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The work of the
Wells Harbour Commissioners 2012



The work of the Wells Harbour Commissioners (WHC) is regulated by central government and full details of the appointments and management structure can be found in the government legislation Modernising Trust Ports - A Guide to Good Governance, last update 2009 (see Department for Transport website). The WHC aim to conform to the governance as set out by the government.

The following information was distilled from the reports of the bi-monthly meetings of the Commissioners in 2012. All these reports can be found on this website.

Annual Meetings

The Commissioners hold an annual public meeting to report on their work. In 2012 it was held on 18 May 2012. A report of that meeting is available on this website. The date of the 2013 meeting is 21 May 2013.


It should be noted that all Commissioners are volunteers and receive no payment for their work. The revenue from the services offered by the Port is used entirely to finance the Port's management and development.


Sallyann Retchless was appointed as a part-time office administration assistant on 1 May 2012, supporting the Harbour Administrator. Dredging operations were brought in-house in the early part of the year. The Port's dredger Kari Hege is now manned by two part-time skippers, Dave Abbott and James Cowan. The new Liebherr long reach excavator onboard the vessel is operated by Bob Hull.


Harbour Commissioners

Charles Ebrill retired as a commissioner in December 2012. Charles served the Harbour Commissioners for 24 years and as chairman for seven years.

Mike Woodroffe retired as a commissioner in December 2012 after nine years' service.

New Commissioner (2012) Portfolios

Tony Pannell was appointed chairman to succeed Charles Ebrill, effective from January 2013.

James Heasman was appointed as vice chairman, effective from January 2013.

Paula Baldry took over responsibility for Health & Safety.

New Commissioners 2013

In 2012 three commissioners were appointed in anticipation of the two retirements. The board agreed that no appointments were deemed necessary for 2013 and therefore no vacancies were advertised.

Beach Patrol

The beach patrol operated for the second year, employing five local young people, three of whom returned from 2011. The patrol advises the public regarding safety matters, swimming, keeping off the berms and buoys and assists with members of the public who are cut off by the tide. In July 2012, the patrol demonstrated their professionalism in dealing with a drowning incident. The Commissioners would like to thank the crew for their sensitivity in handling the situation. WHC funded the crew to achieve their RYA Level 2 Power boat certificates and the success of this initiative over the last two years has prompted Wells Harbour Commissioners and SCIRA Offshore Energy to consider continuing with the service next year.

Capital Expenditure

2012 completed

  • New East End Store
  • Resurfacing of part of car park with new signage
  • Replacement long reach excavator
  • East End bar buoy

Planned for 2013

  • West Cardinal buoy to replace leading buoy
  • Concrete standing in Harbour compound
  • Additional fencing for Harbour compound
  • Refurbishment of remaining car park area

Future expenditure under consideration

  • New boat travel hoist
  • Wash down facility at the East End
  • Replacement car park machines
  • New shower block
  • New visiting vessel pontoons

Environment and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

  • Little Terns and other birds breeding in the Harbour have been surveyed for a third year.
  • A survey of the Outer Harbour berm recorded 52 different plant species.
  • The MMO is developing a 'Marine Plan' for each area around England. The draft plan for East Inshore, from Flamborough Head to Felixstowe, will be completed by the end of 2012 followed by a formal consultation in the first three months of 2013. Although the marine plan does not directly affect the area under control of WHC, it will affect the interests and potentially the activities of fishermen and others using the Harbour. The plans will provide a framework which will include Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The MMO has confirmed that there will be no changes to the legal powers of Ports. WHC will review the draft plan to assess the impact, if any, on Wells and our stakeholders and develop a position once issued.

Navigation and Channel

The Port was inspected by Trinity House and passed its annual inspection on buoyage and also passed its annual audit.

A new East End Bar buoy was purchased at a cost of £9,000.

The Bar End West buoy was moved by the Frank-T approximately 100 metres east due to the channel shift.

The last three remaining red beacons in the area of Ben Taylors were replaced with red can buoys.

