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The work of the
Wells Harbour Commissioners 2013



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 2013. All these reports can be found on this website.

Annual Meetings

The Commissioners hold an annual public meeting to report on their work. In 2013 it was held on 21st May 2013. The date of the 2014 meeting is 20th May 2014.


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.


Bob Hull has been directly employed having previously worked as a contractor. Bob operates the Liebherr long reach excavator onboard the port's dredger Kari Hege.

One of the part-time skippers of the dredger Kari Hege, contractor James Cowan, has been replaced by Perry McCullough.


Harbour Staff

Matt Somerton handed in his notice in December 2013 to take up a new career in the RFA.

Harbour Commissioners

Jim Heasman retired at 31 December 2013 for personal reasons and work commitments. Joan Price, Pat Weston and Gary Anthony completed the third year of their first term. All agreed to continue for a second term.

New Commissioner Portfolios

Charlie Ward has been appointed the portfolio 'New Business Development'.

Joan Price has been appointed Vice Chairman.

New Commissioners

The early retirement of Jim Heasman created a vacancy which was advertised in October 2013.

The commissioners removed the 10-mile radius restriction for candidates in order to seek the most appropriate person for skills required and Rex Ashcroft, a semi-retired international tax strategist and business consultant has been appointed from 1st January 2014.

Beach Patrol

The beach patrol operated successfully for the third year employing four local young people, three returned from 2012. The patrol advises the public regarding safety matters, swimming, keeping off the berms & and buoys and assists with the public cut off by the tide.

Capital Expenditure

2013 completed

  • West Cardinal buoy replaced leading buoy
  • Replacement tractor and parallel loader
  • Concrete standing in front of Harbour Store

Planned for 2014

  • Repairs to outside of Harbour Office
  • Replacement vessel for Provider
  • Level & clear berths at visiting pontoons
  • Feasibility study for redesign of car park
  • Subject to feasibility study, replace slipway trolley

Future expenditure under consideration

  • Redesign and resurface car park
  • Replacement car park machines
  • New shower block
  • New visiting vessel pontoons
  • Concrete standing in harbour compound
  • Additional fencing for harbour compound
  • New quay jetty north of harbour office

The hoist and wash down facility project was put on hold as requirements went beyond the scope of the area designated.

Environment and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

  • Little Terns and other birds breeding in the harbour have been surveyed for a fourth year. See separate report
  • A survey of the Outer Harbour berm recorded 58 different plant species.
  • Following concerns over the siltation of the Blakeney mussel beds, WHC commissioned Royal Haskoning and HR Wallingford to investigate this and the conclusion was that there is no obvious mechanism by which the minor localized hydrodynamic changes in the dispersion of sediment associated with dredging activities in Wells could affect the mussel beds at Blakeney. It is highly unlikely that the reduction in quality of these mussel beds is in any way connected with the maintenance dredging at Wells. CEFAS reported to the MMO that in their opinion the volume of material likely to be re-suspended as a consequence of the dredging and disposal works at Wells is not of a significant magnitude in comparison to the volume mobilised by tides and especially during extraordinary events such as storm surges. In addition it was reported by CEFAS that considering that the Blakeney mussel beds are situated 9km east of the disposal sites, the net coastal sediment transport from east to west, and that only a relatively small volume of material will be added to the water column by the works, it is unlikely that siltation observed in mussel beds in Blakeney is caused by the Wells harbour dredging and disposal works. The siltation is more likely a response to the extraordinary weather conditions and more than average precipitation in 2010-2012 which lead to increased siltation of the channel and outer Harbour in Wells.
  • WHC provided comments to the MMO's draft 'Marine Plan' for the East Inshore which covers Flamborough Head to Felixstowe

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 West Cardinal buoy was purchased at a cost of £18K including deployment costs.


