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Views on unrestricted power to harbour authorities proposal sought    
Fri, 7 Dec 2012

The Marine Navigation (No.2) Bill is currently going through Parliament. Through the Bill the Government is proposing to extend harbour authorities’ power to create criminal offences without making that power subject to the safeguards, checks or balances which are normally applied to law-making bodies.

Without any form of appropriate safeguard, a harbour authority would have the power to introduce a regulation that users of that harbour (including recreational boaters) would have no right to challenge.

This would be at odds with the established democratic principles that govern law-making in this country. Currently harbour authorities have the power to create criminal offences in bye-laws to assist them in discharging their safety management responsibilities; but such bye-laws must be approved by the Secretary of State in the same way as the bye-laws introduced by a democratically elected local authority.

The RYA’s Cruising & Government Affairs Committee (CGAC) has resolved that the RYA should tackle the Government on this issue. CGAC is a sub-committee of the RYA Council, which is the lead policy-making body elected by members of the RYA.

Gus Lewis, RYA Head of Government Affairs 'We believe that if designated harbour authorities are to have extended power to manage their harbours then this power should be subject to appropriate safeguards, checks and balances which are normally applied to law-making bodies.

'We have been working over the past few months to have this aspect of the Bill amended in order to provide for an appropriate safeguard to govern this power and we continue to work with the Department for Transport and the ports sector on this issue but unfortunately to date we have not been able to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Government seems unwilling to acknowledge the wider implications of its proposal'.

This Bill has been pushed through the House of Commons at unusual speed and is expected to be considered by the House of Lords in January 2013.

The RYA has met several times with the promoter of the Bill, Sheryll Murray MP, the Shipping Minister and his officials in an effort to agree on a mechanism that would provide appropriate checks and balances to safeguard any users of a harbour from unreasonable or unjustified criminal offences.

In addition the RYA has drafted amendments to the Bill which we believe would give harbour authorities the power to discharge their safety management responsibilities and provide safeguards that would protect users.

'We agree that it is important for harbour authorities to have the power to manage the boating activities taking place within their harbours for the benefit of all those using the harbour. However, this Bill, as drafted, is a step too far and provides no practical recourse or remedy for the review of inappropriate and unjustified regulations' continues Gus.

'This matter is now at a critical stage and we need to ensure that Government is given a clear steer on this matter by everyone involved in recreational boating.

'I would therefore ask the whole recreational boating community to consider giving voice to their views. To ensure that those views can be collated effectively we are asking people to select the statement, set out below, which best matches their view':

• I believe that designated harbour authorities should be given unrestricted power to create criminal offences in order to regulate recreational boating activity in their harbours as proposed by the Bill.

• I believe that designated harbour authorities should have extended power to manage their harbours but that this power should be subject to appropriate safeguards, checks and balances.

• I believe that designated harbour authorities should not have additional power to create criminal offences and should instead rely on their existing bye-law making powers.

Click here to submit your selected statement.

Closing date for submission is 31 December 2012.

'Your views will be used collectively as we continue to lobby for appropriate safeguards as this Bill goes into the House of Lords in the New Year.' concludes Gus.

The Marine Navigation (No.2) Bill introduces various measures intended to reduce regulatory burdens on the ports and shipping industry and improve safety for vessels in harbours and the seas around the United Kingdom.

You can read more about the Marine Navigation (No.2) Bill here

If you would like to contact the RYA regarding this issue then please email us at

by Louise Nicholls

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