Owing to increasing reports from pilots concerning the impeding of commercial vessels to and from the docks by recreational craft participating in races organised by the local club, a number of safety concerns arise. Luckily, so far, there has been no major incident or accident. It is however the primary responsibility of the harbour-master, “to ensure that the harbour may be used safely” (Sansom 2010). The highest safety risk remains the loss of life or serious personal injury in the event of a collision between a recreational and a commercial vessel. Other risks in the event of a collision include vessels running aground, damage to vessels and recreational craft, resultant pollution due to spillage of fuels aboard the vessels and crafts, loss of cargo and the loss of confidence in port security procedures by stakeholders, which can result in loss of revenue for the port.
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In considering the options for addressing this concern, the major areas for consideration include the effectiveness of consultations between the racing club and the commercial vessel operators who use the port. In addition, the degree of general awareness of port operations and safety procedures by the racing club, the commercial vessels operators and other users in general, the effectiveness of existing port use regulations and the enforcement of these regulations.
It is impossible to overemphasize the need for consultative meetings between the various port users. This is necessary by the lack of common ground between the two user groups. The clubs purposes, which present a large portion of the use of the port, are purely recreational, while those of the commercial vessels are purely commercial. The two user groups have very different viewpoints regarding how they should to use the port. This means that the only way to ensure that either party understands the impact of their port use habits on the other is by having regular consultative meetings, convened by the harbour-master’s office. This should result in a greater degree of cooperation in enforcing the port’s safety policy. Without such a meeting, there will be a conflict with them since both parties are predisposed to regarding the harbour-masters office as partial because of their differences of port use perceptions. This effort should include periodical discussions of upcoming racing events organised by the club and projected shipping schedules by the commercial shipping operators. In addition, appointing a liaison committee comprising all port stakeholders can ensure that all port users are privy to the dynamics of the port operations, and any upcoming activities that will affect their port use.
Secondly, the need to raise the general levels of awareness regarding safety issues among all port users remains cardinal. For the moment, the particular safety concerns raised by the pilots have had to do with the commercial vessels impeded by recreational craft involved in racing. However, without raising the levels of awareness, more safety violations will become the norm, especially from among private recreational users who are much more difficult to regulate. The options available include using flyers for handing out to all participants and spectators of racing events, and at strategic port entry locations to reach the private users. Guides and handbooks, made in conjunction with the racing club can be availed to provide detailed information on port safety policy and emergency procedures to current club members and all new members upon registration. Mail shots are useful in passing new information to all harbour stakeholders. For important port developments and huge racing events, or arrival of a large consignment of shipping vessels presenting greater safety risks, the option of press releases should suffice.
The need for developing new regulations to govern the port’s use is also a possible avenue for eliminating the safety risk presented by the impeding of commercial vessels by recreational craft. The port has a large expanse of sheltered water and as such, zoning it would work without much detriment to the activities of the recreational users. This will outlaw using the shipping lane for recreational purposes, and therefore will eliminate any associated risks. The competitors in racing events operate at high speeds use some recreational craft such as Jet Ski. They cannot go on operating on the entire length of the port, as the chances of collision are high. Windsurfers present a risk to themselves when they approach commercial vessels, should they lose wind in the wind shadow of a large vessel, while a collision between a commercial vessel and a yacht can be devastating. Both vessels might be lost, and cargo damaged. The other way round it would be to introduce new reduced speed limits for commercial vessels seeking to dock in the port so that all recreational users will have sufficient time and space to manoeuvre around the vessels. Legislation of any of these options should come after intensive consultations with all stakeholders.
Regulations to ensure the racing club and other large-scale port users have adequate emergency response capacity is required. While the harbour-masters’ office has the capacity to deal with various emergencies in the port, the racing events attract much larger crowds and huge numbers of craft are used. The events present unique risks beyond what the port normally is prepared for. In the event of a large-scale accident involving many crafts, the port would be overwhelmed in its response to the accident and may be unable respond adequately. Allocating resources to build capacity in this regard is not justified since it would only be useful during a large-scale sporting accident, which is not very common occurrence. Licensing of sporting events should be a requirement so that the harbour-master has an opportunity to inspect all preparations for a racing event to ensure the meeting of all safety standards.
There are various enforcement options in this matter. In instances where a large vessel must pass through a racing course, it needs to have an escorting vessel a fixed distance ahead. The racing officers would then penalise any participant who crosses the safety zone between the two vessels. This would minimise the risk of collision. The other option is for the port to acquire patrol boats or to work closely with the coast guard to patrol the port. Compliance to safety protocol increases with visible patrol. This option will not only deter racers from breaching security protocols but it will also deter private users. Thirdly, it is important to train enforcement officers so that they can collect evidence that can be admissible in a litigation process. This includes training in rules of collection and preservation evidence.
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A close link with other government agencies is also an option for consideration to improve port safety. The coast guard, for instance, can provide port patrol capacity, which will deter violation of port regulations. The local hospitals can improve greatly the ports emergency response in the case of a large-scale accident as they have specialist personnel and equipment to deal with casualties while the local authority is indispensable in developing and passing general legislation governing the use of the port. The police would greatly assist the port to deal with road closures and crowd control during large events at the port. In addition, some occurrences in the port are beyond the ports jurisdiction if fatalities are concerned. The states’ law requires the police to investigate whether an offence such as manslaughter has been committed when someone dies in an accident. Insurance agencies will also refer to police investigations to determine compensation.
Sansom, Mark. Managing Leisure Use in the Port. Falmouth: Global Academy.,2010. print.