not have the power to prevent the new ferries sailing.

We expect the full BMT report to be available by 5 March and it will be circulated to stake holders for consultation as soon as possible.

In this fast developing situation, we will keep you all informed as they occur.

Peter Griffiths – Chairman LHC


The HR Wallingford Report on Wightlink Ferries

Posted on 12 Feb 2009

In our previous article, posted on 11th January 2009, it was explained that a key step in resolving the environmental issues relating to vessel operations is the formal advice from Natural England (NE), the government environmental adviser, on which the regulators, including MFA and LHC, must base their decisions. The advice will form the basis of the Maritime and Fisheries Agency’s Appropriate Assessment of the impact of the terminal works on the SAC.

To this end, in December 2008, NE commissioned HR Wallingford to provide advice to them regarding the potential for physical impacts on the designated habitat arising from past and future ferry activity.  HR Wallingford’s Report has now been published and the next step is for NE to give its advice to the regulators.

SPS calls for additional investigations in Lymington River

Posted on 11 Jan 2009

There are two key factors relating to the introduction of the new ferries on the Yarmouth-Lymington route.

  • A licence is required for the completion of terminal modifications at Lymington.
  • Vessels are entitled to use the port of Lymington without any consent from the   Harbourmaster, provided that they comply with the reasonable requirements of the Harbourmaster.

The Harbourmaster is under a duty to operate the harbour safely and also to have regard to the environmental impact of port operations, specifically on the Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Since the new ferries’ arrival, safety trials have been conducted under the auspices of the Lymington Harbour Commissioners, but have not been completed because the full range of weather and tidal conditions have not occurred.  Wightlink proposes introducing the new ships into service in January in order to achieve a phased withdrawal of the C Class vessels, whose passenger certificates expire in the first quarter of the year, and has confirmed that this is possible without completing the terminal works at Lymington.  SPS considers that the LHC response of developing an Interim Ship Operating Profile is an appropriate and proportionate response with respect to safety matters.  The Society is aware that there are some unresolved safety issues, but these are being dealt with by LHC and monitored by other local groups.

The Society believes that there are unresolved environmental issues relating to vessel operations which must be properly addressed.  This cannot be done without the formal advice from Natural England (NE), the government environmental adviser, on which the regulators, including MFA and LHC, must base their decisions.  The advice will form the basis of the Maritime and Fisheries Agency’s Appropriate Assessment of the impact of the terminal works on the SAC.  This formal advice is an essential part of the licensing process for the terminal works, but has no direct effect on the decision to operate the ships, contrary to the views expressed by some objectors.

We understand that Natural England wished to defer this advice until the completion of the ferry trials.  In these circumstances, we were disappointed to learn that Natural England did not request any additional investigations to be undertaken during the trials to measure the environmental effect of the ferries, as opposed to those required for safety issues.

We believe that the publication of the NE advice is imminent and will indicate a high probability of a small adverse impact from the present ferries, that over the years has had a significant cumulative effect.  It is believed that the new ferries will continue to have a similar effect. SPS was pleased to hear that it is LHC’s intention to take this advice into account and, where appropriate, modify the Interim Ship Operating Profile.  SPS acknowledges that the Harbourmaster and the other Commissioners will have to achieve the difficult balance between the environmental, social and economic needs (as envisaged by the Habitats Directive), and that it regrettably seems to be inevitable that the judgement is likely to be based on imperfect information.  Experience of operating the new ships is limited and SPS would expect LHC to institute a monitoring programme to quantify the environmental impacts so that the Ship Operating Profile can be modified to minimise, or even eliminate, any significant adverse effects.

The urgent decisions about the introduction of the new ships are a matter for the LHC/Harbourmaster. The licence for the terminal works, including implementing the Habitats Regulations, can only be addressed when the NE advice is available and the MFA makes its Appropriate Assessment as part of the consent process.

It is important to recognise that there are two strands to this complex problem, the licence for the terminal, and the Harbourmaster’s decisions about how best to have care for the environment. Natural England have called for “an outcomes based approach”, the SPS calls for more detailed investigations to enable the parties to continue the movement towards decisions based on sound observations.

