Yachtsman fined after 1,300-tonne dredger aborts entry to Littlehampton Harbour to avoid collision

The Arco Dee entering Littlehampton Harbour in August 2019. Picture: Littlehampton Harbour Board Q-tBYrQZf8a7oZETeYUh
The Arco Dee entering Littlehampton Harbour in August 2019. Picture: Littlehampton Harbour Board Q-tBYrQZf8a7oZETeYUh

An impatient yachtsman who forced a 1,300-tonne dredger to swerve out of his way has been fined by the courts.

On August 3, the Arco Dee was entering Littlehampton Harbour when a 21ft sailing yacht overtook it, ignoring all warnings.

On February 7, at Worthing Magistrates’ Court, the yachtsman was fined £300 and must pay a £30 victim surcharge and £500 costs after being found guilty of not listening to the port’s designated VHF radio channel and subsequently impeding the passage of a large commercial vessel, the harbour board said.

The prosecution came from Littlehampton Harbour Board. Harbour master Billy Johnson ‘hoped this successful prosecution will serve as a deterrent to future potential offenders’.

After dredging 1,200 tonnes of sand from the seabed off the Littlehampton coast, the harbour was closed at 2pm to allow the 68-metre-long, 14-metre-wide vessel to enter safely.

Initially, the yacht seemed to be waiting like several others – but then made a last-minute decision to enter ahead of the dredger.

Attempts were made to contact the yacht by radio, and the Arco Dee sounded its horn ten times, but the yacht did not change course, the harbour board said.

As the dredger was closing in on the yacht and could not slow down without losing control, the captain had to abort the entry, making a hard turn to the left.

In the confusion, other yachts entered the harbour, delaying things further. The dredger finally entered the harbour at 2.50pm, 35 minutes later than planned.

The harbour master urged the public to report all regulation breaches to them and reminded boat users that they must all carry VHF radios. “The evidence shows that mobile phones simply cannot be relied upon at sea as a sole method of communication,” he said.