Coronavirus: Harbour security increased as moorings closed

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Lymington Harbour
Berthon Boatyard has temporarily shut down operations

SECURITY patrols are set to be stepped up around Lymington Harbour following a decision to close all leisure moorings, berths and pontoons to the public.

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The emergency action, which was taken in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, will not apply to commercial fishing vessels which use the town’s harbour.

Speaking on Wednesday, Lymington Harbour Master Ryan Willegers said the authority faced a difficult decision: “We are a statutory open port which means people can come and go as they please but in light of the current lockdown we have taken the decision to now close all our leisure moorings to the public.”

Mr Willegers confirmed the harbour authority had not encountered any major breaches of the government’s lockdown rules since Monday, but had observed “some individuals checking on their boats as part of their daily exercise”.

The announcement was made at around 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon, after Mr Willegers took part in a conference meeting with other harbour masters from across the
UK.

A statement released by Lymington Harbour Commissioners confirmed: “In the light of further clarification on the government advice requiring people to stay at home for very limited purposes, until further notice, we have taken the decision to close all of our leisure berths, pontoons and moorings with immediate effect.”

Only commercial fishing berths will remain open as they are classed as an essential service. The Bath Road and Town Quay slipways will also be closed for all launches except for the RNLI lifeboat service.

The statement urged: “Please stay at home, adhere to social distancing instructions and avoid all non-essential travel.”

Mr Willegers told the A&T: “We will be stepping up our patrols to ensure all the moorings are safe and we will be doing extra checks to ensure individual boats are okay.

“It would normally be the responsibility of the owners to check on their own boats but we realise that as soon as we start asking people to stop visiting the mooring we will have to take on this for the period of closure.”

Meanwhile, Lymington Yacht Haven has also issued a statement, urging its mooring holders to stay calm, stay at home and stay safe.

Announcing that the pontoon marinas and dry berthing facilities will be ‘battening down the hatches’, Yacht Haven’s group marketing manager Jonathan Cook said: “We are following the advice from the UK government and regional public health bodies and we kindly urge our customers to do the same.

“We encourage you to stay at home, to adhere to social distancing instructions and to avoid all non-essential travel.”

Announcing that hoist systems will only be used in emergency situations, the Yacht Haven said security teams would be onsite to take care of the boats.

A statement added: “We will be out on the pontoons, checking lines and boats and keeping an eye on everything, so please rest assured that your boat remains safe in our care.

“We have no doubt that, in time, we will all be enjoying our boating again. In the meantime, keep safe, keep calm and we will see you soon.”

Berthon Boatyard has also temporarily shut down operations as a result of the UK lockdown, but managing director Brian May told the A&T the company is in a strong position to weather the storm having enjoyed a good start to the year.

He added that although the company cannot currently build boats, the jobs of its 70 admin staff and 100-strong boat building team were safe.

Mr May told the A&T: “We have made no redundancies and those at home will be paid including the 30 apprentices; with cash in the bank, no debt and no rent to pay, we are confident of being able to return to work when the government allows us to do so and stronger than ever before having weathered the storm well.”

He added: “We have minimum staff remaining in the dockmasters’ office for security purposes and the directors are still working onsite to ensure that loose ends are tidied up and to receive final deliveries that were already in transit.

“Most of the sales teams at Berthon, BHG and Versadock are still working from home and will continue to do so as long as is necessary. We sold a boat yesterday, listed one for sale today and delivered a new Versadock to a rower for use on a river.”

Mr May added that during the shutdown the boatyard and marina would be continually monitored by more than 30 CCTV cameras inside and outside buildings; on the boundaries and in the marina.

He said: “The crews that live aboard yachts in the marina complement our 24-hour a day security staff and we also have a good working relationship with the police.”

Mr May also said social media reports of yachts full of people arriving from London and failing to follow government isolation advice were incorrect.

Responding to claims that a group of six to eight people in their 30s had been seen in close proximity sharing cigarettes on the bridge of a boat in Berthon Marina on Tuesday afternoon, Mr May said: “This is likely to be the relatively young crew who were meant to take a motorboat to Spain and have been forced to stay here and self-isolate on board as a result of most foreign ports on the continent being closed.

“As such it is a legitimate live aboard crew simply waiting in isolation as a single household for their instruction to leave Lymington for their next destination.

“We have a number of boats with permanent crew on board. In normal circumstances they would be down below or cleaning the boat, etc, but on such a beautiful summery day, perhaps the captain gave them some time off.”

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