Have your say over aids to navigation

UK leisure boat owners should be charged for using Marine Aids to Navigation (AtoN) and made to pay Light Dues, according to a report commissioned by the Department for Transport.

The independent report, published in March, recommends removing the exemption from Light Dues traditionally enjoyed by leisure boaters, stating: ‘Leisure sailors who sail outside harbour limits have the same opportunities to use and to benefit from AtoN as commercial shipping and should therefore not be exempt from making a contribution to the costs of provision of AtoN’.

Light Dues are currently charged on commercial shipping at 43p per net registered ton, subject to a maximum charge of £17,200 per voyage. Vessels are charged for a maximum of nine voyages per annum. Tugs and fishing vessels pay based on the length of the vessel. The report proposed a levy of around £100 per year for leisure boats over nine metres in length.

While the report is essentially just a consultant’s assessment of the current provision of Aids to Navigation and does not represent either Government policy or a legislative proposal, the legal department of the RYA has taken issue with some of the findings.

‘We need to be prepared for the possibility that the Government might seek to implement some of the proposals,’ said Gus Lewis, RYA chief legal officer.

‘We have written to the Shipping Minister, Paul Clark MP, to explain that the report is based on a number of false assumptions. In particular, our view is that RYA members are not dependent on the General Lighthouse Authority’s AtoN, which are deployed mainly for the benefit of commercial shipping, marking hazards that do not affect leisure boats. Yachtsmen primarily rely on AtoN provided by Harbour Authorities, which are paid for through Harbour Dues.

In their reply the DfT stated: ‘Before we make any revisions to Light Dues we will carry out a full consultation with RYA members’.

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