Point Waterfront Beachfront Zone

Purpose and background:

The Durban Point Waterfront Management Association (DPWMA) is a property owners association set up as a “not for gain” company and was created by the primary developer of the Point Waterfront area, the Durban Point Development Company (DPDC) to manage “public” areas, set up additional security and manage the canal systems on behalf of the property owners of the area.

The Point Watersports Club (PWC) is a non-profit organisation formed by the 2 water sports clubs operating on Vetch’s Beach zone consisting of the Durban Ski Boat Club and Durban Undersea Club. PWC will operate the beach zone under the guidelines as adopted by the DPWMA with the approval thereof by the EThekwini Municipality.

It is hereby noted that a third water sport club, namely The Point Yacht Club, also has a presence at Vetch’s beach and it’s beach and water side activities are also managed by this protocol.

The purpose of this document is to set out the beach operation, management and access protocol of the PWC to safely control the operational launch zone on the beach adjacent to the Point Waterfront development and promenade. The document will provide clear roles and responsibilities.

The operational zone will embrace the Vetch’s basin which is the beach and water area bordered by:

    • the beach base of north harbour breakwater,
    • the beach side of the promenade,
    • the beach base of Vetch’s reef
    • and the body water of water bordered by the extent Vetch’s reef to the “block” at the end
    • and a straight drawn southwards from the “block” to the north harbour breakwater

Attached as Annexure 1 is the plan depicting the zone on which this document will be applicable.

For over the past 50 years the Durban Ski Boat Club has managed the operational beach that forms the area from the base of Vetch’s pier to the North pier which was never designated as a primary swimming beach and hence there were rarely incidents between bathers and water craft.

This area now includes a bathing area on the northern side of the Vetch’s basin and along with the new promenade; there is an growth in swimming activity, increasing the possibilities of an incident between bathers and water craft.

In order to cater for the growth in demand of the Vetch’s basin, a flexible management approach is required.

Prime importance:

The beach must be available to the general public at all times, and their safety and security are paramount. Additionally, the beach must be managed in such a way to ensure that it remains an asset for the Waterfront and that the profile of those attracted is in line with the vision of the area.

Important operational considerations:

  • Safety and security are the prime drivers.
  • Safety conditions change continually – tides, good weather, time of day or night, storm conditions, currents, volumes of people, and good fishing conditions – more boats, wind, tidal rips, heavy shore break, available beach area, beach softness, beach sink holes post pumping, special events such as the DSBC Festival, Surf Ski Championships, International and local Yachting events influence how the beach must be managed.
  • Due to the easy public access to the Vetch’s basin, ensuring the physical security of all users of the area will be a critical factor.

Current activities:

  • With easier access, more non-residents and non-members are using the beach as day visitors. These are normally families that will sun and water bathe and have a picnic on the beach, setting up their beach umbrellas.
  • Due to the easy access and safe launch conditions, there is a steady growth in the number of Ski Boats and Jet Skis in the area.
  • Surf Anglers who enjoy fishing off the beach, especially at night now that other city piers are closed to them
  • More people walking their dogs.
  • Kite and wind surfers.
  • Large numbers of Surf Ski users.
  • Fishing Paddle Skis
  • Dive Charter Boats.
  • Learner Surfers.
  • Seine Netters using the Vetchs basin and area immediately adjacent to it.
  • Sardine Netting boats – limited occasionally to July month during the sardine-run.
  • Learner as well as Marine Aquarist Snorkelers.
  • Spear Fishermen
  • Small Business operators such as those hiring out paddle / jet skis.
  • More yachting activity.
  • Sand Pumping (non-recreational activity).
  • Competitive activities such as yachting, surf ski and ski boat competitions.

When combining all the above activities into a “mixing bowl” it may seem impossible for this to work, however it does due to the following factors:

The natural order of activity:

  • Ski boats and Jet Skis generally launch between first light and 07h00 and return haphazardly depending on weather and sea conditions until around 3pm.
  • The Yachts start their sailing activities generally around 11h00 depending on wind conditions and return about 14h00 to 17h00.
  • The day visitors normally arrive around 09h00 and, depending on the weather, normally leave around midday.
  • The dog walkers normally start very early and return around 10h00, however they can be found at any time of the day.
  • The Wind and Kite surfers are usually active in the mid afternoon when the wind is generally the strongest as they require a strong wind. They are normally the only users during these windy conditions.
  • Dive boat charters usually depart around 8am and return at two-hour intervals, depending on weather and sea conditions.
  • Paddle Ski Club anglers launch early and return mid-morning..
  • The Surf Ski users can be found at any time as they enjoy all conditions. Busier times are Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (16h00), and Saturday mornings around 07h00 where they are usually out of the water by 09h00.
  • The Seine Netters use early morning and are off the beach by 08h00.
  • See Annexure 1 which shows the current ACTIVITIES and indicates a fairly even spread throughout the day, with possible peaks between 05h00 and 08h00 and again between 13h00 and 17h00. Annexure 1 also indicates peak periods between 13h00 and 15h00. It further indicates a fairly busy period between 06h00 and 08h00 and again in the afternoons from 15h00 to 17h00. After 17h00 the activities would be mainly around beach walkers and within the clubs.
  • See Annexure 2, (estimates used), which indicates the RISKS at various times of the day, but also takes into consideration weather conditions.

