£5,000 fines and even jail terms were mooted

Yachtsmen who sailed into a wind turbine farm would have faced huge fines and even jail if the wind-power company had its way. But thanks to a gallant fight by the RYA the turbine firm has come to its senses.

The first application to introduce a 50 metre ‘Safety Zone’ around offshore wind farm turbines by Greater Gabbard Offshore Winds Ltd (GGOWL) was been met by opposition from the RYA, who said such a measure was both unenforceable. As a result the zone has been downgraded to an ‘Advisory Zone’.  

Greater Gabbard applied to introduce a ‘Safety Zone’ for the construction phase of its turbines, which was agreed, as well as an operational ‘Safety Zone’ which would mean it would be an offence for any craft to go in to the area. Breach of a ‘Safety Zone’ can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 or in some cases imprisonment.  The RYA objected to this recommendation being unconvinced as to the need and the effectiveness, requesting instead the Advisory Zone of 50 meters for vessels less than 24 metres.

Dr Susie Tomson, the RYA’s planning and environmental advisor explains: “Creating a safety zone that excludes navigation interferes with the right of innocent passage as defined under the International Law of the Sea.  The RYA considers any proposal to interfere with this right seriously and will only support such an application where the necessity to do so is clearly demonstrated.”

GGOWL acknowledged that ‘small craft’ (vessels under 24m) pose less risk to the structures, consequently accepting the proposal for the ‘Advisory Zone’ and will be advising of the construction and advisory safety zones to mariners prior to the operation. 

The RYA will respond to all applications for Safety Zones, with each being reviewed on a case by case basis.