Fowey Harbour Commission

Who we are and what we do?

Fowey Harbour Commissioners are the statutory Trust Port body set up initially in 1869 to promote and regulate trade in the Port of Fowey.

There is a long history of Fowey being an important and a principal trading port servicing the South West region of Britain and providing a significant trading link.

Today, Fowey provides a deep water harbour for the export of 750,000 tonnes of china clay annually in addition to providing a safe haven for in excess of 1500 resident pleasure craft and 7000 to 8000 visiting vessels.

The beautiful and largely unspoiled Fowey Harbour and estuary ranks in the top 40 UK harbours and the top cargo handling port in the South West region.

As a Trust port, Fowey is managed by an independent Board of Commissioners. Run on a commercial basis, regulated profits are reinvested in the Harbour for the benefit of all stakeholders. All revenues are derived from Port users.

The role of the authority can be split into two main functions they are:

  • Regulatory:- the control of harbour operations in a safe and efficient manner
  • Conservancy:- maintenance of the harbour to ensure that users do so safely and conveniently

Other statutory duties include implementing:

  • Port Emergency Plans
  • Waste Management Plans
  • Oil Contingency Plans
  • Environmental Management
  • Marine Safety Management System
Fowey Harbour Commissioners -  the Harbour Authority

A harbour authority is a body which has been given statutory powers or duties for the purpose of improving, maintaining or managing a harbour.  The actual body which is the harbour authority can take different forms. 

Some are local authorities, some are companies registered under the Companies Act 1985 and some are statutory companies (i.e. a company established by Act of Parliament).

Many harbour authorities are, however, of the type commonly known as “trust ports”, these are established by Acts of Parliament but are controlled, not by shareholders, but by a specially constituted body, sometimes known as Commissioners.

Fowey Harbour Commissioners are a Trust Port set up in 1869.  The present local act is the Fowey Harbour Order Act 1937 (confirmed 1960).  A Harbour Revision Orders of 1980 and 2001 gave additional powers.The later one reconstituted the board and its structure.

The Commissioners' Board comprises 9 apppointed members who serve a 3 year term. Each year, 3 positions are advertised for election to the board on a rotating schedule of appointments. Local councils have the power to appointment 3 of the board members. The Commissioners appoint the other 6 board members.

The Commissioners receive no remuneration for their services.

There is little difference between the duties of a trust board member and the member of a private board.  The basic principles of truth, integrity, honesty, loyalty and acting in a Vires manner hold good in addition to which there are obligations, responsibilities and statutory duties peculiar to the trust..  Commissioners are not appointed to represent interests but to manage the harbour independently for the benefit of all.In particular, they have act as completely independent trustees for the benefit of all stakeholders in the trust - including all port users and the local community - and will abide by the principles of good corporate governance set out in this guidance.

The trusts primary duty (and therefore that of a board member) shall be to take such steps as they consider necessary or expedient for the improvement, maintenance and management of the Fowey Harbour and the accommodation and facilities afforded or in connection with the Fowey Harbour with a recognition of the port’s role in the region
Further details can be found in the PDF files on this website. Any questions should be made to the Fowey Harbour Office as below. 

All of these duties are carried out in consultation with many other statutory bodies, stakeholders and interested parties including the Fowey Harbour Consultation Group, for full details see the consultation group website