During 2013, Wells Town Council (WTC) approved dredging of the Outer channel recognising "its value in keeping the port open and viable for wind farm operations and other commercial vessels, through the utility of the Outer Harbour, noting the economic benefits within and around the town, including longer term job and career prospects for young people and families". WHC would like to thank Wells Town Councillor Mike Gates who set up an independent petition to support the dredging application which was signed by 1259 people in two weeks.

In July 2013, a new 3 year licence was granted from the MMO. The conditions placed in the licence are geared towards safety of navigation and recreational sailing as opposed to the functioning of the berm and whether the berm was working as anticipated in the original EIA. The MMO introduced the zoning of the channel as suggested by WHC. Licensable quantities have been reduced to 50,000 Te pa. WHC put in a variation to the licence to challenge the 1m CD limit condition following consultation with stakeholders to support a 1m OD berm height. This variation was granted.

Over £100K was spent by WHC on surveys, professional fees and MMO fees to obtain the licence which was incurred as a result of responding to objections raised during the application process.

Dams and Creeks

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 minutes 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.

By carrying out these works over the last couple of years it has replenished and protected the marsh and also in some areas has created new marsh.

New vessel

WHC acquired a second-hand hopper barge in latter part of 2013. Once serviced and refurbished the vessel will be used to assist in dredging and maintenance operations. The vessel has been named Tender-S in honour of Frank (Tender) Smith who was one of the longest serving Harbour Master at the Port of Wells.


Harbour Staff continue to maintain the Fore & Aft/swinging moorings within the harbour by lifting and checking the sinkers and chains and reorganising and realigning the moorings.

Port Safety

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

Public Relations

The port produced a book A Taste of Wells in celebration of the 350 year anniversary of the formation of Wells Harbour Commissioners. The book was officially launched on Friday 5th July 2013 at Wells Sailing Club. It is still for sale at the Harbour Office and local shops for £15. All profits from the sale of the book are being donated to the Wells Harbour Maritime Trust.

The Harbour Master and his team successfully organised Harbour Day, which took place on 18th August 2013.

The Harbour Master also gave an interview for Norwegian TV.

The Harbour Master was invited by Chris Wells of Novus Homes to carry out the topping out ceremony on the new building on the quay, with local County Councillor Marie Strong, as the developer felt that these two people were instrumental in helping the project come to fruition. This took place on 28th November 2013.

During the year, the Harbour Master gave up his free time to present and talk to many organisations around East Anglia and also in Essex. All fees were donated to the Wells Harbour Maritime Trust.

WHC lit the beacon for Christmas Tide.

Wells Harbour Maritime Trust (WHMT)

Sales from A Taste of Wells have generated to date over £2600. In addition Harbour Day made nearly £800 for the charity.

During 2013, the WHMT funded 31 young people in sailing courses. Funding was also provided to 4 people to take part in the voyage to/from Wells of the sailing barge Cambria which came to the port as part of the Harbour Day celebrations in collaboration with the Sea Change Sailing Trust. WHMT would also like to thank The Norfolk Boat for matching contributions enabling the students to take part in an experience of a lifetime.

The Sea Change Sailing Trust, Harbour Staff and the WHMT are keen to build on the success of the trip for future joint activities. WHMT would like to thank all supporters of the Trust for their kind donations during the course of the year.

Adrian Underwood retired as a trustee during 2013. Louise De Lisle, Harbour Administrator, was appointed as a trustee and secretary in replacement.

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 The Frank-T loading at Wells quay of these interests.

Outer Harbour

Following completion of the Sheringham Shoal, four vessels work from the Outer Harbour supporting O&M activity at 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.

The WHC responsibilities are many and a key one is to maintain Wells harbour as a working port, a WHC responsibility since 1663. WHC has therefore approved 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 per week, weather permitting, 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 on a weekly basis.

The Norwegian Parliamentary Secretariat visited the Outer Harbour in February 2013 to hear a presentation on the benefits created from the Sheringham Shoal wind farm to the local community and economy. The visit was part of a three day trip ending with talks with members of the UK Parliament in London. The Norwegian visitors were very taken not just with the Port but also with the town of Wells and the local area and they commented on the good relations that have been formed between the two countries.

