Safety on the Water.
All users of the navigations are strongly recommended to make themselves aware of safety on the water for whatever activity they are involved in and to read the advice offered by the various governing sports bodies and by:
The Dept. of Transport, Tourism and Sport, ROI
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency, UK
Registration of Vessels
All vessels using the Shannon Navigation, which includes the Shannon-Erne Waterways and the Erne System, must be registered. Only open undecked boats with an engine of 15 horsepower or less, on the Shannon Navigation, and vessels of 10 horsepower or less, on the Erne System, are exempt. Registration is free of charge.
Permits for use of the Grand and Royal Canals and the Barrow Navigation
All vessels using the Grand and Royal Canals and the Barrow Navigation must display appropriate valid Permit(s) i.e A Combined Mooring and Passage Permit (€126) and if not intending to move every five days, an Extended Mooring Permit(€152). Permit application forms may be obtained from lockkeepers.
Passage on the Royal and Grand Canals – Dublin Area
For boat passage through the locks east of Lock 12 into / out of Dublin on either the Royal or Grand Canals, Masters are requested to contact the Waterways Ireland Eastern Regional Office (M-F 9.30am-4.30pm) on tel: 353- (0)1- 868-0148 or email firstname.lastname@example.org prior to making passage in order to plan the necessary lock-keeping assistance arrangements.
On the Grand Canal a minimum of two days notice prior to the planned passage should be given, masters should note that with the exception of pre-arranged events, a maximum of 2 boats per day will be taken through the locks, travelling either east or west.
On the Royal Canal two weeks' notice of bridge passage (Newcomen Lifting Bridge) is required for the pre-set lift date, and lock assistance will then also be arranged. A minimum of 2 boats is required for a bridge lift to go ahead.
Events Held on the Waterways
All organised events taking place on the waterways must have the prior approval of Waterways Ireland. This is a twelve week process and application forms must be accompanied with the appropriate insurance, signed indemnity and risk assessment. The application form may be had from the Inspectorate offices or downloaded from the Waterways Ireland website.
Time Limits on Mooring in Public Harbours
On the Shannon Navigation and the Shannon-Erne Waterway craft may berth in public harbours for five consecutive days or a total of seven days in any one month.
Winter mooring may be availed of by owners during the period 1 Nov to 31 Mar by prior arrangement and payment of a charge of €63.50 per craft otherwise the "5 / 7 Day Rule" will continue to apply.
On the Erne System no vessel may berth at a public mooring for more than 48 hours without a four hour intermission within that period, throughout the year.
Waterways Ireland smart cards are used to operate certain locks, to access the service blocks and to use the pump-outs along the navigations. Electrical power is also available using smart cards at a number of public mooring locations.
Berthing in Public Harbours.
Masters are reminded of the following:
- Equip their vessel with mooring lines of appropriate length and strength and only secure their craft to mooring bollards and cleats provided for this purpose.
- Ensure the available berth is suitable to the length of your vessel, do not overhang the mooring especially on the fingers of floating pontoon moorings.
- Ensure mooring lines, electric cables and fresh water hoses do not create a trip hazard for others.
- Carry sufficient fenders to prevent damage to your own vessel, other vessels and WI property.
- Allow sufficient space between your vessel and the vessel ahead /astern (c.1m) for fire safety purposes and /or to recover somebody from the water.
- Do not berth more than two vessels side by side and ensure there is safe access/egress at all times between vessels and onto the harbour itself.
- Do not berth in such a way to prevent use of harbour safety ladders, slipways or pump-outs.
- An overhanging anchor or bow fendering creates a hazard at head height to persons using the walkways on floating moorings. Use your mooring lines( a forward spring line) to prevent your vessel from moving forwards and stop it from rubbing against the walkway and overhanging.
- Animals are not allowed to be loose or stray at any time.
- Harbour and jetty infrastructure such as pontoon piles,railings, power pedestals, fresh water taps, electric light poles, safety bollards, ladders etc are not designed for the purpose of mooring craft , they will not bear the strain of a vessel and will be damaged.
Note to masters and owners of vessels with an overall length in excess of 11m, particularly those constructed in steel, of the following points in relation to berthing at floating moorings and also on finger jetties having a length of 9m:
- These vessels cannot be secured properly over their entire length thereby placing extra strain on the pontoon mooring cleats as mooring lines are doubled up.
