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Whole Port Risk Assessment

This document is prepared for the Queen’s Harbourmaster and Cattewater Harbour Commissioners, to evaluate operational risk for the Dockyard Port of Plymouth. This reports on the results of a high-level navigational risk assessment of the port.


Extending from about 2 nautical miles south of the Plymouth Breakwater the Dockyard Port of Plymouth reaches “as far as the tide flows” up the Rivers Tamar, Lynher and Plym. Covering over 6000 hectares of water space, the area supports landscape, biodiversity & historic assets of national & international value, and it is of regional importance as a public water supply. It includes Europe’s largest military port, 3 commercial harbour authorities, 5 international marinas, 26 boat yards, 4 local authorities & 2 county councils. The site is therefore complex, with a broad spectrum of stakeholders to be engaged and issues to be addressed.

In the context of navigation, the port has a unique mix of traffic. Large ferries, merchant ships of several types, fishing vessels, small commercial passenger craft, recreational craft and warships - including ballistic missile submarines - all seek to operate within a relatively confined space. Overall responsibility for the superintendence and regulation of this navigation ‘in the defence interest’ rests with The Queen’s Harbour Master or QHM. To do so the QHM has implemented a range of water space management measures to reconcile the divergent activities. These include the supply of Admiralty Pilotage, a channel maintenance (dredging) regime for those areas of the port beyond the statutory limits of the Statutory Harbour Authorities, and the provision of modern aids to navigation such as a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS). In common with other Dockyard Ports, but otherwise not the case in any other port of the United Kingdom, the QHM has absolute power of direction over navigation within the limits of Dockyard Port of Plymouth.

The policies pursued by the QHM are supported by those of commercial harbour authorities, national and local government agencies. Measures implemented include harbour pilotage and towage services, and the certification / licensing of fishing vessels, passenger and charter craft that operate in port waters.

Port Risk Assessment