Speeding ticket in Falmouth Harbour costs £3,000

A boat owner caught on Falmouth Harbour’s CCTV system, operating at almost three times the six knot inner harbour limit during a busy summer’s day, has been ordered to pay £3,061 in fines and costs by magistrates sitting in Truro.

Not only was evidence provided that the vessel was speeding through the inner harbour, it also showed that at one point the driver (from Newton Abbot, Devon) was using his mobile phone, he was not using a kill-cord, and no one on the boat was wearing a life-jacket.

The speeder, a visitor to the harbour, pleaded guilty to navigating a RIB over the speed limit, unnecessarily navigating through moorings and failing to navigate with care and caution during the incident in July 2023.

“The safety and wellbeing of all Falmouth Harbour water users is at the heart of our operations and as a trust port we have legal responsibilities to people, property, wildlife and the environment,” says Falmouth Harbour Master, Miles Featherstone.

Buoy marked 6 knots in Falmouth Harbour

“There are speed restrictions within harbour limits for very good reason and while it gives us no pleasure to take anyone to court, we are sending out a message that in extreme cases like this we, as a harbour authority, can and will prosecute offenders. We want all harbour users to enjoy themselves, but to do so safely.”

Featherstone says Falmouth sees an incredibly diverse amount of activity in the summer period. “On a busy summer’s day you could find dinghy & yacht racing, gig rowing, paddleboards, kayaks, cruising yachts, motor cruisers, anglers, fishing boats, a cruise ship (and their tenders) and other large commercial movements all taking place in the harbour. That’s why it’s so important that people follow the rules to share the harbour safely.”

Falmouth Harbour’s new high-definition CCTV system is specifically designed to monitor water-borne speed and behaviour with a mind to keeping people, wildlife and property safer. This incident last summer is the first time it has been used by the Falmouth Harbour Authority in a prosecution.

“We record movements in the harbour 24/7, because unfortunately some people – either wilfully or through ignorance of the regulations – routinely break our harbour byelaws,” says Featherstone. “Ignorance of the regulations that are there to keep people safe is no defence, since it’s a skipper’s duty to check local rules before they set out (all of which are available on our website).

“Speed is proven to be a major factor in many marine accidents through collision or excessive wake. There have been a number of recent boating fatalities, proven to have been caused by excessive speed. So clearly your speed needs to be kept low when you’re manoeuvring in a harbour where there are hundreds of boats on moorings, large commercial and leisure vessels on the move, wildlife, and people swimming off quays and beaches.”

The CCTV images in this case were clear.

David Morgan, identified in the Falmouth Packet, was fined £961 and ordered to pay costs of £2,100 to the Harbour Master. The court heard that Morgan’s RIB was caught on Falmouth Harbour’s high definition CCTV system operating at almost three times the six knot inner harbour limit.

“Bearing in mind that the offences included speeding, navigating in a mooring area and navigating without care and caution it [the fine] seemed proportionate. The costs which were awarded to us will cover our legal costs,” says Featherstone.

Falmouth Harbour cameras were installed following the success of a similar system used at Plymouth’s Cattewater Harbour, where recorded images have been used to prosecute water-users contravening harbour bylaws including speeding and cutting through moorings.

“Many harbour masters are beginning to implement CCTV as an effective tool for enforcement,” Featherstone says. “We also maintain a regular on-water presence to promote harbour safety. We frequently intercept speeding vessels and typically provide educational advice in the first instance. In most cases simply our presence or some words of advice are sufficient to deter unsafe behaviour, but we always follow up on more serious cases and can prosecute where appropriate.”

Leisure craft management of harbours and waterways is a well-known struggle. In 2022 the River Hamble struggled as a surge of hot weather saw its numbers of water users soar.

Recently, boat owners have witnessed drones flying over Falmouth Harbour as part of ship-to-shore flight trials carried out by Open Skies Cornwall. The flights were testing the harbour’s ground infrastructure, flying capabilities and airspace for future maritime-focused drone activities, such as the delivery of emergency medical, food bunkering or maintenance supplies.

Images courtesy of Falmouth Harbour.

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