Considerations

  • The scale of usage of the Vetchs basin will always be dependent on weather conditions
  • The PWC is best positioned to manage the beach due to the established control mechanisms currently in place to manage the majority of water sport users and, to a certain degree, even the general public.
  • The PWC, through its social membership base, understands the beach going public and is active in providing information and assistance in terms of dealing with tides, blue bottle stings, minor abrasions caused by reefs, etc.

The Principle Management Protocols:

Launch Access

  • To prevent congestion at the launch ramp and launch control areas ( see annexure 3 ), access control to the launch site and club parking is situated in Signal Road. The PWC access control staffs are to ensure that the launch ramp area under the promenade is not congested and that a free flow of launching and returning vehicles is possible at all times.
  • There are two launch assist options available to a person wanting to launch a water craft.
    • 1) Self-Launch where the water craft is launched using a private vehicle
    • 2) Tractor launch where the water craft is launched by a tow vehicle provided by PWC
  • Vehicles and trailers used for self-launch are to be parked on the beach.
  • Vehicles that are unable to self-launch water craft are to use available off beach parking
  • Trailers without vehicles are also to be parked on the beach
  • Only vehicles (4×4) for the purpose of launching a boat are allowed on the beach. Social driving on the beach is not allowed and this aspect will be controlled by the designated safety officer on weekend public and school holidays and by the PWC access control staff during the weekdays and quieter periods. The appropriate signage is erected in conjunction with existing city bylaws and SA law regarding launch sites
  • The Tractor Drivers are to be continually briefed on safety and to be managed. The tractors are properly maintained on a daily basis in terms of brakes, etc.
  • Launch site Demarcation: PWC to set up Launch Site Demarcation Signs at First Light every morning, thus separating the PWC launch area from the rest of the beach. Signage is to be erected to demarcate the respective areas. Beach users are required to respect these signs.
    All launch and return activities are to have their designated areas. These are spread over 180 metres as follows:
  • The Yachts are to launch and return in front of the PYC, (Point Yacht Club) premises to the north end of the clubhouse portion of the promenade with the northern limit being the designated bathing area.
  • The surf and fishing skis are to launch to the south of PYC and to the north of the designated motorised launch area
  • The motorised ski boats, jet skis and dive boats are to use the area north of the harbour breakwater to the point in line with the northern side of the launch access ramp through
  • The day visitors are to be restricted to the area just south of the base of Vetch’s pier within the designated bathing area with the southern boundary being the Yacht launch area.

PWC Tower:

The PWC Tower to be manned from First Light to 15H00 on weekends and public holidays in order to manage the launching and returning of boats. During peak periods, the Tower may be manned by two persons with a qualified Safety Officer on call.

