Skip to main content

Emergency Management

Emergency Response

The likelihood of an incident occurring can be mitigated through the process of formal risk assessment and the introduction of control measures. A Harbour Master will always try to ensure that all port users are able to go about their business, confident that the port environment is being managed with their safety to the fore. Even in the best-run ports, the Harbour Master may be faced with the unexpected. Marine accidents have the potential to cause considerable damage to people, property, the environment and the reputation of the port.

It is essential that comprehensive contingency plans are prepared and exercised for all likely scenarios. Emergency response plans should be developed and exercised in collaboration with emergency responders including police, fire, and ambulance, and with local authorities and environmental regulators. In some ports, Harbour Masters may provide emergency response services or the framework within which they can operate. Fire-fighting capacity may be organised on board patrol vessels or contracted by the port to a towage company.

The role of the Harbour Master in a major incident will depend on local arrangements. Initially, it may be the Harbour Masters' office that notifies other emergency services of an incident within the port. Throughout the incident, the Harbour Master contributes to the emergency response which may be led by another organisation and will continue to focus on the safety of navigation throughout the duration of the incident.

Place of Refuge – IHMA Position Statement

IHMA recognises that in some circumstances it is not possible to deal with a maritime casualty in the open sea and that in order to protect the safety of a ship’s crew, passengers, salvors, and to minimise a threat to the environment, a place of refuge may be required. A “place of refuge” is a place where a ship in need of assistance can take action to enable it to stabilise its condition, protect human life and the environment and reduce the hazards to navigation.

IHMA acknowledges the relevant legislation that is in place internationally and regionally, in particular, IMO Resolution A.949, Guidelines on Places of Refuge for ships in need of assistance; Resolution A.950 (23) and the 1989 Salvage Convention as well as the European Union vessel traffic monitoring and information system (Directive 2002/59/EC as amended by Directive 2009/17/EC).

In dealing with ships in distress, the requirement is to find them an area of sheltered water, which may not necessarily be a port, where the situation can be stabilised, the cargo made safe and the salvors and authorities can evaluate what further steps are necessary in a timely manner. Failure to offer a suitable place of refuge may prevent successful salvage intervention and therefore allow a casualty’s condition to worsen and ultimately lead to pollution that might otherwise have been prevented.

IHMA considers that the decision to grant access to a place of refuge can only be taken on a case-by-case basis. The decision must be based on a properly argued and evidenced technical case and include a comparison between the risks involved if the ship remains at sea and the risks that it would pose to the place of refuge and its environment. The case must include recommendations for managing and mitigating the risk of any impact on local coastlines and communities that may be exposed to the risks of pollution, fire or explosion. The process of assessing a place of refuge request should in all cases involve consultation between the statutory agency and all other interested parties including the port authority/corporations and other government health and safety and environmental agencies with responsibility for areas affected or likely to be affected.

IHMA calls for the prompt and proper implementation of international measures to provide a place of refuge for stricken vessels including better application of, and compliance with existing rules and guidance. IHMA would like to see each coastal state establish a single national decision-maker responsible for the management of responses to a maritime casualty, with intervention powers to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent, mitigate or eliminate a risk of significant pollution. Where a single national decision-maker is established, it is essential that ports and salvers are protected from prosecution that results directly from the decisions made by the single national decision maker.

The successful management of a maritime casualty depends on good communications and information sharing between all parties. Efforts to develop operational guidelines and improve co-operation between coastal states are supported. IHMA also supports the development of an internationally agreed Place of Refuge request template.

Local authorities and the harbour master act to enforce legislation for waste management and all applicable international and local legislation to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous waste. The financial implications of this enforcement should be considered as soon as the final destination of the casualty is being discussed. Ports which accommodate a casualty should be able to rely on prompt compensation in respect of costs and any damage arising from providing a place of refuge. As a general rule, if the place of refuge is a port, a security in favour of the port will be required to guarantee payment of all expenses which may be incurred in connection with its operations, such as: measures to safeguard the operation, port dues, pilotage, towage, mooring operations, miscellaneous expenses, etc. To this end, IHMA calls on coastal states to put in place a legal framework under which they could, in exceptional circumstances, compensate a port or other entity for costs and economic loss suffered as a result of providing a place of refuge.

IMO Guidelines on Places of Refuge

Resolution A.949(23) Guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance is intended for use when a ship is in need of assistance but the safety of life is not involved. Where the safety of life is involved, the provisions of the SAR Convention should continue to be followed.

The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide Member Governments, shipmasters, companies (particularly in connection with the ISM Code and procedures arising therefrom), and salvors with a framework enabling them to respond effectively and in such a way that, in any given situation, the efforts of the shipmaster and shipping company concerned and the efforts of the government authorities involved are complementary.  In particular, an attempt has been made to arrive at a common framework for assessing the situation of ships in need of assistance.