- The large overhang of these vessels creates an obstruction to other vessels trying to manoeuvre onto the berth especially for novice recreational boaters and hire boat crews with limited experience.
- In adverse weather conditions of high winds and /or flood conditions with high flow rates there is a greater risk of breaking free of the mooring and causing damage to other vessels and the mooring infrastructure especially as these large vessels are primarily constructed in steel and are very heavy.
- The 9m finger mooring is designed for vessels with a max overall length of circa 10-11m.
- The fixings attaching the floating mooring to the main spine can be compromised due to excessive forces induced by inappropriate sized craft leading to premature wear.
- 6. Such vessels place excessive strain on the mooring piles and anchor chains as water levels rise especially where masters have secured to both the cleats and the mooring piles themselves.
Masters of such vessels should berth on appropriate lengths of fixed quay wall only.
Passenger Vessel Berths
Masters of vessels should not berth on passenger vessel berths where it is indicted that an arrival is imminent. Passenger vessels plying the navigations generally only occupy the berths to embark and disembark passengers and rarely remain on the berths for extended periods or overnight.
Lock Lead-in Jetties
Lead-in jetties adjacent to the upstream and downstream gates at lock chambers are solely for the purpose of craft waiting to use the lock and should not be used for long term berthing.
Vessel wash, that is, the wave generated by the passage of the boat through the water, can sometimes be large, powerful and destructive depending on the hull shape and engine power of the vessel. This wash can be detrimental to other users of the navigation when it strikes their craft or inundates the shoreline or riverbank. Masters are requested to frequently look behind and check the effect of their wash particularly when passing moored vessels, on entering harbours and approaching jetties and to be aware of people pursuing other activities such as fishing on the riverbank.
A vessel or boat shall not be navigated on the Shannon Navigation at a speed in excess of 5 kph when within 200 metres of a bridge, quay, jetty or wharf, when in a harbour or canal or when passing within 100 metres of a moored vessel or boat.
Vessels navigating the Shannon-Erne Waterway should observe the general 5 kph speed limit which applies along the waterway. This is necessary in order to prevent damage to the banks caused by excessive wash from vessels.
Vessels navigating the Erne System should observe the statutory 5 kt / 6mph/10kph speed limit areas.
A craft on the Royal and Grand canals shall not be navigated at a speed in excess of 6km per hour.
A craft on the Barrow Navigation shall not be navigated at a speed in excess of 11km per hour except as necessary for safe navigation in conditions of fast flow.
Narrow sections of all the navigations are particularly prone to bank erosion due to the large wash generated by some craft. Masters are requested to be vigilant and to slow down to a speed sufficient to maintain steerage when they observe the wash of their craft inundating the river banks.
Unusual Waterborne Activity
Unusual waterborne vessels may be encountered from time to time, such as, hovercraft or amphibious aircraft / seaplanes. Masters of such craft are reminded to apply the normal "Rule of the Road" when they meet conventional craft on the water and to allow extra room to manoeuvre in the interest of safety.
Mariners will encounter large numbers of sailing dinghies from late June to August in the vicinity of Lough Derg, Lough Ree and Lower Lough Erne. Sailing courses are marked by yellow buoys to suit weather conditions on the day. Vessels should proceed at slow speed and with due caution and observe the rules of navigation when passing these fleets, as many of the participants are junior sailors under training.
Mariners should expect to meet canoes and vessels under oars on any part of the navigations, either recreating, in training or in competition but more so in the vicinity of Athlone, Carrick-on-Shannon, Coleraine, Enniskillen and Limerick. Masters are reminded to proceed at slow speed and especially to reduce their wash to a minimum when passing these craft as they can be easily upset and swamped due to their very low freeboard and always be prepared to give way in any given traffic situation.
Canoeing is an adventure sport and participants are strongly recommended to seek the advice of the sport's governing bodies i.e The Irish Canoe Union and the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland, before venturing onto the navigations.
Persons in charge of canoes are reminded of the inherent danger to these craft associated with operating close to weirs, sluice gates, locks and other infrastructure particularly when rivers are in flood and large volumes of water are moving through the navigations due to general flood conditions or very heavy localised precipitation e.g. turbulent and broken water, stopper waves. Shooting weirs is prohibited without prior permission of Waterways Ireland.