  • The PWC is to provide a competent person to manage the launch site from the club tower over weekends and public holidays. They are to be provided with quality binoculars and communication systems – radios and telephones. The control tower is to be equipped with both a VHF and a 29MHz radio. They can be in touch with the NSRI in seconds and can despatch one of the PWC boats and / or the NSRI boat within minutes of any emergency situation. It should be noted that Point Water sports Club has a very close working / social relationship with the NSRI, which is critical in any emergency.
  • PWC are to have a safety officers on the beach on Saturdays and Sundays and they are responsible for ensuring that:
    • No craft launching before first light
    • the no-wake zone is enforced
    • Jet Skis are under control
    • Boats are flagged onto the beach
    • radios, safety equipment are checked
    • Bathing and pedestrians inside the designated launch area are controlled.
    • No bathing is permitted in the launch area whatsoever. The area is demarcated by boards on the beach.
    • Public are kept clear of the designated launch area – in particular to control children and dogs when passing through the area
  • All vessels launching need to sign the launch register before launching and on return so that a log can be kept of craft that have launched and have yet to return. This needs to be done accurately and legibly. The launch register is situated in the launch control and security room of the PWC
  • Communication: All Skippers are to be in radio communication with the Tower in order to obtain permission to Launch or return. Boats will be refused permission to launch if they do not have a working radio.
  • All motorised craft have to communicate, (radio in), when launching, (radio check), and before beaching in order to obtain permission to beach.
  • Night boat anglers are required to have the necessary qualifications to launch after dark. The vessel needs to be night rated as well as the skipper. A few night rated ski-boats launch and beach in the dark and special consideration is to be taken by the relevant DSBC members regarding the safety of other beach users when using the beach at night. Vetch’s Beach is a designated sheltered launch site and one of the few sites on the KZN Coast where ski-boats are permitted to launch and beach in the dark.
  • Craft entering the beach: During busy period such as a fishing competition, a dedicated “Flag Man”, (or two during peak periods), may be required to assist all craft when entering the beach from the sea. The Flag Man is to be in radio contact with the Tower. The Flag Man will be responsible to guide all craft safely onto the beach, using the flag system. Skippers are expected to confirm all instructions prior to entering the beach area.
  • On exceptionally busy days a second person can be deployed on the beach to flag in the boats and generally managing the public (spectators) that gathers around boats on their return.
  • On returning to the launch site, only once permission has been granted to enter the beach area, may a craft enter the beach area through Vetch’s Basin. They also have to observe a wake free zone from the end of Vetch’s reef to final approach to beach. The wake free speed is to be 3 knots maximum up till the beaching head.
  • There is a ‘no wake” zone around Vetch’s Reef. The “block” at the seaward east end of Vetchs, demarcates the start of the no wake zone, as well as the stacking area where craft are to wait and not venture beyond while the beach is being cleared of beached boats. Each craft to be given a stacking number, which is to be used to guide each craft, one at a time, onto the beach area.
  • Special attention is to be afforded by water craft skippers and beach control personnel when approaching the beach at speed as it is at this time that bathers, snorkelers and beach goers are at most risk.
  • If Vetch’s reef is busy with divers the tower is to continually remind motorised craft to be extra observant, as some divers swim between Vetch’s and North pier. Although this practice is against club rules, members of the public may not be aware of the dangers of doing so.
    • Motorised craft are not allowed with 50m of Vetchs reef.
    • Divers and swimmers are not allowed to cross from Vetchs reef to North pier (or visa versa) in the water as this will take them through the boat traffic.
    • Divers are not allowed to venture more than 50m away from Vetches reef and must carry a marker buoy so that they are visible to surface craft ( a brightly painted 2lt coke bottle on some string will do)
  • Surf ski paddlers should avoid as much as possible traversing north / south in the basin to avoid the launch site. Movements should be as much as possible east / west and only crossing the launch site access at the eastern end of Vetchs reef.
  • Seine Netters: Although not part of the PWSC, the conduct and management of the Seine Netters also falls within the scope of the beach protocol and they are required to adhere to accepted beach operational protocols agreed to by all parties concerned in this document.
  • This activity is viewed not only as subsistence fishing but also as a tourist attraction.
  • The PWC has a working relationship with the Seine Netters to help ensure that their activities are communicated to water craft users, especially when pulling nets, which creates a navigational hazard as the nets, at deployment, can extend up to 200 m into the ocean
  • Seine Netting is not permitted in the Vetch’s basin unless, in exceptional circumstances, it is authorised by the PWC safety officer or duty manager. While pulling the nets, a stretch of beach of not more than 50m is to be used.
  • Swimming Beach: Although this is primarily the responsibility of the Municipality, the Life guards are required to work hand in hand with PWSC with the set up and control of the bathing area and bathers according to the demands on the launch site and weather conditions. For instance, depending on the wind direction, there may be times when yachts may be forced to enter the bathing area while tacking.
  • The swimming beach is to be demarcated using appropriate flags provided by the municipality. There will be one swimming area located in front of the Lifeguard Tower on the promenade. Swimming beach is subject to the usual by-laws and controls implemented at other municipal beaches. However, it is specifically noted the any bathing area within the Vetchs basin will not have shark nets positioned within the basin due to the navigational hazard.
  • Co-operation between beach users (non-club members) and the clubs is the most important factor in ensuring the safety and efficiency of the beach operations.
  • In light of this need for co-operation with the public, the PWC is required to have a close, two way working relationship and communication channels with the Municipal Life guards and Beach Law Enforcement.
  • The Municipal Beach and Recreation Department, under whose jurisdiction the Lifeguards and Beach Law Enforcement operations fall, are party to the Beach Protocol and are committed to assisting the PWC and PYC with its application.
  • Policing: The municipality through its’ Metro police and Beach Law Enforcement units are to provide back up security and response to incidents on the beach. PWC will provide beachside security over busy periods to secure the vehicles and trailer parked on the beach.
  • Cleaning: Beach cleaning is currently under taken by the municipality.
  • Ablution Facilities: The club has its own ablutions to service its members and there are public facilities in the vicinity of the life guard tower and bathing beach area.

Conclusion:

The abovementioned protocol act as a guide for the ongoing management of the Vetches basin and beach. With active monitoring and continuous consultation between ETM, DPWMA and PWC this zone should become a primary tourist attraction of Durban, with a reputation for safe and integrated activities.