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Port of London boat crew launch safety initiative for Tideway rowing coaches

A canny idea thought up by a Port of London Authority (PLA) boat crew is helping rowing coaches and their students stay safe on the Thames.

Marine river inspector Tony Handley and deckhand Nathan Dare, who patrol the river between Putney and Teddington in west London on board harbour service launch Chelsea, came up with the SKILLS initiative, a handy leaflet and poster campaign which provides key safety advice and reminders about must-haves for those overseeing sporting activity.

The PLA oversees safety of navigation on the tidal Thames and, as part of its 20-year Thames Vision, is encouraging more people to take part in sport and recreation.

Nathan said: “Tony and I came up with SKILLS shortly after another initiative was launched by the PLA. We used the experience of the most common problems we encounter when talking to rowing coaches on the Tideway and applied them. We think SKILLS is a good idea and are chuffed about the positive feedback from rowing clubs we’ve already had about the initiative.”

Each letter of SKILLS refers to an element of essential safety and/or required equipment, including:

S = Steers-Accredited: Anyone in charge of a rowing boat must have completed a steering and navigation test to prove they understand the unique rules contained within the tidal Thames’ Code of Practice and can act safely on the water.

K = Kill Cord: Coaches in a launch MUST always use a kill cord attached to the engine. It has one purpose, to kill the engine if the driver is somehow moved away from the controls. Failure to wear one puts both the coach and others at risk.

I = ID Code: All rowing and coaching boats on the Thames Tideway must display a six-figure ID number.

L = Lifejackets: Launch drivers (coxes, coaches and umpires) must wear a correctly fitted and well-maintained lifejacket at all times while afloat.

L = Lights: Lights are to be displayed at all times of restricted visibility and at night time or early morning.

S = Size: Coaches need always be mindful of the size of the group they are managing and the wash (water disturbed by a moving boat) created by boats being used.

The SKILLS posters and leaflets have been delivered to around 50 rowing clubs on the tidal Thames.

PLA harbour master (upper) Mark Towens said: “It’s a great idea by Tony and Nathan. I am particularly pleased because it highlights key skills required for coaching and was developed at grass-roots level by a crew who identified an issue and addressed it in a simple but effective way.”

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