Canoeists should check with lockkeepers prior to entering a lock to ensure passage is done in a safe manner and should disembark their canoe and line through the lock. Portage is required at all unmanned locks.
Canoe Trail Network – "Blueways"
Masters of powered craft are reminded that a canoe trail network is being developed across all navigations and to expect more organised canoeing along these trails necessitating slow speed and minimum wash when encountering canoeists, rowing boats , SUP's etc
Fast Powerboats and Personal Watercraft (Jet Skis)
Masters of Fast Powerboats (speed greater than 17kts) and Personal Watercraft (e.g.Jet Skis) are reminded of the inherent dangers associated with high speed on the water and especially in the confines of small bays and narrow sections of the navigations. Keeping a proper look-out, making early alterations to course and /or reducing speed will avoid conflict with slower vessels using the navigation. Personal Watercraft are not permitted to be used on the canals.
In the Republic of Ireland you have to be at least 16 years of age to operate a PWC e.g Jetski and 12 years of age or over to operate a vessel with more than a 5 hp engine.
Prohibition on Swimming
Swimming in the navigable channel, particularly at bridges, is dangerous and is prohibited due to the risk of being run over by a vessel underway in the navigation.
Towing Waterskiers, Wakeboarders, Doughnuts etc
Masters of vessels engaged in any of these activities are reminded of the manoeuvring constraints imposed upon their vessel by the tow and of the added responsibilities that they have to the person(s) being towed. These activities should be conducted in areas which are clear of conflicting traffic. It is highly recommended that a person additional to the master be carried to act as a "look-out" to keep the tow under observation at all times.
Lifejackets and Personal Flotation Devices (PFD's)
Lifejackets and PFD's are the single most important items of personal protective equipment to be used on a vessel and should be worn especially when the vessel is being manoeuvred such as entering / departing a lock, anchoring, coming alongside or departing a jetty or quayside.
In the Republic of Ireland all persons on board any craft of less than 7m (23 ft) must wear a lifejacket or PFD while on board an open craft or on the deck of a decked craft that is not made fast to the shore. This requirement also applies to Personal Watercraft Craft and any vessel or object being towed e.g. waterskier, wakeboarder, doughnut, banana etc.
Firing Range Danger Area – Lough Ree
The attention of mariners is drawn to the Irish Defence Forces Firing Range situated in the vicinity of buoys No's 2 and 3, on Lough Ree on the Shannon Navigation. This range is used regularly for live firing exercises, throughout the year, all boats and vessels should stay clear of the area marked with yellow buoys showing a yellow "X" topmark and displaying the word "Danger".
Shannon Navigation, Portumna Swing Bridge Tolls
No attempt should be made by Masters' of vessels to pay the bridge toll while making way through the bridge opening. Payment will only be taken by the Collector from Masters when they are secured alongside the jetties north and south of the bridge.
Shannon Navigation, Abbey River and Sarsfield Lock, Limerick
The attention of all users of this stretch of the Shannon Navigation is drawn to the published notices regarding navigation.
Users are advised to contact the ESB Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station (00353 (0)87 9970131) 48 hours in advance of commencing their journey to book passage through the locks at Ardnacrusha. It is advised NOT to undertake a voyage if more than one turbine is operating (20MW), due to the increased velocity of flow in the navigation channel, which can be dangerous. To ascertain automatically in real time how many turbines are running, users can phone 00353 (0)87 6477229.
Further, passage of Sarsfield Lock should be booked on 353-87-7972998, on the day prior to travel and it should be noted also that transit is not possible two hours either side of low water.
Lower Bann Navigation
The attention of all users is drawn to the "Users Code for the Lower Bann", in particular to that section covering "Flow in the River" outlining the dangers for users both on the banks and in the navigation, associated with high flow rates when the river is in spate. Canoeists should consult and carry a copy of the "Lower Bann Canoe Trail" guide issued by the Canoe Association of Northern Ireland. Users should also contact the Rivers Agency, who is responsible for regulating the flow rates on the river, for advisory information on the flow rates to be expected on any given day.