Accident Investigation

In many countries accidents above defined levels of seriousness involving vessels in territorial waters must be reported to a national agency and may subsequently be investigated by a national agency.  Where this does not apply, it is appropriate for the port authority to record and investigate accidents in compliance with national health and safety legislation.

It is important to establish the circumstances of the accident and actions taken and for these to be recorded so that any trends can be identified and the port authorities fulfil their responsibilities for the safety of their port personnel.  It is advisable that training is provided for personnel responsible for the investigation of serious accidents or incidents.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) provides information on EU maritime accidents and publishes an annual report

Latest News & Events

Winning a prestigious 2018 Governor of Victoria Export Award further cements OMC International’s reputation as an industry leader in under-keel clearance (UKC) management, Executive Director Dr Terry O’Brien AM said in a commuiqué issued on 17 September.

Dr O’Brien received the Business Services Award trophy from the Governor of the State of Victoria, Australia, the Hon Linda Dessau, at a reception at Government House on the night of 14  September.

The Port of Aden witnessed steady growth during the first half of this year, 2018, compared to the same period last year, and the handling rate is said to be the largest over the past ten years

Role of Harbour Master/ Port Operations Professional
Port Call Optimisation
Ship image
Vessel Traffic Services
dock image
Emergency Management

Become a Member

Join the world’s premier professional body for harbour masters and receive up-to-date information on the industry and access to the members' area of the website.

Become a sponsor

Become a sponsor of the IHMA today and reap the benefits for your business:

  • Worldwide exposure
  • Prominence on the IHMA website
  • Instant access to your services and products for your existing and potential customers
  • Access to the key decision makers on marine operations in Ports – the Harbour Master
  • The opportunity to showcase your services and products at an international congress every two years

Be a part of the future of a vibrant, respected, professional and influential maritime organisation...IHMA

Download EHMC's Newsletter

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, ex vix insolens oportere accusamus, mea nulla aliquip virtute id, et commodo debitis voluptua mel. Vel ut doming scaevola, habemus gloriatur elaboraret ei pro.

Download archived

EHMC newsletter

Our Sponsors

Latest Events


Thursday 27 - Friday 28 June 2019

How and with who will the ship of the future communicate?

This is the question that industry, ship owners and managers, ports, nautical service providers, university and research projects will seek to answer in this biennial EHMC seminar.  The day will include live demonstrations of industry products and a visit by boat within the Port of Gothenburg that will also take us around the harbour area.

The host: Port of Gothenburg

The Swedish shipping industry has recently been labelled a role model for the global shipping community because of the work being done to reduce emissions.  The Port of Gothenburg is not only Sweden's, but moreover Scandinavia's most important gateway for goods, cruise and passengers.  The hinterland includes three capital cities - Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm and almost 3o per cent of Swedish foreign trade passes through the port.

For further details please contact the EHMC Secretary,

Tanger Med

"Port Choice"

The 2017 seminar was a first in the history of our Committee, as it was held in the Moroccan port of Tanger Med. This was a consequence of the previous seminar in 2015, which was held in Marseille and where we reached out to our North African colleagues who are Harbour Masters, Port Captains and their deputies.

Tanger Med has built a leading hub port on the south shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. Beginning service in July 2007, the Tanger Med port is now operating amongst the world's leading ports.


Download includes
Programme en Francais Le program complèt du jeudi et vendredi 11 et 12 mai, séminaire EHMC, Tanger Med
Program in English - The full program for the Thursday and Friday 11 and 12 May 2017, EHMC seminar, Tanger Med




On the occasion of the 2015 seminar in Marseille, we reached out to our North African colleagues who are Harbour Masters, Port Captains and their deputies. 

Le séminaire biennale de l’ EHMC est un événement sur deux jours qui permet aux Commandants des port Européens de se rencontrer pour se connaitre et échanger sur des sujets d'intérêt commun.


