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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

Latest News & Events


A stevedore suffered sickness and disorientation after handling cans containing fumigant while discharging cargo at No 3 Alexander berth in the Port of Liverpool from the general cargo vessel Thorco Angela*.

The circumstances of the incident are recorded in (United Kingdom) Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) preliminary assessment (PA) summary number 4/22: Thorco Angela published on 18 May 2022.

Ports emit roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet there is no widely accepted tool for measuring waterside GHG…

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Latest Events

Data-Led Emissions Management (D-LEMA) Monitoring Vessel Emissions in Ports

Ports emit roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet there is no widely accepted tool for measuring waterside GHG emissions. D-LEMA is a project that has successfully demonstrated a proof-of-concept digital solution for monitoring vessel emissions in port, allowing port managers to identify activities that contribute to high levels of GHG emissions. 

This webinar will discuss the D-LEMA project and how widely available vessel data was used to estimate emissions in ports. Participants will learn about the methodology used as well as the preliminary results from the project in a working UK port.

Thursday, May 26

2pm London / 8am Houston / 9pm Singapore

Presented by Graham Howe
Business Development Director, Operations Optimization, ION

Graham Howe has over 25 years of experience in global sales, specializing in maritime applications. He has worked extensively in the offshore wind and metocean sectors, bringing new technology solutions to market. Graham is currently focused on the international roll-out of the Marlin SmartPort solution, a user-friendly Port Management Information System designed to support the digitalization of port operations via reliable Cloud-based applications.

Delivered virtually
COP26 Maritime Event

In November 2021, the UK will host COP26, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Glasgow, Scotland.  Contracting parties to the Convention will meet to assess progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

Ports, like other forms of transport infrastructure, are potentially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly extreme weather.  If the sector is to be well-prepared to face these changes, urgent action is needed to adapt infrastructure and to improve the climate-resilience of both assets and operations. 

In order to help promote such action, Peel Ports Group, Scotland, will be hosting a workshop at the International Maritime Hub during COP26, in collaboration with the British Ports Association, the UK Major Ports Group, Maritime UK and City of Glasgow College. 

The workshop, titled ‘Practical climate change adaptation challenges and good practice solutions for ports’, will run across two half-day sessions on 2nd and 3rd November 2021 and aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and the sharing of good practice. 

The workshop will feature speakers from ports around the world including:

  • Captain Yoss Leclerc, Chief of Marine Operations, Port of Quebec, Canada; and
    President, International Harbour Masters’ Association;
  • Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & VTS, Transnet National Ports Authority, South Africa; and Vice-President, International Harbour Masters’ Association; 
  • Captain Karuppiah Subramaniam, General Manager of Port Klang Authority, Malaysia; and President, International Association of Ports and Harbours; and Chair of the IHMA 2022 Congress 

Please use the following link to register your interest in attending this free event:

For more information, please see the attached detailed programme.

Hilton Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
IHMA Congress 2022
IHMA Congress 2022

From 1 April 2022, Malaysia's international borders reopened! So it’s all systems go for the 13th International Harbour Masters’ Congress at the Hilton, Kuala Lumpur from 27 to 30 June 2022.

Watch Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin list the steps required for international travellers to visit Malaysia.

The first speakers have been announced and the preliminary agenda will be released shortly. Make sure you register now to get the early bird rate which expires 22 April 2022.

Visit the dedicated Congress website for full details of the event including special Congress accommodation rates at the Hilton KL.

On behalf of the IHMA President, Executive Committee and members of Council, we look forward to seeing you in Malaysia.

Delivered virtually
Online Workshop Sponsored by:  PIANC and Navigating a Changing Climate 14 and 15 September 2021

Working with Nature for Climate-Resilient
Ports and Waterways

Online Workshop Sponsored by:
PIANC and Navigating a Changing Climate

14 and 15 September 2021

PIANC’s Environment Commission (EnviCom) and the Navigating a Changing Climate partners are collaborating to run a workshop entitled Working with Nature for Climate-Resilient Ports and Waterways.  This workshop builds on a 2021 workshop run by Navigating a Changing Climate with SedNet ( focused on sediment management and climate change.  

Two sessions are planned on consecutive days, each 2 hours long, allowing for keynote presentations, case studies, and facilitated round-table discussions. 

The workshop Working with Nature for Climate-Resilient Ports and Waterways is designed to facilitate knowledge exchange, disseminate good practice, highlight opportunities, and identify gaps in understanding or research needs in relation to the following sessions: 

  1. Session 1: 14th September.  Scaling Up and Changing Entrenched Current Practices
    • Transitioning nature-based solutions to full-scale
    • Persuading those who prefer business as usual to explore nature-based alternatives
  2. Session 2: 15th September.  Making a Business Case and Securing Finance
    • Preparing the case for investment in nature-based solutions
    • Facilitating public and private sector funding for nature-based solutions

For more information and to register, please reach out to Victor Magar ( and copy to Kate Panayotou ( and

The email title line should be marked with “PIANC‑NavClimate Working with Nature Workshop.” 

PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure, provides the global waterborne transport community with expert guidance, recommendations, and technical advice (  Navigating a Changing Climate is a PIANC-led Global Climate Action initiative under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Find out more at

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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

Fumigant poisoning  mv Thorco Angela Berthed Liverpool October 2021 Fumigant poisoning


A stevedore suffered sickness and… FIND OUT MORE

Data-Led Emissions Management (D-LEMA) Monitoring Vessel Emissions in Ports Data-Led Emissions Management (D-LEMA) Monitoring Vessel Emissions in Ports Webinar 26 May 2022

Ports emit roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet there is no widely accepted tool for measuring waterside GHG emissions. D-LEMA is a project that has successfully demonstrated a… FIND OUT MORE

Latest News & Events


A stevedore suffered sickness and disorientation after handling cans containing fumigant while discharging cargo at No 3 Alexander berth in the Port of Liverpool from the general cargo vessel Thorco Angela*.

The circumstances of the incident are recorded in (United Kingdom) Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) preliminary assessment (PA) summary number 4/22: Thorco Angela published on 18 May 2022.

Ports emit roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet there is no widely accepted tool for measuring waterside GHG…