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Unorthodox Crossings

As of the 2nd September 2009 the French authorities have changed the rules.
Unfortunately the new rules have not been fully clarified as of yet and we are still talking to them reference the implications.

We have been told all future application will have to be made on a bi-lingual, formal form that will need to be sent to the new office in Cherbourg. This office will then reply in writing once the application has been accessed.

However to date the new bi-lingual form is not available and the office in Cherburge has not allocated an address.
We will be verifying this situation during the winter months with a view to having everything sorted for next season.

Up until the 2nd September we could sort out the paperwork and register crossing attempts from within the CS&PF/ Seacraft framework. All crossing attempts had to be registered with the British and French authorities and escorted by a commercially certificated pilot boat and pilot that is registered with and recognised by them.
The French authorities usually insist on 1 escort boat for each vessels crossing. We have however negotiated for kayaks and canoes to travel in groups of 2 or 3 per escort boat providing they stay together.

The fee for a 1-way crossing by kayak - canoe or rowing has been around £1200 per escort boat and it's crew depending on exactly what the group want to do. (Go to Calais afterwards or return to Dover etc.)
The fee will however now be subject to the new regulations allowing any attempt applied for being allowed to take place.

Coastguards advisory information sheet for Unorthordox crossings
This artical is reproduced with permission of the MCA and is taken from their website --- www.mcga.gov.UK

Click on the link for direct access to the CNIS information page. Eneter "Unorthodox crossings" in the search panel.

The page is -- http://www.mcga.gov.uk ------ HM Coastguards / CNIS - Dover Strait unorthdox crossing information Unorthodox Crossing of the Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme
Please read the full artical on the MCGA web site to make sure you are aware of the latest updates
This artical is Copyright Maritime and Coastguard Agency General & is reproduced with their permission.

It was correct up untill the 2nd of September 2009 when the French Authorities announced they were changing the structure for crossing applications and permissions. (See explination above).

Coastguard information
In the past, many attempts have been made to cross the Dover Strait by unconventional means and/or in unorthodox craft.  It is true to say that few of these attempts have ended in tragedy and many have been made for the most laudable reasons.   Nevertheless anyone thinking of making such an attempt in the future should take into account the following factors before proceeding with their plans and perhaps incurring unnecessary expense.
The Dover Strait The Dover Strait is the busiest shipping lane in the world.  
Many of the ships passing through the Strait carry dangerous cargoes.  
These cargoes, if accidentally released into the sea, could have disastrous effects on the environment, marine life and the coastlines of England , France and the North Sea States.  The passage of ships through the Dover Strait is further complicated by the presence of strong tides, sandbanks, shoals and a great deal of concentrated cross-channel traffic.  Much of the crossing traffic is made up of high-speed ferries carrying as many as 2400 passengers. The very large vessels passing through the Strait can be difficult to manoeuvre.   They may take several miles to stop or turn.  
Some new container vessels are 318 metres long, 42 metres wide and service speed is 24 knots (28 mph).  
They have to commit themselves to a course of action long before they can see a swimmer or detect on radar his escort boat, a small rowing dinghy or any other small craft.
Weather conditions in the Strait are liable to rapid change.  Even in comparatively light winds, the strong tides can give rise to rough seas with steep breaking waves.   Visibility is often poor, changing quickly to dense fog, even in strong or gale-force winds, rendering navigation difficult.
Traffic Separation Scheme Recognising the dangers of navigation in the Dover Strait , a Traffic Separation Scheme, approved by the International Maritime Organisation, has been established.   Two lanes akin to motorways run through the Strait for inward and outward-bound traffic.  
The Rules for navigating in or near a Traffic Separation Scheme are internationally agreed.   The basic guidelines to be followed are set out in Rule 10 of the Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions)(Amendment) Regulations 1991.   Taking into account that the word ‘vessel’ includes every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.   Rules 10(c) and 10(j) of the Regulations are particularly relevant to any plans to cross the Strait in an unorthodox craft or by unconventional means.