Download includes
Group picture
Press article  ’L’accueil des géants préoccupe les commandants de port’ le Marin, l’hebdomadaire de l’économie maritime  12 juin 2015
Press article  ’Le gigantisme cause commune des commandants de ports européens’ l’Antenne, les transports au quotidien   29 mai 2015
Presentation; Grand Port Maritime de Marseille -’Improve weather forecasts, more accurate navigation positioning, use of tugs, information to masters, improve experience’ AMAURY DE MAUPEOU, Harbour Master Port de Marseille et Marseille Fos
Presentation; The container ship market in 2015 ’Ultra-large box vessels: scaling effects in the container trade’ JAN TIEDEMANN, senior analyst liner shipping and ports, Alphaliner
Presentation; Le Port Tanger Med ’L’accueil dans le port des grands Porte-Conteneurs’ Cdt. KHALID SAMIR, Harbour Master Tanger Med Port Authority
Presentation; pilotage Marseille Fos “Piloter les plus grands navires dans le port en toute sécurité avec deux pilotes et la mise en œuvre du PPU” Capitaine NICOLAS PETIT, Pilot Station de Marseille Fos
Presentation; Bigger container vessels; more P&I claims? ’Replies from; the ship’s side, statistics, lessons learned & port installations’ JEAN-FRANCOIS REBORA, Director France P&I
Presentation; IHMA Congress 2016 ’Theme; Port expansion, challenges and opportunities’ PAUL O’REGAN, IHMA congress papers committee Port of Cork
Presentation; Weather forecasts ’Improving weather and wind forecasts in ports’ PAUL HUTCHINSON Vaisala
Presentation; Weather forecasts Text version; ’Improving weather and wind forecasts in ports’ PAUL HUTCHINSON Vaisala
Presentation; The Mariner’s Handbook ’What is the maximum draught that can fit into the port?’ SUSIE ALDER, Product Manager UK Hydrographic Office
Participants Registrations until 21-5-2015
Full program EHMC seminar, in English The full program of the seminar, 28 May, and the technical visit on 29 May
Programme complète du séminaire EHMC, en Francais Le programme complète du séminaire le 28 mai et de la visite du port et cocktail le 29 mai
The Port of Marseille, in English Presentation brochure Marseille Fos; ’Global Port & Multi-Activities’




"Adapting to changes; ships using LNG as fuel, reporting through a Single Window"

Andreas Mai has hosted a triple E-event in which one day knew the EHMC seminar, a second day was dedicated to the Green Efforts project and a third day to an ESPO MAS meeting. The EHMC Seminar was about;

  • the Harbour Master and ships using LNG as fuel
    For LNG marine fuelling and bunkering there is without doubt a very fast growing interest; studies by class societies even show a parallel in the development of LNG as a fuel with the changeover to oil as a fuel some 100 years ago (see for documents under the heading 'LNG'). One may easily loose the overview these days of all developments, feasibility studies and political demands.
  • The implementation of the EU Reporting Directive in June 2015
    Same applies to the implementation of the reporting directive that can be viewed as a compulsory introduction of electronic communication in the European maritime world.


Download includes
LNG Infrastructure Development in European ports Mahinde Abeynaike, Bomin Linde LNG
LNG – marine fuel of the future? Mr. Markku Mylly – EMSA Director
LNG as a fuel for ships, Activities in the ports of Bremen Bjela König, Port Development Bremenports
WPCI LNG Working Group Bjela König, Port Development Bremenports
Simultaneous LNG bunkering and passenger operations Capt. Henrik Cars, Harbour Master Port of Stockholm
LNG–issues to be considered by Harbour Masters Jan Tellkamp - Det Norske Veritas
IT in ports -supporting business processes - since the ‘70s Andreas Mai
Directive on reporting formalities, implementation in Germany Uwe Kraft, deputy harbour master Bremen/Bremerhaven
Data collection and reporting esp. for smaller companies Peter Langbein, BSMD
EHMC Seminar program Please find here the full program for the EHMC seminar on 17 April 2013.
Participants EHMC Seminar The participants that registered for the EHMC seminar on 17 April so far.
EHMC seminar and Bremen events April 2013 Flyer with all information about the events, venues, hotel and travel. Digital version.



London, UK

"The Safe Port; information and education"

When and how can Harbour Masters consult the SafeSeaNet system? 

UK Certificate of Competency for Harbour Masters 

Bachelor and Master degree for ex-seafarers aiming at a higher university degree 

EHMC and the ESPO Maritime Affairs & Security Committee 

European Nautical Platform 

EHMC film on Safe Mooring “the Missing Link, improving the mooring process" 

IHMA Nautical Port Information Project 

How do we improve IHMA's professional standing, members' involvement and members' benefits 

This block is broken or missing. You may be missing content or you might need to enable the original module.

Download the IHMA Constitution

The IHMA constitution sets out the establishment of a region of the IHMA, the committee role and authority, its formation and management.

Latest News & Events

Governor of Victoria Export Award OMC’s real-time e-Nav DUKC® technology wins a Governor of Victoria Export Award

Winning a prestigious 2018 Governor of Victoria Export Award further… FIND OUT MORE


The Port of Aden witnessed steady growth during the first half of this year, 2018, compared to the same period last year, and the handling rate is said to be the largest over the past ten years


Latest News & Events

Winning a prestigious 2018 Governor of Victoria Export Award further cements OMC International’s reputation as an industry leader in under-keel clearance (UKC) management, Executive Director Dr Terry O’Brien AM said in a commuiqué issued on 17 September.

Dr O’Brien received the Business Services Award trophy from the Governor of the State of Victoria, Australia, the Hon Linda Dessau, at a reception at Government House on the night of 14  September.

The Port of Aden witnessed steady growth during the first half of this year, 2018, compared to the same period last year, and the handling rate is said to be the largest over the past ten years