On 5th March 2015, the Forth Ports Chief Harbour master and his team hosted a meeting with representatives of small ports and sailing clubs. Much important and useful information was exchanged on a variety of navigation and safety topics, summarised below.
The Forth Ports Authority website (which is of course accessible by smartphone or pc) now includes many useful features including current and forecast weather, tidal information (tide tables for 2015 and current tidal height and wind for Leith, Rosyth and Grangemouth), shipping traffic plans, Notices to Mariners (NtMs), Safety Alerts, and a number of useful pro-formas including, significantly, their Marine Report Form (MRF).
All water users in the Forth Ports area are urged to use this MRF form to report any incident or near-miss which did or might cause safety concern, regardless of whether any accident or emergency action actually occurred. In particular, the Forth Ports Ltd safety procedures and risk assessments for development of safe working on the Forth depend upon the reporting to Forth & Tay Navigation Service (FTNS) of worrying incidents. No reports have been received, for instance, regarding capsizes of dinghies within the main shipping channel, nor that excess wake from workboats had caused damage or distress to yachts in Port Edgar marina. Users of the port should report such incidents or areas of concern so that FPltd could amend working practices or safety procedures, and take immediate action if the situation so demanded.
All organisations, including Local Authorities and non-habitual clubs and societies, which organise marine activity such as boat regattas, yacht racing or swim events should advise the Forth Ports office using the Event Notification Form. Contact details are here, along with a note of the Forth Ports VHF channels.
Forth Ports urge all boaters to check the website before going out on the water to be aware of the latest maritime advice available.
The volume of shipping on the Forth has increased somewhat last year (2014) and is expected to increase further as Grangemouth is increasing its marine traffic of containers and hydrocarbon products. The use of small craft such as canoes, rowing skiffs and sea anglers also appears to be increasing, so that efforts must be taken to ensure the safety of all. Improvements have been made to the FTNS monitoring of moving ships and for radio communications with new antennae at Granton.
Trials will be extended at Newhaven with some dredging and berthing improvements, to evaluate the potential for use by cruise liner service boats, to offer better tourist access to Edinburgh and to reduce the present congestion at South Queensferry. The harbour would continue to be available for use by small craft, but users should be aware of the potential for restriction or congestion. 5 cruiseliners are expected at Newhaven this year.
On the New Queensferry Crossing – the Bridge – the programme of lifting deck sections up onto the bridge will start shortly (Mar 2015) at a rate of up to 5 units per week, weighing up to 750 tonnes each, and continue for about a year. Skippers should be aware of changes, often at short notice, to shipping practices and courses, including use of the channel North of the Beamer Rock, and listen on VHF 71 at all times when near the construction site.
Concerns have been expressed by the sailing community about potential interaction between small craft and shipping in the narrow section of the estuary near Port Edgar, and a proposal has been made that ships should be controlled to allow only single-way transit at any time might be adopted; Forth Ports’ view is that any such restriction would be based upon recorded data and if available, historical data, and urge that such data be reported.