Hitachi Zozen and delegates from the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo visited the Outer Harbour in June 2013, In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster which followed the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, Hitachi Zosen are looking more seriously at offshore energy and paid a visit to the Sheringham Shoal wind farm after visiting Hywind in Norway. The Japanese were very interested in hearing from Robert Smith how the Wind Farm and Outer Harbour had benefited the local community.

The East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) visited in October 2013 with a delegation from Kilkeel Harbour in Northern Ireland, where they are building a wind farm, to find out what benefits, jobs and business opportunities the Sheringham Shoal had brought to the local area. Robert was invited to Northern Ireland at their expense to present to the local community.


North Norfolk Renewables (NNR)

The Harbour Master continues to actively participate in meetings of the North Norfolk Renewables alliance group to promote and encourage the renewable industry and ancillary business opportunities in North Norfolk. WHC supports the proposed local development order at Egmere for a renewables park. A website was launched during the year at

Harbour Master, Robert Smith attended the EEEGR Sea of Opportunity conference on offshore energy in the East of England in March 2013. The stand organised by NNDC promoted the Local Development Order and NNR. WHC is disappointed in the decision that the Dudgeon Offshore Wind farm project will be based out of Great Yarmouth rather than Wells and will continue to promote the Port to other wind farm developers in the region. A joint investment prospectus has been produced in conjunction with NNDC to pitch the Port to investors, contractors and developers associated with offshore wind developments off the North Norfolk Coast.

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 we can see from the comments on our visitors page.


Harbour Master, Robert Smith, represents small ports in the East Coast region on the council of the UKHMA.


Harbour Master, Robert Smith, attended the AGM meeting in London during April 2013 and attended the Small Ports Committee meetings as a member.

Staff Appraisals and Training

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

Rhiannon Boyd-Stevenson and Sallyann Retchless successfully passed a VHF course.

Simon Blakeley and the dredging crew passed their First Aid at Sea courses.

Simon Blakeley, Matt Somerton and Mick Frary attended a meteorology course.

Simon Blakeley and Matt Somerton passed a Health & Safety in the workplace course.

Matt Somerton and Louise De Lisle passed their RYA Day Skipper theory.

WHC gave Simon Blakeley paid leave so he could attend a two week training course with the fire service to become a retained fireman at Wells.

VHF Listening watch

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

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 2013.

It is regretful that due to a boat owner's error a fire took place at the boat store during 2013. Strong North Easterly winds intensified the fire spreading it to other vessels. Three vessels were completely destroyed and three others have superficial damage. The Port would like to thank the services of the Fire Brigade who extinguished the fire once they were on the scene.

Fishing Shed

The transfer of ownership of the fishing shed from North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) to WHC completed in 2013. The facility is being leased to the Wells Fishermen's Cooperative at a peppercorn rent. The facility is 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. A sign has been erected on the front of the building.


The Albatros left the Port during May 2013 for an out of water survey in Maldon in Essex. The report showed the vessel to be sound and in a satisfactory condition and it subsequently returned to the Port.

The Albatros at present continues to be berthed at the main quay. 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 still being considered to provide a new mooring location in the future for the vessel.

Port Charges

The majority of 2014 Port charges were increased in line with the Retail Price Index. In order to promote the Outer Harbour to other commercial operators, the decision was taken not to increase berthing fees for the Outer Harbour. From 2014 WHC will charge for storage of trailers in the boat compound when not in use.

Town signs

The Harbour Master both suggested and worked on behalf of the Harbour Commissioners with WTC and Norfolk County Council to replace the Town signs on roads into Wells. WHC contributed 50% of the costs. These were erected in September 2013.

Visiting vessels

A record number of visiting vessels came to the Port in 2013, totalling 367 average nights stayed dropped after the introduction of the two-week maximum stay limit.

Full house at the quay
Beach Patrol
Sunset over the quay