Bristol Harbour fees

At a Bristol City Council Cabinet Meeting held on 24th January 2023, it was agreed to raise city docks fees substantially, starting in April. Owners of boats moored in Bathurst Basin will be hit particularly hard because the Harbour Master has dropped the special fee for ‘club pontoon mooring’. As a result Bathurst Basin pontoon fees will rise from £156.20 per metre to £250. Even more dramatically, the annual charge for a Bristol Harbour ferry boat will be increased from £503 to £1,000 plus a charge of 20p for every passenger.

The revised Bristol Harbour fees appear to have two objectives:

  1. To make the harbour financially self-sufficient.
  2. To improve the facilities available to harbour users.

These are reasonable objectives but the proposals were made with minimal notice and without any consultation of the many groups of harbour users. In justifying the fees, the Harbour Master, Tony Nichols, cited Savill’s Harbour Operational Review (2020) which argued that ‘there is considerable scope for increasing fees when comparing with other harbour authorities’. No details were given of fees charged at comparable harbours, namely those with poor access to the sea and with limited facilities.

Cabot Cruising Club President Bernie Rowe expressed the views of many harbour users: the proposals ‘came before the Cabinet too soon, are ill conceived and unsupported other than by bare assertion.’ Time will tell whether the new fees will lead to improved harbour facilities.

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