Port of Milford Haven

Safe Navigation

The Milford Haven Waterway offers 22 miles of navigable water. It is the responsibility of all users, whether recreational or commercial, to ensure their behaviour is safe and adheres to our local bye-laws and directions as well as following international collision prevention regulations.

The Port Authority is committed to informing and educating both recreational and commercial users and requires all users to operate responsibly to ensure their own safety and that of others.

Things you should Know:

  1. All vessels in the Waterway are required to monitor VHF Channel 12.
  2. Large commercial vessels may, at times, make passage at higher speeds than expected to maintain proper control and steerage.
  3. Despite some of the deepest recorded depths for a natural harbour, many of the deep draught commercial vessels can only navigate safely through the port within the maintained navigation channels. Confined as they are such vessels may not be able to easily avoid small craft within the navigable channels – it is up to you to stay clear.
  4. A large vessel that is slowing down does not steer as well; it needs the propeller action on the rudder to respond. When the vessels engines are put “full astern” its manoeuvrability will be affected.
  5. Remember that it takes time and distance for a large vessel to stop.
  6. There are numerous other small vessels operating within Waterway. Watch out for pilot boats, ferry, tugs, workboats, barges, fishing vessels and other recreational vessels (especially at night).
  7. All users or the waterway should be aware of and abide by Port Bye-laws and the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (ColRegs).

Action you should take

  1. Avoid sailing in the commercial ship channels when you can, especially in poor visibility and when deep draft vessels are manoeuvring. If you cannot sail outside the channel, obey Rule 9 of the ColRegs for conduct in narrow channels by keeping as near to the outer limit of the channel which lies on the starboard side (right) of your vessel as is safe and practicable, crossing only when it will not impede the passage of a large vessel confined to the channel by draught.
  2. Do not underestimate the speed of ships. (At 6 knots, a vessel travels 1 nautical mile in 10 minutes; at 15 knots it takes only 4 minutes.) Monitor the approach of vessels and remain clear when required. If your boat is slow, allow sufficient time to take effective evasive action or cross channels in the vicinity of large ships.
  3. Be visible. At night make sure your navigation lights can be seen. If you see the navigation lights of a vessel and you think you have not been seen, get out of the way. Use torches, search lights or a spotlight on sails or prominent structures on your vessel. Carry a radar reflector high on your boat. Remember, from the bridge of a large vessel, the captain or pilot may lose sight of you more than a third of a mile ahead. If you can’t see the bridge they can’t see you!
  4. Be alert. Keep a good look out so you are aware what is going on around you. Don’t forget to look behind!
  5. Keep watch at night. Even on a clear night you may have difficulty seeing vessels approaching or objects in the water.
  6. Watch the ship’s lights. If you see both sidelights (red and green), you are dead ahead – MOVE CLEAR. Be aware that ships alter course on passage through the Waterway. You must be sure of your position and be aware of other vessels operating around you.
  7. Know the sound signals on the Waterway. Vessels often use sound or light signals to communicate. If you hear 5 short blasts, the master or pilot of a vessel is trying to tell another vessel that they are unsure of its intentions. The master may be concerned about how close it is, or concerned with the course and speed another vessel is following. Check and see if it is for you - and if it is make your intentions clear and GIVE WAY. If in any doubt about who a vessel is signalling at the very least make your intentions obvious, allow sufficient sea room for the vessel to pass.
  8. Know flag signals and shapes. Vessels also use flags and shapes to communicate. A common flag seen in the Waterway is the Code Flag ‘A’. It indicates that divers are in the water. Divers may also deploy inflatable surface marker buoys which come in different shapes and styles. You should stay clear of any vessel flying this flag and keep a good lookout for surface marker buoys as divers may be some distance from the vessel.
    Flag signals and shapes
  9. Keep a VHF Radio tuned to channel 12, the Port working channel, and listen for traffic information from Port Control; Call Sign Milford Haven Port Control.
  10. Be considerate to other users. Your activity, speed, wake, course and other actions may cause inconvenience danger or injury to others.
  11. When leaving your vessel, whether in one of the Waterway's marinas or on a mooring, always make sure your vessel is properly secured so that it cannot drift.
  12. At the end of your day afloat make sure those ashore and the coastguard are aware of your safe return.
  13. Abide by activity zoning schemes by looking at our Leisure User Guide and follow the rules (both the Rules of the Road and our local bye-laws). It is important you check if any apply before going afloat as you might find yourself being stopped by patrol staff.
Rules & Regulations
Rules & Regulations

Know the legal requirements for using the Waterway and keeping yourself and others safe.

Read more
Download Tide Tables and Leisure User Guide
Download Tide Tables and Leisure User Guide

Tide Table and Leisure User Guide for the Milford Haven Waterway

Read more