Rivers Agency, Coleraine. Tel: 0044 28 7034 2357 Email:Rivers.Coleraine@dardni.gov.uk
Overhead Power Lines (OHPL)
The attention of all is drawn to the dangers associated with overhead power lines in particular sailing vessels, sailing dinghy's and workboats with cranes or large airdrafts. Vigilance is required especially in the vicinity of slipways and dinghy parks, while voyage planning is a necessity in order to identify the location of overhead lines crossing the navigations. If the vessel or its equipment comes in contact with an OHPL, do NOT attempt to move the equipment or a person if either is still in contact with, or close to, the OHPL. The conductor may still be alive or re-energise automatically. Maintain a 5 m clearance, if possible, and prevent third parties from approaching you or your vessel because of the risk of arcing. Contact the Coast Guard for assistance. Fishermen are also reminded that a minimum ground distance of 30 metres should be maintained from overhead power lines when using rod and line.
Submarine Cables and Pipes
Masters of vessels are reminded not to anchor their vessels in the vicinity of submarine cables or pipes in case they foul their anchor or damage the cables or pipes. Look to the river banks for signage indicating their presence.
Water Levels - Precautions
Low Water Levels:
When water levels fall below normal summer levels masters should be aware of:
- To reduce the risk of grounding masters should navigate on or near the centreline of the channel, avoid short cutting in dog-legged channels and navigating too close to navigation markers.
- Proceeding at a slow speed will also reduce "squat" effect i.e. where the vessel tends to sit lower in the water as a consequence of higher speed.
- Reduced slipway length available under the water surface and the possibility of launching trailers dropping off the end of the concrete apron.
- More slipway surface susceptible to weed growth requiring care while engaged in launching boats, from slipping and sliding on the slope. Note also that launching vehicles may not be able to get sufficient traction on the slipway once the craft is launched to get up the incline.
- Very dry riverbanks are more susceptible to erosion from vessel wash.
- Maximising on the number of vessels in a lock will ensure that the total volume of water moving downstream is decreased. Lock cycles should be used for vessels travelling each way.
High Water Levels:
When water levels rise above normal summer level masters should be aware of:
Navigation marks will have reduced height above the water level or may disappear underwater altogether making the navigable channel difficult to discern.
In narrow sections of the navigations water levels will tend to rise more quickly than in main streams and air draft at bridges will likewise be reduced.
There will also be increased flow rates particularly in the vicinity of navigation infrastructure such as bridges, weirs, locks etc where extra care in manoeuvring vessels will be required.
Harbours and Jetties
Due care is required in harbours and at slipways when levels are at or near the same level as the harbour walkways' as the edge will be difficult to discern especially in reduced light conditions. It is advised that Personal Flotation Devices be worn if tending to craft in a harbour in these conditions.
Slipways should only be used for the purpose of launching and recovering of water craft or other objects from the water. Before using a slipway it should be examined to ensure that the surface has sufficient traction / grip for the intended purpose such as launching a craft from a trailer using a vehicle, that there is sufficient depth of water on the slipway to float the craft off the trailer before the concrete apron ends and that the wheels of the trailer do not drop off the edge of the slipway. That life saving appliances are available in the vicinity, that the vehicle is roadworthy and capable of coping with the weight of the trailer and boat on the incline. It is recommended that slipway operations are conducted by two persons.
Caution to be Used in Reliance upon Aids to Navigation
The aids to navigation depicted on the navigation guides comprise a system of fixed and floating aids to navigation. Prudent mariners will not rely solely on any single aid to navigation, particularly a floating aid to navigation. With respect to buoys, the buoy symbol is used to indicate the approximate position of the buoy body and the ground tackle which secures it to the lake or river bed. The approximate position is used because of the practical limitations in positioning and maintaining buoys in precise geographical locations. These limitations include, but are not limited to, prevailing atmospheric and lake/river conditions, the slope of and the material making up the lake/river bed, the fact that the buoys are moored to varying lengths of chain, and the fact that the buoy body and/or ground tackle positions are not under continuous surveillance. Due to the forces of nature, the position of the buoy body can be expected to shift inside and outside the charted symbol.
Buoys and perches are also moved out of position or pulled over by those mariners who use them to moor up to instead of anchoring. To this end, mariners should always monitor their passage by relating buoy/perch positions with the published navigation guide. Further, a vessel attempting to pass close by always risks collision with a yawing buoy or with the obstruction that the buoy or beacon / perch marks.
Charles J Lawn
Inspector of Navigation
31 Mar 2017 Enniskillen:
Tel: 00353 (0)90 6494232 0044 (0)28 66322836
Fax: 00353 (0)90 6494147