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by the NFCC


Waterways incidents

Hazard Knowledge

Many different types of industry operate within waterways, including:

  • Cargo operators
  • Passenger services
  • Leisure industry
  • Boat builders
  • Commercial fishing

A waterway is a route for travel by water, on which vessels may be used. The term waterway includes:

  • Ports
  • Docks
  • Harbours
  • Marinas
  • Canals
  • Rivers

The hazards found at waterways include:

  • Vessel movements
  • Working near water or other liquids
  • Working at height
  • High-tensile mooring lines
  • Unguarded edges
  • Unstable floating docks or pontoons
  • Fuel
  • Biological hazards
  • Submerged debris

In addition to the hazards found at waterways, the hazards found at ports, docks, harbours and marinas include:

  • On-site vehicles, such as forklift trucks and heavy goods vehicles
  • On-site machinery, such as cranes, hoists and conveyors
  • Hazardous or dangerous cargo awaiting transportation, or in storage facilities
  • Unsecured loads
  • Stacked materials

In addition to the hazards found at waterways, the hazards found at canals and rivers include:

  • Remote locations with limited or no vehicle access
  • On-site machinery, such as gates, weirs, sluices and pumps

Responsibility for search and rescue

The police are responsible for co-ordinating search and rescue for incidents in inland waters. There may be exceptions when the incident is delegated to HM Coastguard. For example, in docks associated with tidal rivers, unless there is a specific local agreement with the police or harbourmasters.

HM Coastguard may declare a major maritime incident if:

  • There are large numbers of survivors to be rescued and brought ashore
  • There are large numbers of missing or unaccounted for people, with the potential for a significant loss of life
  • There is large-scale press or public interest
  • It is a large-scale rescue or counter pollution and salvage incident