The principal interest of SPS in this matter is the environmental aspect, but the Society is strongly of the view that it is unhelpful to attempt to deploy environmental legislation inappropriately as a proxy for addressing safety matters.

New Ferries River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders No. 3

Posted on 02 Dec 2008


On the 18th November Lymington Harbour Commissioners released a statement to update stakeholders on the progress of the risk assessment trials. We indicated that the results to date had shown some areas of concern and that LHC had met with Wightlink in order to discuss those concerns and to attempt to find ways in which they could be mitigated. Although initially disappointed with Wightlink’s response, the latest meeting on the 25th November was more positive.

This statement sets out the progress made since our last statement on the 20th November, and indicates the expected outcome.


1. We have received BMT Seatech’s definitive statement of risk reduction measures that they consider appropriate for an interim safe operating envelope (ISOP).

2. We have had a further meeting with Wightlink, at which we made them aware of the ISOP that we would require them to follow for any operations prior to the full completion of all trials and finalisation of the phase 2 report from BMT Seatech.  Wightlink committed to following the ISOP on a voluntary basis.

3. Wightlink have clarified its intention that the new ferries should enter service in January prior to the withdrawal of the current ferries. It is hoped that this will allow sufficient time for the outstanding risk assessment trials to be completed so that the vessels can be introduced based on the recommendations of the full final report. If not the vessels will operate under the ISOP.

4. Wightlink have agreed to modify the control software for the thruster units in an attempt to find a setting that provides a suitable compromise between power requirements and turbulence at higher wind speeds. Until this work is finished and trialled, the ISOP will remain as stated.

5. We also reviewed the possible need for controls to mitigate potential environmental concerns. The Commissioners are in detailed consultation with Natural England, and will reserve their position until these discussions have progressed at least as far as some interim recommendations.

6. LHC have yet to receive any response to our recent letters from either DEFRA, DfT or the MCA.

7. We have received comprehensive legal advice, confirming the routes that we would be required to follow in order to ensure long term powers of enforcement.

Expected Outcome

Pending the conclusion of the final risk assessment report, the W Class may be introduced into service based on the ISOP in the appendix, subject to Natural England’s environmental advice, which is expected in December.

Ongoing Concerns

Whilst significant progress has been made the Commissioners still have some concerns with regard to the way forward:

Given Wightlink have indicated that they will not extend the passenger certification for any of the C Class vessels, LHC wish to ensure an awareness that if the final Safe Operating Profile proves too restrictive to enable a regular routine service, there will not be any vessels available after 31 March to use when conditions are outside of the operating limits for the W Class.

As previously stated this is likely to be a fast moving situation and we will continue to keep you informed of any significant developments as appropriate.

Peter Griffiths Chairman – Lymington Harbour Commissioners

2 December 2008


Appendix –  Interim Safe Operating Profile

This is reproduced from the information received from BMT Seatech

1. The aft thruster must only be used on the lower power (harbour) setting in the river except in very exceptional circumstances when failure to use the normal power setting would endanger the ferry or other users.  2. As a precautionary measure, on all occasions until all masters/helmsmen have gained sufficient river experience, operations in the river should be limited to mean windspeeds up to 20 knots, gusting 25, as measured at the Lymington Starting Platform. Any revision of this limit will require further independent risk assessment and agreement with LHC. 3. No waiting in the river.  4. No passing in the river at all until all outstanding trials have been completed satisfactorily.  5. When in the berth or on the slip the vessel must be secured alongside and both thrusters must be shut down

Lymington Harbour Commissioners reply dated 12th November 2008

Posted on 24 Nov 2008

Lymington Harbour Commissioners reply dated 12th November 2008

Dear Mr. Clark Thank you for your letter of 10 November re the above. I concur that there is no regulatory gap with regard to environmental regulation in this matter. A conclusion reached by the LHC in January 2007.
I refer you to the very first slide in my presentation to the Lymington Society’s public meeting last November, which stated:
To Manage the Harbour for the Benefit of all Users and with regard for the Environment.

