Entering and leaving Cardiff Harbour

Entering Cardiff Harbour

When approaching Cardiff you should use the following publications:

  • Admiralty Charts 1182 and 1176 (also contained in the Bristol Channel Admiralty Leisure Folio).
  • Admiralty Sailing Directions – West Coasts of England and Wales Pilot.


Please note that information may be subject to change and mariners should use all available navigation aids when at sea.

It is important to keep a proper look out for vessels approaching or leaving Cardiff Docks, as they are constrained by their draft.

You should also maintain a listening watch on VHF Channel 68 South Wales Radio (Associated British Ports, Cardiff) in this area.

When on your final approach to Cardiff Bay Outer Harbour, you should call Barrage Control on VHF Channel 18 to request a lock in. They will advise you of the next available lock and provide instructions regarding entry to the Outer Harbour and locks. However, occasionally it may be necessary to restrict access into the Outer Harbour.

Please see Barrage locking procedure for further details.

Approaching Cardiff Bay by day

  1. Approaching from the South, the RANIE Buoy (port hand lateral) marks the extremity of the rocks and sand spit off Lavernock Point.
  2. SOUTH CARDIFF Buoy (south cardinal) marks the southern extremity of the Cardiff Grounds.
  3. From a position between the two buoys, make a course for the OUTER WRACH Buoy (west cardinal).
  4. Follow the Wrach Channel and then the buoyed minor channel into Cardiff Bay Outer Harbour.

Approaching Cardiff Bay by night

  1. Approaching from the South, leave the Ranie Buoy (FL(2)R.5s) to port and South Cardiff (FLQ(6) + LFL.15s) to starboard.
  2. Steer a course for the Outer Wrach (FLQ (9) 15s). You will pick up the Sector Lights for the Wrach Channel (Oc 10s WRG).
  3. Once you have passed the Outer Wrach Buoy, look for the Sector Light bearing 298°T (Dir LFL. WRG. 5s) which indicates the minor channel to port.
  4. Follow the buoyed channel into Cardiff Bay Outer Harbour.


Note: Vessels coming from Kings Road (Avonmouth) are advised to enter the Wrach Channel from the South. Information on lights and signals.

For information about the traffic lights on the outer arm, please see Lights and signals

  Tidal access

Under normal circumstances, for vessels with a draught of under 2.0m, full tidal access is possible. However, occasions will arise when siltation within the Outer Harbour will reduce access. Relevant information can be obtained from Barrage Control if the need arises.

Occasionally, there may also be restrictions in locking, due to the lack of water flowing into Cardiff Bay down the rivers Taff and Ely. These restrictions, which can be imposed at short notice, are communicated on VHF, and are most likely at high water. If long term restrictions are likely, mariners will be advised in Local Notice To Mariners.

Outbound locks will run on the hour and at half past the hour. Inbound locks will run at quarter past and quarter to the hour.