Bristol City CouncilBristol Harbour Authority

AINA Representative: Mr Richard Smith - General Manager

Harbour Office
Underfall Yard
Cumberland Road

Telephone: 0117 9031484
Fax: 0117 9031487


Constitutional status 

Bristol City Council is the Competent Harbour Authority, and the City Docks are managed by the Culture and Leisure Services Department.

Description of navigation

Access to the Harbour from the mouth of the River Avon, is via the Cumberland Basin lock and lies 10.5km up river. The entrance lock is on port side approximately 0.7km beyond the historic Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Access from inland is via Netham Lock and the Feeder Canal.

The Floating Harbour is open for navigation by day and by night. The Dock Master is on duty for tidal operations 3 hours before High Water and up to 1 hour after. Netham Lock at the far end of the Feeder Canal is closed at night.

Navigation is subject to the ‘Collision Regulations’ and byelaws made under the Bristol Docks Acts. The whole of the City Docks should be regarded as a ‘Narrow Channel’.

A brief history of the navigation

The history of the Port dates back to the 12th Century, the most significant milestones in the docks are:

  • the creation of the ‘Floating Harbour’ in 1803, under a design produced by William Jessop, which entailed diverting the course of the River Avon along a new channel, the New Cut and the impounding of water to provide a harbour which became unaffected by tides.
  • the transference of the port to the Bristol Corporation from the Bristol Docks Company in 1848, which in turn led into management by the Port of Bristol Authority (PBA).
  • in the 1970s, the docks were closed as a commercial working harbour and the city council took direct responsibility from the PBA.

Current situation and use

Bristol Harbour lies at the heart of one of Britain’s most beautiful and historic cities the Floating Harbour considered to be the jewel in the crown. Full of history and atmosphere, the harbourside has renewed its links with the sea and is currently being revitalised to become one of the most vibrant and exciting parts of the city.

Long and short-term moorings are available and these can be accessed either by sea at the western end or by the River Avon at the eastern end. There are berths for approximately 500 vessels of varying sizes and approximately 40 visitors’ berths located in the heart of the City.

The Bristol Harbour fulfils a strategic role in flood control and land drainage, whilst at the same time it remains a statutory port and harbour.

Plans for the future

The Major Aim

To continue to fulfil the city’s responsibilities in the provision and promotion of a dynamic environment within the whole of the Bristol Harbour Estate both on land and water accommodating a mix of leisure, residential, commercial and nautical use.

How we consult with our users

We communicate with our users through a number of well-established forums that represent particular interest groups These groups are essential to ensure that the standards maintained by the Bristol Harbour staff remain relevant and valued by the customers.

Navigation statistics

The maximum size of vessel, which can be accepted, is determined by conditions in the river and the dredged depth in the harbour.  The limiting dimensions are:

Length/area of waterway

Number of locks

2 locks(1 set of Tidal flood gates [stopgates])


Cumberland Basin Entrance Lock

Netham Lock


Between perpendiculars

(to be confirmed with Dock Master)

24.4 metres


14.9 metres

5.4 metres


5.5 metres

(may also be limited by under-keel clearance in the river)

1.8 metres


30 metres (masthead height [from waterline])

3.1 metres

Vessel Locking Schedule

Times before High Water



First Locking

Hrs     Mins

Hrs    Mins

2         50

2        35

Second Locking

1         40

1        25

Third Locking



Note 1:  This schedule operates when there is sufficient demand and providing it does not conflict with the requirements of other classes of vessel.

Note 2:  The lockgates may remain open for inward traffic, up to 30 minutes after the stated times, if the vessel has entered the river early enough to make the inward locking.

Note 3:  These times are subject to alteration by the Dock Master.

Stopgate Closures

Height of High water


From: Before High Water

Hrs     Mins

To: After High Water

Hrs     Mins


0        30

0         20


1        00

0         40


1        20

0         55


1        35

1         10

Note 1:   Tides of less than 9.6m predicted height may be subject to stopgate closure if the height of the tide is greater than predicted or if the harbour level is lower than usual.

Note 2:   Stopgate times are frequently half-an-hour earlier than anticipated. Departing vessels should present themselves in Junction Lock one hour before the stated times.

Swingbridge Restrictions

The Cumberland Basin bridges are not swung at the following times:

Mondays to Fridays (except public holidays)     08.00 - 09.00         17.00 - 18.00

15 minutes either side of this, road traffic has priority on all bridges.

Bridges Over The Floating Harbour: Clearance at Normal Level





Plimsoll Bridge

5.8 metres


Available to book hourly.  See Local Notice to Mariners.

Junction Lock Bridge

2.5 metres


Prince Street Bridge

2.2 metres


Guinea Street Bridge

2.7 metres


Redcliffe Bridge

(do not use East and West arches)

3.6 metres


To be prearranged.

Peros Bridge

Centre pan, East and West pan

3.3 metres


Boating statistics

12 month period - 1st May 2007 to 30 April 2008

Boat Type







Privately owned


Hire – day boats

Hire – overnight stay/timeshare

Hire – trip boat/ restaurant/passenger


Hire – hotel

Other business/charity boats

Requirements for boating

Boat Safety Scheme


Third Party Insurance