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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 rainwater harvesting system proposed by Ms Rabiah Nadir is helping Johor Port, Malaysia, save fresh water, minimize chances of flooding and contribute to global goals.

It is estimated that the scheme will save up to ten million litres of freshwater each year.

UNCTAD’s TrainForTRade programme

The system installed in 2020 was proposed by Rabiah Nadir in a case study she developed under the UNCTAD TrainForTrade port management programme.

On 3 December the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the above report which may have relevance to Members where fish farm service craft are operated in their ports’ waters.

At approximately 1315 on 3 April 2021, a deckhand on board the workboat Annie E was injured when he was struck by a grid buoy that had been lifted out of the water by the workboat’s forward crane at a fish farm off the Isle of Muck.

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Emergency Management

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Latest Events

port of algeciras spain

The European Harbour Masters’ Committee (EHMC) is delighted to announce that its 11th biennial seminar will be held at the Port of Algeciras, Spain from 4-5 May 2023.


The theme will be New Fuels.

Programme in brief

Over the two days the first day, 4 May 2023, will be devoted to seminar activities and presentations.  On the second day, 5 May, delegates will be invited to take part in a visit to the Port of Algeciras.

An interesting programme is in prospect. This event will provide the chance to meet others in the harbour master community and introductions here will be particularly valuable as EHMC now has some new members after a generation has retired, so much communication between delegates is anticipated.

To register

Although this is an event for European Harbour Masters, members in the 'aspiring' harbour master category are also welcome to attend. Registration can be done through the Eventbrite portal, the link to which will be circulated in the coming weeks.

An introduction to the Port of Algeciras

Algeciras Port is a strategic pathway located in the main maritime routes in the globe: north, south, east, west with zero deviation. A distribution platform for Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean sea, placed in the Strait of Gibraltar and surrounded by the natural shelter of the Algeciras Bay, leading the green transition in southern Europe.

Members not familiar with the Port of Algeciras are also invited to see here:

TT Club Webinar - Port and terminal risks: single person incidents

TT Club’s Loss Prevention team is pleased to invite readers to join a webinar  discussion on single person incidents including slips, trips and falls. ( )

Single person incidents make up 5% of TT’s port and terminal claims. This may seem like a small percentage, but it is the sixth most common claim seen and a single injury claim has the potential to be extremely costly.

According to TT’s claims data, 94% of bodily injury claims in the ports and terminals the Club insures are caused by operational human factors. This means that implementing procedures to reduce human error could drastically reduce these types of claims, which is what TT Club will be covering in its upcoming webinar.

During the session the following topics will be covered:

  • TT Club claims statistics
  • Identifying poor practices
  • Risk assessment
  • Incident prevention
  • Behaviours
  • Training

Guest speakers

Laurence Jones

Risk assessment director  TT Club

Laurence’s role in the TT Club covers advice and support in underwriting decisions and claims assessment, he works proactively with clients and industry to identify areas where risks may be reduced. Laurence is based in Sydney and travels to TT Club global offices and client sites on a regular basis. He is Deputy Chair of ICHCA International.

Richard Steele

Chief Executive Officer, ICHCA International

Richard is a safety and skills professional with a Masters in Training and Development who has been involved in the ports industry for 21 years. Prior to ports, Richard worked in the nuclear industry on safety and skills provision. Richard was the Learning and Development manager for Associated British Ports for 10 years and has led Port Skills and Safety for 11 years. He was appointed CEO of ICHCA in July 2021.

Mike Yarwood

Managing Director Loss Prevention, TT Club

Mike joined TT Club in 2010 as a Claims Executive providing advice to transport operator Members globally, having previously held operation management roles within the logistics industry for 13 years. Mike is a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Logistics and Transport, a Technical Specialist Member of the Institute of Risk Management and a Member of the Chartered Insurance Institute.


For further information and to register, readers are invited to see here:,7ZV8G,8TBRJW,WP8MU,1

mooring safety webinar

Hosted by IHMA sister organisation, The NauticaI Institute, this webinar will demonstrate and discuss essential safety messages for mooring safety addressing new equipment and modern vessels.

In June 2022 the popular mooring video ‘The Missing Link’ got a thorough update. Back in 2011, the European Harbour Masters’ Committee (EHMC) responded to concerns about knowledge gaps in the mooring process by commissioning a video titled “The Missing Link - improving the mooring processes”.  It appeared the mooring process had become the forgotten link in the nautical chain and consequently, content was developed by a number of organisations to address improvements in mooring safety.

Over the years thousands of copies of ‘The Missing Link’ videos were distributed worldwide and links to the videos have been accessible on the IHMA website for over a decade.  But as ships increased in size and mooring technology advanced, the original content of ‘The Missing Link’ became outdated. However, the issue is still of importance to Seafarers,  Harbour Masters and port users so the EHMC commissioned an update to the original video which is now complete.

The new series features seven short videos aimed at making the mooring process safer and more efficient for personnel and preventing damage to terminal equipment and vessels. Each video reflects current practices on:

Importance of safe mooring
Mooring plan
Mooring plan execution
Best practices during adverse conditions
How to maintain mooring lines (including maintaining records)
How to maintain mooring winches (including maintaining records)
How to select and install new mooring lines and tails

This webinar will be interactive, inviting feedback and questions from attendees. A certificate of participation is available to all those who attend.

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.

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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

UNCTAD port programme Graduate saves fresh water in Malaysia Harvesting rainwater

A rainwater harvesting system proposed by Ms Rabiah Nadir is helping Johor Port, Malaysia, save fresh water, minimize chances of flooding and… FIND OUT MORE

UK Marine accident investigation report Failure of a suspended buoy on workboat Annie E with one person injured UK Marine accident investigation report

On 3 December the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the above report which may have relevance to Members where fish farm service… FIND OUT MORE

Latest News & Events

A rainwater harvesting system proposed by Ms Rabiah Nadir is helping Johor Port, Malaysia, save fresh water, minimize chances of flooding and contribute to global goals.

It is estimated that the scheme will save up to ten million litres of freshwater each year.

UNCTAD’s TrainForTRade programme

The system installed in 2020 was proposed by Rabiah Nadir in a case study she developed under the UNCTAD TrainForTrade port management programme.

On 3 December the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) issued the above report which may have relevance to Members where fish farm service craft are operated in their ports’ waters.

At approximately 1315 on 3 April 2021, a deckhand on board the workboat Annie E was injured when he was struck by a grid buoy that had been lifted out of the water by the workboat’s forward crane at a fish farm off the Isle of Muck.