Trinity House approved the trial of the East and West end bar buoys to become permanent in March 2012.

The Commissioners approved the replacement of the leading buoy with a new West Cardinal buoy.

Port Safety

Health and safety inspections have been regularly undertaken and all H&S issues have been addressed.

Public Relations

The Harbour Master and his team successfully organised the flotilla on behalf of the Wells Street Party for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which took place on 2 June 2012 and also lit a beacon on 4 June 2012.

Harbour Master Robert Smith was interviewed for a film on global energy that aims to humanise the issues facing the energy sector. The film makers chose Wells and Sheringham Shoal as the UK is at the forefront of offshore wind energy.

The Port of Wells also featured in the BBC's documentary Inside Out in December 2012. The documentary covered the business opportunities created from the Sheringham Shoal wind farm.

During the year, the Harbour Master gave a presentation to the BPA Committee and members on developments at the Port of Wells in relation to the renewables industry. In addition representatives from other Ports, such as Ilfracombe, the Isle of Man and Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, have made enquiries or have visited Wells to gather advice and information on how the Port of Wells has accommodated the renewables sector. WHC support this collaboration.

This year will mark 350 years of WHC. A Harbour day will take place on 18 August 2013.

Wells Harbour Maritime Trust (WHMT)

The WHMT funded 21 young people in sailing courses during 2012. In August 2012, 19 students from Alderman Peel High School enjoyed a weekend of sailing, achieving their RYA stage 1. Tuition was provided from Oceanus and Norfolketc. In addition two other applicants received grants for RYA stage 2 and 3 courses. Funding was also provided for a PST sea survival course for a young person embarking on a fishing career.

Harbour Master Robert Smith held a talk on weather and tides in February 2012 in aid of the WHMT. The evening was attended by over 80 members of the public and raised over £240. A further talk was held in October 2012 by Dr Emily Shuckburgh, a renowned climate scientist, on the sea level rises, sea acidity and climate change. With thanks to commissioner Andy Frary who kindly donated the sea food meal, the evening raised over £750.

WHMT would like to thank all supporters of the Trust for their kind donations during the course of the year.

Harbour Users Advisory Committee (HUAC)

Reports of the meetings of the HUAC can be found on this website. The reports confirm that the interests represented on HUAC are pleased with the way in which the Harbour Master and his team respond to the different requirements of each of these interests.

Outer Harbour Development

The Outer Harbour was very busy in 2012 with up to 20 vessels working daily out to the wind farm. All the vessels call Wells Harbour on VHF channel 12 before departure and on arrival at the leading buoy to gain clearance for transit. Sheringham Shoal construction was completed in Autumn 2012 and approximately four vessels supporting the O&M activity will work out of the Port in 2013.

The WHC responsibilities are many and a key one is to maintain Wells Harbour as a working Port, a WHC responsibility since 1663. WHC have therefore given their approval for the executive to promote the Port of Wells and the Outer Harbour to other wind farm developers in the region.

The Port dredger Kari Hege works approximately five days a week from number 13 buoy out to the entrance, maintaining the channel. Dredging notices are placed on the website to notify Harbour users of where the dredger is working.

WHC applied for retrospective planning permission for the lighting column at the Outer Harbour, which was erected on health and safety grounds. Permission was granted in August 2012.


Dams and Creeks Ton

Refurbishment of some of the dams, first erected in the 1700s, continued. These works have proven to be very beneficial in the tidal flow arriving approximately 15-20 mins earlier at the quayside on the flood and a lot greater ebb remaining in the quayside at low water. It has also helped with the scouring effect on the channel.

North Norfolk Renewables

North Norfolk Renewables was established as an alliance group to promote and encourage the renewable industry and ancillary business opportunities in North Norfolk. WHC are active members along with NNDC, District Cllr Tom Fitzpatrick and both Holkham and Walsingham estates. WHC supports the proposed local development order at Egmere for a renewables park.

Harbour Website

The website is regularly updated with news, navigation updates, reports of the meetings of the Harbour Commissioners and views of the public in the Visitors' Book. The website has proven to be very popular worldwide as can be seen from the comments on the visitors page.

Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC)

In March 2012, the Port Marine Safety Code was reviewed by the Chief Executive of Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners, who act as the designated person in a reciprocal arrangement. Independent assurance was provided to WHC, the Duty Holder, that the safety management system is working effectively and fully compliant with the PMSC.

Trust Port Briefing

Four commissioners attended a Trust Port Briefing in Ipswich in June 2012 held by the British Ports Association. The seminar covered a broad spectrum of Port policy, corporate governance and management issues.


Harbour Master Robert Smith was elected onto the council of the UKHMA unopposed, to represent small Ports in the East Coast region.


Harbour Master Robert Smith attended a meeting in London during May 2012 and presented on Renewables in Wells and continues to sit on the Small Ports Committee.

Staff Appraisals and Training

The WHC have undertaken regular appraisals of staff during the year. Some staff have attended training courses:

James Cowan, David Abbot and Robert Hull, the crew of the Kari Hege, attended and completed the Personal Survival Techniques (sea survival) course.

VHF Listening watch

A rota has been established to provide a listening watch between the hours of 7am to 10pm.

East End Store

A new steel building has been constructed on WHC land at the East End to store the Port's equipment, which has already proven to be a huge asset to the Port. CCTV has been installed to improve security in the area.

Boat store

The boat storage and lift out facility at the East End continues to be a great asset to the Port and to stakeholders. It is at full capacity in the winter season 2012.

Fishing Shed

North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) will transfer ownership of the fishing shed facility to WHC. Upon completion this will be leased to the Wells Fishermens Co-operative at a peppercorn rent. The facility in 2012 was used on a regular basis by the Port's fishermen for the sorting and storage of shellfish and also for storing their frozen bait. More importantly this facility gives the fishermen a base to conduct their businesses and provides them with a more saleable product.


The Albatros at present continues to be berthed at the main quay and proves to be very popular with visitors to the Port and town. As an historic ship operating as a licensed bar, cafe and bed and breakfast, the ship is regularly monitored by the Harbour Commissioners on the disposing of waste and is also regulated by NNDC environmental health. The vessel currently takes up space on the quayside which prevents the Harbour Master from accommodating working boats. Options are being considered to provide a new mooring location in the future for the vessel.

Ernest Tom Nethercoat

The ex-Wells lifeboat Ernest Tom Nethercoat has been restored and is now moored at Wells to promote the Rescue Wooden Boats Trust.

350 year Anniversary

2013 will represent the 350th year anniversary of the formation of the WHC. As part of the celebrations the Commissioners agreed to hold a Harbour Day in 2013 which will take place on the 18th August.

A commemorative book will be published and a special logo will appear on all documents and advertising material for the year.

Tourism Working Party

WHC has been asked to sit on the Tourism working party established by the Town Council.

Port Charges

Following another successful year, the Commissioners approved the proposal that some Port charges would not be increased in 2013. Visiting charges, car park fees, fishermen's moorings and dues and club fees will remain the same. Other fees, such as mooring fees, Harbour dues, winter store and use of Port vessels or equipment will be increased by 3%, which is less than the RPI. The charges levied by the Port of Wells for mooring fees and Harbour dues are very competitive compared to other harbours and Ports on the East Coast.

Strategy and Business Development Plan (SBDP)

The Executive and Commissioners have revised and updated the Strategy and Business Development Plan. The document can be found on this website on the WHC News and information page.

The SBDP will be a living document, to be updated at least annually taking into consideration the diverse needs and constantly evolving expectations of different stakeholder groups and changing priorities.

Stakeholders are invited to make suggestions or proposals on how WHC can benefit them via their representative on the Harbour Users Advisory Committee or can send comments direct to the Harbour Office via send us a message form, by e-mail or by writing to: WHC, Old Lifeboat House, West Quay, Wells next the Sea, Norfolk NR23 1AT.

Beach Patrol
Full house at the quay
Sunrise over the quay