ABP Southampton helps keep the Solent safe during Cowes Week

August 9, 2016

As 8,000 people and 2,000 yachts take to the Solent this week for this year's Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, ABP Southampton takes on the huge challenge of managing the traffic and safety of vessels ranging from the world’s largest container tankers and cruise ships to small leisure yachts and even paddle-boarders.

During Cowes Week each year, a team of experts at the port goes to great lengths to help ensure one of the world’s largest annual events on water goes sailing by without a hitch.

ABP Southampton is the harbour authority for the Solent and manages one of the busiest ports in the UK, handling 1.4m tonnes and with 1.8m visitors passing through each year. With its team of highly-skilled pilots, ABP Southampton is able to continue normal operations through the busy cruise season unaffected by Cowes Week, despite the huge amount of extra traffic it brings.

Specialist traffic management training for Cowes Week began three months ago for ABP's 122 pilots and vessel traffic staff, who coordinate the movements of some of the world’s largest container ships, reaching 400m long, around an excess of small yachts and leisure vessels to avoid any collisions on the water.

Double the amount of patrol boats are currently in force to accompany large vessels visiting the port in a V-formation and guide them around the 210 race start-lines in the Solent to dock safely, while a speed limit of 15 knots has been set for certain times to limit traffic activity during special events at Cowes Week.

Ahead of the week's sailing, safety experts from ABP Southampton’s marine team have been presenting the essentials of water safety at Hampshire yacht clubs, helping yachtsmen understand stopping and turning distances as well as the restricted views available from the bridge of commercial vessels.

In addition, all Cowes Week race participants are issued a safety booklet on arrival at the event, put together by ABP and Cowes Week Ltd. on the regulations of racing and how to minimise the risk of accidents.

Alastair Welch, director at ABP Southampton, said: "We take safety incredibly seriously at the port, not only during Cowes Week but all year round.

"The extra measures we put in place during Cowes Week aim to ensure continued safety for all involved whilst keeping our vital shipping lanes open.

Captain Martin Phipps, Harbour Master at ABP Southampton, said: "We’re very experienced in handling huge amounts of Cowes Week traffic. We know that on the Friday fireworks night, anything from canoes and paddleboards to vast container ships will be afloat. This means we’ve worked with the Marine Police Unit and the Queen's Harbour Master in Portsmouth, to set a speed limit of 15 knots across the port's waters rather than the usual speed of 40 knots.

“Through working together, our aim is to ensure a safe and enjoyable Cowes week for everyone on the Solent.”

Fact file
Cowes Week visitors: 8,000
Yachts participating: 2,000
Safety track record: one incident in 20 years
Races a day: 30
Races throughout Cowes Week: 210
ABP Southampton marine team: 122 people, including pilots and Harbour Master
Speed limit during Cowes Week fireworks night: 15 knots