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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. The Solent Sailing Advisory Committee, which is chaired by the Solent Cruising and Racing Association and provides liaison between sailing bodies and harbour authorities. It considers conflicts between recreational and commercial usage, competing recreational activities and port projects.
The lead responsibility for marine crime lies with the police, and the Hampshire Constabulary. 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).