Navigational Safety

The principal deep water navigational channels within the statutory limits of the port of Southampton are well marked by buoys and lights. These channels are in constant use by commercial vessels, including large deep-draught tankers (VLCCS), container ships, ferries and other traffic.

Recreational users of the harbour are advised to keep well clear of these main channels whenever possible, and use the recommended crossing areas.

When main channels have to be crossed, this should be done as nearly as practicable at right angles.


Large container ships and VLCCs, in particular, have very restricted visibility for quite a distance ahead when carrying a deck cargo of containers. You maybe be able to see her clearly, but can she see you? Most recreational sailors take a justifiable pride in the responsible way they conduct themselves. Part of this is a realisation that hindering passage of large commercial vessels is not only bad manners but dangerous to themselves, their crews and the ship itself.

Recreational users of the port area are particularly requested to remind themselves of and observe, the Collision Regulations, Port of Southampton Byelaws and Local Notices to Mariners.

 Speed of Vessels

Southampton Harbour Byelaws prohibit the navigation of a vessel;

1.At a speed which endangers the safety of any person, other vessel, buoy, moorings, banks of the port or any other property.

2.Without reducing speed and wash effect to a safe level when passing a dredger, vessel engaged in diving or underwater operations, or working on a buoy or mooring.

3.At a speed in excess of 6 knots north of an imaginary line between Hythe Pier and Western Shelf buoy.

Collision Avoidance Check List

  • Avoid ship channels. Cross them quickly and at right angles.

  • Be alert. Watch for ship traffic.

  • Be seen. Especially at night.

  • Know whistle signals - five or more means Keep Clear.

  • Listen to VHF R/T channel 12 - if you have to transmit keep your message brief, say what you have to say, then keep listening.

  • Use up-to-date navigation charts - read Local Notices to Mariners at your local club or marina.

  • When in doubt, Keep Clear. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Lifejackets do not help if you are not wearing them.