Pilotage Act 1987 (sections 7 & 8)

The Neath Port Authority (“NPA”) in exercise of powers as a Competent Harbour Authority under the provisions of the Pilotage Act 1987 (“the Act”), and having carried out consultations required by the Act, give the following pilotage directions to ships to be navigated in the Neath port area.

These Directions shall come into force on the first day of January 2022 and thereby replace all previous Directions for the above-mentioned Port within the Authority Pilotage Area.

These Pilotage Directions will apply to vessels bound to or from the Statutory Harbour Limits of the port of Neath.



The waters of the Bristol Channel bounded seawards by a straight line drawn from the lighthouse at Hartland Point to the Southern Lighthouse on Lundy Island and thence through Caldy Island Lighthouse to the mainland, Vessels can proceed without Pilot to the designated Pilot boarding area within the limits of the Neath Port Authority.

The Harbour is formed by the NW and SE banks of the river Neath, from its entrance at Baglan Bay, (51’ 36. 90N – 003’ 50. 80W) to Neath Abbey wharves (51’ 38. 98N – 003’ 50. 31W) at Skewen, 2 ½ miles NNE.
Wharves consisting of several river berths lie at intervals along both banks of the river.
Briton ferry, a suburb of Neath, 1 mile inside the river entrance has a disused dock (Brunel dock) and outer basin.


From a position SE of Mumbles Head (51’ 34. 01N – 003’ 58. 27W), Vessels bound for the Port of Neath should pass between Outer Green Grounds and Green Grounds, clear of the two light buoys (special) marking diffusers at the seaward end of an outfall extending SSW from E end of Swansea Docks: or alternatively, S and E of the Outer Green Grounds, passing SE of the Grounds LIGHT BUOY (East cardinal) (51’ 32. 78N – 003’ 53. 40W). The track then generally leads North to the pilot boarding position (51’ 35. 00N – 003’ 53. 00W) and the entrance of the channel, 
passing W of the wreck of Cabenda, Marked on its SE side by Cabenda light buoy (South Cardinal).

The entrance to the channel formed by the outlet of the River Neath lies 1 ½ miles SW of Witford point (51’ 36. 77N – 003’ 50. 79W) and it marked by two light buoys (port & starboard hand). The channel leads NE and lies between two rock training walls 76 m apart, that dry from 2 to 5m. The SE training wall is marked by three light beacons (starboard hand-green masts), at 5 cable intervals, the outer light being situated 5 cables within its outer end. Unlit green posts stand on the training wall between the lights. The NW training wall, the inner part of which is marked by three light beacons (port hand-red masts), extends seaward to within 2 cables of the light buoys marking the entrance channel.

From the inner end of the SE training wall a low slag embankment, marked by light beacons (starboard hand), continues ENE to the S entrance to Briton Ferry Outer Basin (dries) and forms the SE side of the channel.

There are two further light beacons at the Briton Ferry Shipping services wharf (51’ 38. 23N – 003’ 49. 93W), on the E bank about 2 cables N of the River Neath Road Bridge.


The entrance channel is dredged to 2.0m above chart datum (1998). The Harbour Master should be consulted for the latest depth information. Depths shallower than chart datum have been found at the entrance to the channel during survey (2022).

Berthing is determined by height of tide. There is a least depth of 7.1m MHWS, and 4m at MHWN in the channel as far as Briton Ferry Outer Basin.

Depths in the river are less than those of the channel by the following amounts:

  • Neath Abbey Wharves, 2.1 m less.
  • Briton Ferry Shipping Services (Giants Wharf), 1.5 m less.

In the entrance channel SW winds tend to increase the depths and NE winds tend to decrease them.


M4 Road Bridge (51’ 37. 81N – 003’ 49. 92W) spans the river 2 cables above Briton Ferry Outer Basin: it has a vertical clearance of 29 m and a width of 61 m below the central span. Lights are exhibited from the west pier.
River Neath Road Bridge (51’ 37. 94N – 003’ 49. 90W) spans the river close upstream of the M4 bridge: it has a vertical clearance of 26m over a width of 61 m below the central span. Lights are exhibited from the centre of the central span, on both sides of the bridge, to assist vessels passing under the bridge.


“Harbour Towage ” for the purpose of these directions shall mean the assistance provided under standard UK harbour towage terms, to vessels by competent harbour authority(CHA) approved tugs while manoeuvring, docking, undocking or transiting within the CHA or approaches.


3.1.1   Pilotage in the Neath Port CHA Area is compulsory for the following   vessels:

    I. All vessels or tows1 of over 22.00 metres length overall.

    II. All vessels or tows1 of over 22.00 metres length overall carrying:

        a) Dangerous or noxious liquid substances in bulk2
        b) Twelve or more passengers.
        c) Explosives.

    III. All vessels that are engaging with the assistance of “tugs”


Where it is considered necessary the CHA may require vessels to utilise the services of a second pilot.


Deviation from these Directions, in special circumstances such as force of weather, may be allowed but only following a risk assessment of the intended deviation by the Harbour Master  or an appropriate person who has delegated Harbour Master powers.


9.1    These Directions shall come into operation on 1st January 2021.

9.2    These Directions supersede the previous Directions.

9.3    Bona fide deck officers with sufficiently high level of skill, experience, local knowledge and standing within the ships on-board command structure of all vessels subject to compulsory pilotage may apply for and be issued with an appropriate class of Pilotage Exemption Certificate (PEC).

Capt. J. M. Voisey
Harbour Master

Woodfield House, Castle Walk, Neath, SA11 3LN


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