09 Apr Maintaining our Open Port Duty
As Statutory Harbour Authority, Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) is subject to what is known as “Open Port Duty”. This means that the harbour must be open to anyone, “for the shipping and unshipping of goods and the embarking and landing of passengers”, on payment of the rates and other conditions set by the Board. Therefore, Poole Harbour and the Port of Poole remains open at this time and we cannot refuse entry to any vessel that needs to transit the harbour or access a berth, unless ordered by the UK government to close or restrict access to the port.
The government has included legislation in their Emergency COVID-19 bill that would enable the Home Secretary to request that ports suspend operations, and close temporarily. But it is understood that this would be actioned as a ‘last resort’ to maintain border security.
A recent Associated British Ports update stated that of the 21 ports in their network, none have turned away any ships, from anywhere.
“We find ourselves in challenging times. But the delivery of our statutory obligations and duties, whilst maintaining safety and the protection of the harbour remains our priority. We are working closely with Port Health and Public Health England to ensure that our port procedures regarding COVID-19, our port workers and ship crew are in accordance with UK Government rules and guidance.” said Captain Brian Murphy, Harbour Master, Poole Harbour Commissioners.
Although the open port policy exists for commercial vessels, PHC and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), strongly urge recreational boaters to respect Government guidelines and to stay at home.