Brief summary of Fowey Harbour Commissioners structure

A General Guide to the legislation relating to Harbour Authorities
1. This guide is intended to give an overview of the main sources of legislation
relating to harbour authorities. It does not attempt to cover every form of
statutory provision which may affect those engaged in the operation of ports
and harbours. Instead, this guide aims to highlight the main legislative
framework-which is particular to harbour authorities.
2. A harbour authority is a body which has been given statutory powers or duties
for the purpose of improving, maintaining or managing a harbour. The actual.
body which is the harbour authority can take different forms. Some are local
authorities, some are companies registered under the Companies Act 1985
and some are statutory companies (i.e. a company established by Act of
Parliament-lent). Many harbour authorities are, however, of the type
commonly known as “trust ports”, these are established by Acts of Parliament
but unlike authorities which are companies, are controlled not by
shareholders but by a specially constituted body, sometimes known as
commissioners. Fowey Harbour Commissioners are a Trust Port set up in
1869. The present local act is the Fowey Harbour Order Act 1937 (confirmed
1960). A Harbour Revision Order of 1980 gave additional powers.
3. With the exception of the British Waterways Board and Associated British
Ports authorities derive their basic statutory powers and dudes from local
legislation. Until 1964, this legislation was always in the form of a private Act
of Parliament (or in an order contained in, and confirmed by, an Act of
Parliament). The Harbours Act 1964 introduced a system whereby such
powers and duties can be conferred or varied by an order in the form of a
statutory instrument, made by the Secretary of State (or Minister of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) (see below).
4. Many harbour authorities were established by a private Act of Parliament,
often in the nineteenth century. In the case of a trust port, this Act would set
out the constitution (or membership) of the authority, and the method by
which members were to be appointed (for example, by election from amongst
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the users of the harbour, by a local authority or other local interests, by
central government, or a combination of these).
5. The "establishing" Act would also usually incorporate a large number of
provisions of the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847. The 1847
Act was passed by Parliament in order to save the promoters of local harbour
legislation from having to repeat, in that legislation, standard provisions
relating to the construction and/or operation of the harbour. The 1847 Act
deals, amongst other things, with -
the construction of the harbour
the setting and collection of rates (but see also now the Harbours Act
the appointment and functions of a harbour master
the regulation of activities and conduct at the harbour, including the power
to make byelaws.
6. One of the most important provisions of the 1847 Act is section 33. This
provides that, subject to the payment of rates (i.e. harbour dues) the harbour
“shall be open to all persons for the shipping and unshipping of goods, and
the embarking and landing of passengers". The importance of section 33 was
confirmed in the case of R. v. Dover Harbour Board ex parte Peter Gilder &
Sons [1995] 3 All ER 37 where the High Court held that that section
prevented the Dover Harbour Board from refusing to make the Port of Dover
available for those wishing to use it for the export of live animals.
7. In many cases a harbour authority's local legislation will consist of several
different Acts or Orders, passed or made over a considerable period of time.
8. Additional legislation may have been required, for example to authorise the
construction of new harbour works such as piers or jetties, to modernise the
powers to regulate the harbour or (more recently) to expand the range of
activities which the authority may carry on at, or in connection with, the
harbour. (The need to obtain statutory authorisation to construct a work below
high-water mark is discussed in the Guide to the Legal Aspects of Works
below High-water Mark).
9. These later pieces of legislation will often have repealed provisions in earlier
Acts or Orders relating to the harbour authority, either expressly or because a
later enactment is inconsistent with an earlier one. Care should, therefore, be
taken in examining a harbour authority's legislation to ensure that a provision
has not been repealed or amended by a later piece of legislation.
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10. Public general legislation, as its name implies, is legislation which is general,
as opposed to local, in its effects. The harbours Act 1964 is perhaps the
most important single piece of public general legislation affecting harbour
11. The 1964 Act modernised the system whereby harbour authorities may levy
charges or dues on those using the harbour. Prior to the Act, dues had been
specifically set by harbour authorities in Schedules contained in their local
legislation, which required updating as increases or adjustments became
necessary. The 1964 Act gave harbour authorities a general power to set
ship, passenger and goods dues (that is to say, dues in respect of ships
using the harbour, passengers embarking or disembarking at the harbour,
and goods entering, leaving or passing through the harbour by ship). The
1964 Act also empowers harbour authorities to levy combined charges (that
is to say, ship, passenger and goods dues and other charges which a
harbour authority may have power to levy, for example for services provided
at the harbour). A procedure is laid down by the Act for making objections to
ship, passenger and goods dues (see sections 26-39).
12. Section 48A of the 1964 act (which was added by the Transport and Works
Act 1992) required a harbour authority, in formulating or considering any
proposals relating to its functions under any enactment, to have regard to
various environmental matters including conservation, freedom of public
access to places of natural beauty and the availability of facilities for visiting
buildings, etc. of archaeological, architectural or historic interest.
13. It should be noted that certain environmental functions are conferred on
harbour authorities under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.)
Regulations 1994.
14. The 1964 Act also introduced two new forms of order-making procedure, so
as to reduce the need for a private Act of Parliament (i) where an existing
harbour authority requires an addition to its statutory powers and duties and
(ii) where it is desirable to create a new harbour authority to manage a
harbour. Orders of the first kind are called harbour revision orders and orders
of the second kind, harbour empowerment orders.
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15. Subject to what is said below a harbour revision order may be made for
achieving all or any of the objects specified in Schedule 2 to the 1964 Act.
Amongst these objects are the following -
reconstituting the authority or establishing another authority in place of the
existing one
varying or abolishing duties or powers of the authority contained in local
adding to or substituting such duties or powers
revising the jurisdictional limits of the authority
authorising the compulsory acquisition of land for the purposes of harbour
extinguishing or diverting footpaths or bridleways
conferring borrowing powers on the authority
closing part of the harbour or reducing the facilities available there.
16. Except in the case of partial closure or a reduction in facilities, the Secretary
