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Harbour Revision Order - your questions

The Exeter Port Authority have started the process of applying for a Harbour Revision Order (HRO). Information about the process can be found below.

We welcome your comments or questions about the process - please use our Contact Us form to get in touch.

The Harbour Master and members of the Harbour Board will be organising a series of 'drop in' sessions at various venues around the river and canal to answer any specific questions and to further explain the process.

The dates and venues will be made available shortly.

Why does Exeter City Council need a Harbour Revision Order?

Exeter City Council (ECC) is the Statutory Harbour Authority for the port of Exeter and the Exeter Ship Canal. The Council are seeking a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) under Section 14 of the Harbours Act 1964 in order to seek compliance with the Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC).

The code sets out a national standard for every aspect of port marine safety. Its aim is to enhance safety for everyone who uses or works in the UK port marine environment. Compliance with the code is not mandatory but by being compliant, the Council will be able to demonstrate best practice. In order to achieve compliance with the code, the Council has to have the correct powers of General Direction and Special Direction, which can only be gained by an application to the Secretary of State of the Department for Transport to have a Harbour Revision Order. These powers provide a useful mechanism for managing navigation and safety.

What do users of the Exe waterways gain by an HRO?

Currently, the river Exe has a small number of byelaws that cover the estuary, and date back to 1976 so are not fit for purpose in managing a harbour in a modern and efficient way. By having an HRO the Council will be able to review those byelaws and update their meanings in modern day harbour General Directions and apply Special Directions for specific incidents or occasions. An HRO will also allow the Council to make the harbour as safe and sustainable for the long term future.

Does this mean users of the Exe waterways will have to pay harbour dues?

Currently nobody is paying harbour dues to use the water for recreational purposes. The exception is that visiting yachts pay a small overnight mooring fee or for the seasonal storage or restoration of boats at the canal or Topsham Quay. The HRO will give the Council powers to levy harbour dues but before any scale of fees are decided upon there will be a full public consultation. Under the Port Marine Safety Code, any fees charged will have to be reasonable and justifiable.

Is this just a way of making more money for the Council?

No. If it is decided by the Council that fees are to be levied, then those funds will be ring-fenced and invested in the port. That is a requirement of the Port Marine Safety Code. The Council will continue to invest in the port as it always has done.

I am a paddle-boarder and enjoy kayaking too. Will I have to pay to use the river or canal for exercise?

There are no plans currently to levy a fee to kayakers or paddle-boarders to use the canal or waters of the Exe.

Will I still be able to launch my boat/kayak/paddleboard whenever I want to?

Yes, access to the river and canal will not change.

Will the shore-side facilities be improved?

Facilities at the canal will continue to be upgraded as funding permits. Elsewhere in the river the navigation buoyage will be improved as will mooring facilities for visitors at Topsham Quay.

Will the navigation channel in the river be dredged?

There are no plans to dredge the navigation channel in the river. Under the Port Marine Safety Code the council are not obliged to dredge the channel but it does have to carry out regular surveys of the depths and alter the positions of navigation aids to mark the best route up the river.

How long will the process take?

The process of obtaining an HRO might take up to three years to complete.

When this content has been updated

Last updated 18 October 2023