Rule 10(c) first requires that a vessel shall so far as practicable avoid crossing traffic lanes or a Traffic Separation Scheme.  
Secondly, it requires that if a vessel is obliged to cross traffic lanes it should do so steering at right angles to the direction of traffic flow.  

Rule 10 (j) requires that a vessel of less than 20 metres in length or a sailing vessel shall not impede the safe passage of a power-driven vessel following a traffic lane.
National Laws
The National Laws of both France and the United Kingdom require compliance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.  In addition, according to French law, vessels are classified according to their characteristics, such as beach amusement craft, which in French waters are not allowed to sail more than 300 metres from the coast.  Moreover French Law makes it compulsory for organisers of any regattas, racing events, etc., to inform the French Administration in advance.

Unconventional Crossings of the Dover Strait in Unorthodox Craft.
Most of the unorthodox craft used in attempts to cross the Dover Strait are very small and have limited speed and ability to manoeuvre.  They are not adequate for deep-sea navigation in a heavy traffic area.  Their presence, or that of a group of them in the Dover Strait, will dangerously impede the vessels in the traffic lanes and may lead to a marine casualty.  

It is the view of the Anglo/French Safety of Navigation Group that such crossings are highly irresponsible, and that potential participants must be persuaded to look for a challenge elsewhere, in areas where they do not constitute a hazard to other people going about their lawful activities.

As clearly stated above the Maritime Prefect of the Channel and the North Sea has issued an order (No 14/93) expressly forbidding swimming and associated activity of an unorthodox nature within the Dover Strait Traffic Separation Scheme, within French territorial waters.  

The sole events excluded from the prohibition are those Cross Channel swimming attempts organised and approved by the Channel Swimming Association (CSA) and the Channel swimming & Piloting Federation (CS&PF).  

Unorthodox craft, which are characterised by slow speed and poor or non-existent manoeuvrability, such as tyres, bathtubs, rafts and pedalos, are not authorised to proceed more than 300 metres from the French coast.  As a consequence they do not have the right to sail in French territorial waters within the Pas de Calais Traffic Separation Scheme.  

The French Maritime Authorities prohibit crossings of the Pas de Calais by unorthodox craft setting out from the French coast.  The same applies to beach pleasure craft.  

However, in exceptional cases the French Maritime Authorities may grant authority for unorthodox craft to cross French territorial waters within the Traffic Separation Scheme when these craft set off from the British coast, on condition that the request for authorisation is sent to them with the opinion of the British Maritime Authorities.

If however, after the above advice you still intend to proceed with an unconventional crossing, for example by swimming in or under the water or in any craft, structure or floating object other than a vessel adapted or intended to be used for a sea voyage, you should:
Be aware that you could be faced with liability for damages if you contributed to an incident involving other persons or vessels, and should consider obtaining insurance cover against such events;
inform both Dover MRCC and CROSS Gris
Use an escort boat properly equipped to ensure the safety of your crossing and which complies with the Merchant Shipping (Small Work Boats and Pilot Boats) Regulations.

Contact Details
UK Coastguard The Maritime and Coastguard Agency HM Coastguard,
MRCC Dover Langdon Battery
Kent CT15 5NA
Telephone:01304 218500 Fax:01304 218505
e-mail: channel.navigation@mcga.gov.uk
Web site: http://www.mcga.gov.uk

French Coastguard
Centre Régional Opérational de Surveillance et de Sauvetage
(CROSS) Gris Nez
Audinghen 62179
Wissant FRANCE
Telephone:(00 33) 3 21 87 21 87 Fax:(00 33) 3 21 87 78 55

Recognised Channel Swimming Organisations

Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation (CS&PF)
Secretary: Michael Oram Tel: 01843 852858
e-mail: michael.oram@btinternet.com
Website: http://www.channelswimming.net

Channel Swimming Association (CSA) Secretary:
Julie Bradshaw e-mail:
Website: http://www.channelswimmingassociation.com

This document maintained by michael.oram@btinternet.com.
Material Copyright © 2000 Michael & Angela Oram