GHT is the statutory harbour authority for the Gloucester Harbour. It is also a competent harbour authority and is classed as a trust port. Its main duties and responsibilities are to provide a pilotage service, provide and maintain navigation aids and generally ensure the safety of navigation within the Gloucester Harbour. Its powers are derived from general legislation and local Acts and Orders.
The Trustees have as their over-riding consideration the safety of navigation within the Gloucester harbour. They have implemented the Port Marine Safety Code and an annual external and independent audit of continued compliance with its requirements is presented to the Board by the Trustees’ Designated Person on a regular basis. Statements of compliance are issued to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency at three-yearly intervals, the most recent of which was in February 2021.
Trustees are appointed in line with guidance issued by the Department for Transport and abide by the principles of good corporate governance. The Board of Trustees normally meets four times a year and the day-to-day running of the authority is supervised by the Chairman.
As a trust port, GHT is a self-financing ‘not for profit’ organisation. The Trustees aim to run a reliable, efficient and cost-effective operation for the benefit of all stakeholders.
The Gloucester Harbour covers a large area of the Severn from seawards of the Second Severn Crossing up to the weirs at Llanthony and Maisemore on the Severn near Gloucester and Bigsweir Bridge on the River Wye. The harbour area is crossed by both the Severn Bridge (M48) and the Prince of Wales Bridge (M4). The former nuclear power stations at Berkeley and Oldbury, which stand on land adjacent to the harbour area, have both ceased generation and are in the process of being decommissioned. A new University Technology College is now situated on the Berkeley site. The case for the construction of a new nuclear power station at Oldbury is still being evaluated.
Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels whose length overall is 30 metres or above and this service is provided by self-employed pilots licensed by GHT. There are between 350 and 400 commercial vessel movements in and out of Sharpness Dock each year. Cargoes include scrap metal, grain, cement, fertiliser, forest products and stone. A sand dredger also operates in the Gloucester Harbour on a regular basis; leisure craft make up the remainder of the traffic. The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, operated by the Canal & River Trust, links Sharpness Dock to Gloucester and the rest of the inland waterway system. The docks and the dry dock at Sharpness are operated by private sector companies and GHT does not own or operate any docks, quays, marinas or loading/unloading facilities.
Aids to Navigation
Over the years, the Trustees have provided a significant number of on-shore and off-shore lights, beacons and day marks. Other lights and portable precision positioning systems (used by pilots) have been provided by Highways England to mark and safeguard the two motorway crossings between England and Wales. The Trustees have recently completed a modernisation programme to replace and upgrade its navaids to improve performance and ensure continued compliance with health and safety standards. Most of the aging structures, many of which were over sixty years old, have now either been replaced or modernised. This has resulted in an improvement in reliability and performance and a reduction in maintenance costs. Regular inspection, maintenance and repair work on the navaids is carried out by GHT staff with assistance from local contractors when required.
The Gloucester Harbour includes a number of areas which have been designated under national, European and international environmental legislation. These impose environmental responsibilities on GHT when undertaking its statutory duties as a competent harbour authority. GHT liaises with the appropriate authorities and follows strict guidelines when evaluating the potential effects of any proposed activities. However as a navigation authority, GHT must also manage and maintain the delicate balance between conservation and the statutory right of navigation within the Gloucester Harbour for vessels of all types.