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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

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Latest Events

QE2, Port Rashid, Dubai - Grand Foyer

Harbour Master & Towgae Conference

Hollywood Beach Marriott
Navtech Conference, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Navtech Conference 2023

Attention deep water and ocean towing masters, pilots, fleet management administrators, regulators and navigation operations professionals!

Join us in Fort Lauderdale for the maritime industry’s premier annual navigation forum!

Navtech, 5th and 6th December 2023, Hollywood Beach Marriott, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  • Learn about developments in navigational best practices, technology and regulation.

  • Engage with the regulatory and manufacturing sectors about your experiences, and your challenges.

  • Get access to the operations sector that actually uses navigation hardware and software.

IHMA Congress 2024

IHMA has chosen, ‘THE MARINE ADVENTURE - Evolving and adapting to change in today’s ports’ as the theme for the 14th International Harbour Masters’ Congress which will be hosted in Morocco by Tanger Med Port Authority from 21 to 24 May 2024.

The four-day Marine Adventure will dedicate an entire day to each part of the port call process: Arrival- In Port -Departure, followed by a tour of the port on the final day.

Introducing Tanger Med

Tanger Med is the 1st port in Africa and in the Mediterranean.

It’s a global logistics gateway located on the Strait of Gibraltar and connected to more than 180 ports worldwide with handling capacities of: 9 million containers, exports of 1 million new vehicles, transit of 7 million passengers and 700,000 trucks on an annual basis.

Cargoes handled


In 2021 7,173,870 TEU were handled in Tanger Med port complex, up by 24% compared to 2020. This traffic results from the steady increase of Tanger Med 2 port after the successive commissioning of the terminals TC4 in 2019 and TC3 in 2021.

This result confirms the leadership of Tanger Med in the Mediterranean and Africa, and consolidates the position of this major hub for global maritime alliances led respectively by Maersk Line, CMA CGM and Hapag Lloyd.


In 2021 101,054,713 tons of goods were handled for the first time in Tanger Med port complex, an increase of 25% compared to 2020. Indeed, the tonnage handled by Tanger Med port complex represents more than 50% of the overall tonnage handled by all Moroccan ports.


The port complex handled 407,459 trucks in 2021, a rise of 14% compared to 2020. This traffic was mainly driven by the resumption of industrial exports as well as by the good performance of the agricultural season and agro-industrial exports.


Regarding new vehicles 429,509 were handled at the two vehicle terminals of Tanger Med port in 2021, an increase of 20% compared to the previous year. The traffic included: 278,651 Renault vehicles including 250,532 for export. A rise in exports of PSA vehicles totalled 100,030 cars.

Liquid bulk

Liquid bulk traffic has increased by 9% compared to 2020. It recorded a total traffic of 8,744,900 tons of hydrocarbons handled.

Solid bulk

Solid bulk traffic recorded a total of 342,804 tons processed, an increase of 13% compared to 2020 driven by the traffic of steel coils, wind blades and grain.


Growing maritime traffic saw 10,902 vessels calling at Tanger Med in 2021, up by 12% from 2020. Over the past year, the port complex has welcomed nearly 929 mega-ships (over 290 metres loa).

The position of Tanger Med

This performance above accomplished during 2021 affirms the position of the port complex as a major strategic hub emphasising its role as a key logistics platform serving the nations logistic competitiveness.

Achievements are the result of the continued collaboration of all partners of Tanger Med port complex, particularly ship owners, concessionaires, local authorities and administrations.


Crown Towers, Perth, Australia

For 25 years AMPI has been recognised as the professional body for developing, setting and leading in the evolution of industry standards, safety management protocols and advising regulatory bodies on matters related to Marine Pilotage.

As a globally recognised organisation and partner of the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA), we directly contribute to the work of the International Maritime Organisation. With over 260 active pilot members, we have the experience and know-how to develop widely recognised industry guidelines including initial and continual pilotage training standards. AMPI continues to influence the development of world-leading practice and in doing so brings a higher level of safety to the ports and regions where our members operate.

Mayflower Park, Southampton, UK
SeaWork UK 2023


The 24th edition of Europe’s largest on-water commercial marine and workboat exhibition, is a proven platform to build business networks. Delivering an international audience of visitors supported by our trusted partners, Seawork is the meeting place for the commercial marine and workboat sector. 

Seawork encompasses 12,000m2 of undercover halls featuring 600 exhibitors and over 70 vessels and items of floating plant & equipment on the quayside and pontoons

Features include:

  • The European Commercial Marine Awards (ECMAs) and Innovations Showcase.
  • The Conference programme helps visitors to keep up to date with the latest challenges and emerging opportunities.
  • The Careers & Training Day on Thursday 15 June 2023 delivers a programme focused on careers in the commercial marine industry.
  • Speed@Seawork on Monday 12 June at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes offers a sector specific event for fast vessels operating at high speed for security interventions and Search & Rescue.

For more information and to register to attend see:

2023 Dates & Times
09:30 - 17:30 Tuesday 13 June 2023
09:30 - 17:30 Wednesday 14 June 2023
09:30 - 16:00 Thursday 15 June 2023

Exhibition Address
Mayflower Park
SO14 2AN, United Kingdom


Commercial Marine Sales Team:
Tel: +44 1329 825 335
  Exhibition Manager:  Fay Reeve
  Tel: +44 1329 825 335
  Press, PR & Social Media Team:
  Tel: +44 1329 825 335

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Harbour Master & Towage Conference

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports in cooperation with KOTUG.

Rear Admiral Iain Lower will succeed Captain Ian McNaught in February 2024 News alert from Trinity House

Rear Admiral Iain Lower will succeed Captain Ian McNaught in February 2024 as the head of the maritime organisation


Latest News & Events

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports…

Rear Admiral Iain Lower will succeed Captain Ian McNaught in February 2024 as the head of the maritime organisation