Ensuring the everyday public safety within the Solent embraces a number of different aspects, and falls within the responsibilities of several different organisations. The key areas can be summarised as follows.
Ensuring safety of navigation
The lead authorities are the harbour authorities, with their powers of direction over shipping, bye-laws, notices to mariners, and pilotage arrangements. The exception is the Western Solent where responsibilities rest with the Department of Transport.
Ensuring ports and shipping are safe
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have a statutory responsibility for the survey and inspection of commercial shipping, to ensure they conform to international standards for safety and pollution prevention.
The Port Marine Safety Code was first published in March 2000 and revised in 2009. The voluntary code of practice covers the management of safety for marine activities in ports. The Health and Safety Executive has responsibility for regulating shore-side activities.
The MCA is also the UK’s authority responsible for the provision of response procedures designed to deal with any emergency at sea that threatens or causes actual pollution.
Ensuring competence of those afloat
Commercial seafarers are required to carry certificates of competency, and to be subject to medical examination. The MCA has the overall responsibility for the national scheme; however, there are also arrangements for the certification of Solent-based commercial boats and boatmen which have been agreed through the Solent Harbourmasters’ Association. The certification of pilots is also carried out by the harbour authorities, in conjunction with BP and Esso for oil traffic. There are no statutory safety requirements for recreational craft, although the MCA operates advisory schemes. Qualifications for recreational seafarers are also on a voluntary basis, and the governing bodies of sport, such as the RYA, operate a number of structured training programmes.
Organisation of search and rescue
The lead responsibility for co-ordination of civil search and rescue on the coast rests with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), who maintain a 24-hour watch via the ‘999’ service and the international distress frequencies. In July 2012, a new coastguard national maritime operations centre was officially unveiled in Hampshire. This MCA facility will eventually handle emergency calls from across the UK and replace several coastguard stations.
Support in the event of an incident may be provided by the harbour authorities, RNLI, MoD and voluntary inshore rescue services; co-ordinated by the Solent Sea Rescue Organisation (SSRO). The SSRO is a registered charity and is funded by local authorities including Hampshire County Council, the Isle of Wight Council and by contributions from local yacht clubs and associations, marinas, boatyards and other maritime interests.
Ensuring safety on beaches and shoreline
The lead responsibility rests with local authorities or the appropriate site owner with the requirements to meet a ‘duty of care’. The keeping safe at the coast campaign gives safety information for those visiting the seaside. The RNLI have RNLI-lifeguarded beaches and respond to medical emergencies both on land and in the water and incidents up to 300m out to sea.
Safety of industry
Prevention and detection of crime
The lead responsibility lies with the police, and the Hampshire Constabulary. The Police Marine Support Unit consists of one Sergeant and nine PC’s, policing with three semi displacement launches and one rigid inflatable. In addition to land-based officers, the Ministry of Defence police maintain a twenty four hour presence within the Portsmouth Naval Base, with patrol boats. Other statutory bodies are HM Revenue & Customs (anti-smuggling), Environment Agency (anti-poaching of migratory fish) and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA) (enforcement of fisheries legislation).
Co-ordination of safety matters
Several organisations exist to co-ordinate safety matters within the Solent. Those with the most significant roles include:
- Solent Pilotage Co-ordination Committee, which is an executive committee of Portsmouth Commercial Port, ABP Southampton, Cowes Harbour Commissioners and the Queen’s Harbour Master. The Committee meets bi-monthly, and considers policy issues with regard to safety of navigation and pilotage. The Secretary to the Committee is the QHM;
- Solent and Southern Harbour Masters’ Association, which is an association of statutory harbour masters between Weymouth and Little Hampton. It meets twice a year and provides a forum for matters of concern to harbour masters, and focuses on operational matters. The Honorary Secretary to the association is the harbour master of Southampton. The association sets up working groups to consider particular issues when necessary;
- Hampshire and Isle of Wight Search and Rescue Committee, which has been established in line with national guidance and has a wide membership, including harbour authorities, local authorities and safety organisations. The committee meets twice annually, and is chaired alternately by Hampshire Constabulary and the Coastguard (who also act as secretary); and
- Solent Sailing Advisory Committee, which is chaired by the Solent Cruising and Racing Association and provides for closer liaison between sailing bodies and harbour authorities. It considers conflicts between recreational and commercial usage, competing recreational activities and port projects.