of State or Minister is not able to make a harbour revision order unless he is
satisfied that it is “desirable in the interests of securing the improvement,
maintenance or management of the harbour in an efficient and economical
manner or of facilitating the efficient and economic transport of goods or
passengers by sea or in the interests of the recreational use of sea-going
ships” (section 14(2)(b)).
17. Most applications for harbour revision orders are made by the harbour
authority itself but it is possible for an application to be made by a body
appearing to the Secretary of State/Minister to have a substantial interest or
to be representative of persons appearing to him to have such an interest. In
certain circumstances the Secretary of State/Minister may himself make a
harbour revision order.
18. An order for the partial closure of a harbour, a reduction of facilities in the
harbour or the disposal of property no longer required for the purposes of the
harbour may be made if the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would be
desirable to do so, even though the requirements described In paragraph 16
above are not met. The complete closure of a harbour still requires a private
Act of Parliament.
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19. Harbour empowerment orders deal with the situation where there is no
harbour authority but it can be shown that it is desirable that one should be
established. The body in question might be a pre-existing body; alternatively,
the order may itself establish the body and make provision for its constitution.
The order may contain all such powers as are necessary to enable the
harbour authority to create/ operate/ regulate the relevant harbour facilities.
20. The procedure for both types of harbour order allows for objections to be
made to the proposed order and, if necessary, for a public inquiry to be held
into those objections, before the decision is taken whether to make the order.
The precise procedural requirements are set out in Schedule 3 to the 1964
21. The Docks and Harbours Act 1966 enables a harbour authority -
to provide, maintain and operate inland clearance depots, either alone or
jointly with another. (The consent of the Secretary of State/Minister is
required where the depot is not to be on harbour land)
to acquire by agreement any business or undertaking which consists wholly
or mainly of the carrying out of activities relating to harbours or the provision
etc. of an inland clearance depot
to subscribe for or acquire the securities of a body corporate which Is (or will
be) engaged in such activities or in providing etc. any such depot
to acquire by agreement any land wherever situated.
22. The 1966 Act also contains provisions widening the borrowing powers of
harbour authorities.
23. The Dangerous Vessels Act 1985 enables a harbour master to give directions
prohibiting the entry (or requiring the removal) of a vessel into (or from) the
harbour if he considers its nature, condition or contents are such that its
presence might involve grave and imminent danger to persons/property or
grave and imminent risk that the vessel may, by sinking or foundering,
prejudice the use of the harbour by other vessels.
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24. The Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987 control the
loading, unloading, storage and movement in a harbour of certain dangerous
substances (as defined in regulation 3). Harbour masters are given powers
to make directions regulating or prohibiting the presence etc. of such
substances in the harbour.
25. The Pilotage Act 1987 confers upon a harbour authority responsibility for
pilotage where the authorities harbour falls wholly or partly within an active
former pilotage district. For pilotage purposes such a harbour authority is
known as a "competent harbour authority" and, as such, has a duty to
consider whether there is a need for pilotage and, if so, to make the
necessary provision for supplying it. The authority must also determine
whether in the interests of safety pilotage should be compulsory.
26. The 1987 Act contains detailed provision for (amongst other things)
authorisation of pilots, pilotage directions (making pilotage compulsory),
exemption certificates, charges, agents and joint arrangements.
27. The Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 confers important
responsibilities on harbour authorities for the purpose of protecting ships and
harbour areas against acts of violence.
28. The Ports Act 1991 makes provision for a trust port to transfer its undertaking
to a specially formed company whose shares are then sold (under the
direction of the Secretary of State), thereby "privatising" the port or harbour in
question. A number of former trust ports. including Tees and Hartlepool,
Medway, Clyde and Forth, were privatised under the "voluntary" procedure
contained in the 1991 Act. That Act also contains a mechanism whereby the
Secretary of State can require a trust port to privatise itself, but it is not the
policy of the Government to have recourse to this mechanism.
29. Part VI of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and the regulations made under it
confer certain powers in a harbour master in connection with oil pollution from
ships. Under Part VI the Secretary of State has power to make orders
relating to the provision at ports and terminals of reception facilities for the
discharge from vessels of oil and other specified substances (section 128).
He may also make regulations requiring a harbour authority to prepare a
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waste management plan (Chapter 1A). The Merchant Shipping (Port Waste
Reception Facilities) Regulations 1997 have been made under this power.
29. By virtue of Part VIll of the 1995 Act a harbour authority is a local lighthouse
authority as respects its harbour. A harbour authority has power to carry out
harbour operations consisting of the marking or lighting of the whole or any
part of its harbour.
30. Local lighthouse authorities are subject to the general supervision of the
general lighthouse authority. In the case of England and Wales, this is Trinity
House; in the case of Scotland it is the Commissioners of Northern
Lighthouses. A general lighthouse authority is required (by section 198 of the
1995 Act) to inspect all lighthouses, buoys and beacons provided by a local
lighthouse authority. With the approval of the Secretary of State, a general
lighthouse authority may direct a local lighthouse authority to lay down buoys,
or remove or discontinue any lighthouse, buoy or beacon, or make alterations
to the operation etc. of any lighthouse, buoy or beacon (section 199). Similar
provision is also found in the local legislation of some harbour authorities as a
result of the Incorporation of sections 77 and 78 of the Harbours, Docks, and
Piers Clauses Act 1847 (see above).
31. The 1995 Act also contains powers for harbour authorities to deal with wrecks
in their harbours (section 252).
32. Please note that the list of statutory provisions in this Guide, whilst intended
to cover the most significant statutory provisions concerning harbour
authorities, is not exhaustive.
34. Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847 (10 and 11 Vict. c.27)
Harbours Act 1964 (c.40)
Docks and Harbours Act 1966 (c.28)
Dangerous Vessels Act 1985 (c.22)
Pilotage Act 1987 (c.21)
Dangerous Substances In Harbour Areas Regulations 1987 (S.I. 1987/37)
Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 (c. 3 1)
Ports Act 1991 (c-52)

As well as biographical information the Chief Executive's Office hold a register of interests which is a record of all Members of the Board formal declarations of interest.

Fowey Harbour
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