To Regulate for Safety of Navigation in Accordance with the Port Marine Safety Code (Risk Assessment, Conservancy, Byelaws, COLREGS)

To Maintain an Open Port in accordance with the Harbour Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847.
In pursuance of this duty we have been involved in a number of discussions with the regulators involved in permisioning Wightlink’s shore works, and have publicly stated that we will cooperate fully in any regulatory process.
Our approach is to regulate the operation of the new vessels so as to produce no more hydrodynamic disturbance than the C Class. This is accepted by Natural England as a sensible strategy.
In exercising our powers to apply for byelaws for environmental protection we are reliant on their advice. They have been fully informed regarding the measurements that we are making and have assured us we are providing all that they require. If when they assess our results they make proposals beyond our original strategy we will take due account of their recommendations when framing our byelaws.
I hope that this serves to confirm that, despite what you may read in the press, the Lymington Harbour Commissioners have had the environmental well being of the river as a key concern from the outset, and that we will pursue it to a satisfactory regulatory conclusion.

If you have any further questions I will be happy to provide answers wherever possible.

Peter Griffiths Chairman – Lymington harbour Commissioners

New Ferries River Trials Information Update to Stakeholders No 2

Posted on 24 Nov 2008


On the 18th November Lymington Harbour Commissioners released a statement to update stakeholders on the progress of the risk assessment trials. We indicated that the results to date had indicated some areas of concern and that LHC had met with Wightlink in order to discuss those concerns and to attempt to find ways in which they could be mitigated.

We also indicated our disappointment with Wightlink’s response both during the meeting and in subsequent correspondence received which is summarised as follows:

1. They informed us that, contrary to their previous position, they can operate a commercial service without the need to modify the loading arrangements.

2. They have stated that they will not support the trials to their full conclusion in advance of commencing commercial service.

3. They have informed us that, prior to the completion of the risk assessment process they “consider it to be entirely safe for the Wight Class vessels to now enter service, and as stated at the meeting, we will be progressing plans for their introduction in early December”

Our statement also gave details of the Commissioners response which we were progressing as a matter of urgency.


1. We have asked BMT SeaTech (our marine risk consultants) to provide an evidence based “interim” safe operating profile for the W Class based on an assessment of the information that they have gathered to date.

2. We have written to Mr Huw Irranca-Davies MP, the Minister for the Natural and Marine Environment, Wildlife and Rural Affairs requesting that he uses his influence to ensure a speedy determination of Natural England’s environmental advice and to the completion of the “Appropriate Assessment”.

3. We have written to both the MCA and the Department for Transport advising them of our concerns about Wightlink’s stated plans and requesting their assistance in ensuring that Wightlink do behave responsibly and operate their vessels in accordance with the provisions of a “safe operating profile” implemented by LHC based on the risk assessment recommendations arising out of the Phase 2 “live” river trials. We have also sought clarification on enforcement powers for any regulation required outside of the provisions of our current byelaws. 4. We have instructed legal advisors to ensure that we have identified the most effective way in which to enforce an “interim” safe operating profile.

5. We have written to Wightlink to advise them of the action we are taking and to ensure they fully appreciate our determination to regulate for the safety of navigation and protection of the environment, in accordance with our powers and duties under the Port Marine Safety Code.

6. Mr Willson, Wightlink’s Chief Executive issued a press statement yesterday (20th November) in which he indicates that Wightlink will support the Phase 2 trials to their final conclusion. Mr Willson also indicates that “until the final trials are concluded Wightlink will work within the parameters of an interim safe operating profile.” The Commissioners welcome this commitment albeit still remain concerned about the availability of W Class vessels to conclude the trials in the near future.

However, the Commissioners feel obliged to point out that part of Mr Willson’s statement is misleading. He states that “With the vast majority of the findings of the sea trials before us, we can now be completely confident that the new ferries can operate safely within the Lymington River.”

This is not the case. The only ‘findings’ that have been put before Wightlink are the concerns related to certain aspects of operating the new vessels that we sought a meeting with them to discuss. BMT SeaTech are still formulating their considerations and the Commissioners do not expect to receive their draft report for several weeks.

As previously stated this is likely to be a fast moving situation and we will continue to keep you informed of any significant developments as appropriate.
Peter Griffiths Chairman – Lymington Harbour Commissioners