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Role of the Harbour Master

The Role of the Harbour Master

Ports can be busy places and, by the very nature of their business activities, may be hazardous places to work. The Harbour Master has a key role to play ensuring that people living and working in or close to the port, the port’s staff, customers or visitors to the port environment can go about their business safely. Harbour Masters must be familiar with all relevant safety, environmental and health laws at the international, national and local level.

Port Marine Operations

The safety of navigation for any vessel utilising the port and its approaches is the Harbour Master's primary concern. Harbour Masters regulate the manner in which vessels conduct their navigation in port. Most regulatory requirements are clearly set out in the form of port by-laws, general directions, Pilotage Directions etc and these clearly define what the “rules of the road” are in terms of safe navigation.

Ship Arrival

From initial information provided by the ship on draft, length overall and displacement, the Harbour Master will allocate a suitable berth and apply any restrictions he may feel necessary for the safe passage of that particular vessel in his port. Vessels arriving at a port will normally contact the port control or VTS station to receive instructions on the plan for their arrival and stay in the port. This exchange usually involves confirmation of the time the pilot will board and the berth to which the vessel is proceeding.

Harbour Masters normally designate a safe pilot-boarding area where the vessel boards her pilot who then subsequently communicates with the port authority shipping control office or VTS whilst proceeding towards the intended berth. If the vessel is exempt from pilotage, in compliance with port regulations, then clear instructions on the manner of entry and navigation will be given and the vessel will be asked to register and confirm its passage plan. The passage plan is the detailed and recorded confirmation of what the ship intends to do at every stage of its passage from the pilot station to finally arriving alongside. Any subsequent movement of the vessel, a berth shift, for example, will also be subject to passage planning.

The Harbour Master has a duty to inform vessels about any hazards or problems that may affect safe navigation, for example:

  • Any obstructions in channels or alongside berths
  • Limitations of tugs
  • Weather restrictions in the harbour or at berths
  • Any failure of any aids to navigation such as lights or buoys

Vessel Types

Ports handle a huge variety of ship types ranging from supertankers, through cruise and cargo ships, large container vessels, bulk carriers, warships, Ro-Ro vessels and ferries right down to smaller but no less important vessels such as fishing vessels and pleasure craft. Different types of vessel require different port facilities to enable then to be handled efficiently and safely. Part of the Harbour Master's role is to be fully conversant with the types of vessel that represent the port's main business and to have a thorough knowledge of their requirements whilst they are in port.

Ship's Stay in Port

The role of the Harbour Master in terminal and cargo operations will vary according to the governance of the port. The Harbour Master's advice is regularly sought during a ship’s stay by companies, organisations or government officials associated with such activities as fuel bunkering, tank cleaning and the delivery of stores, water and crew.

The Harbour Master has a role to play in determining the berthing of ships and the control of the front quay or ship-shore interface. This includes the removal or segregation of dangerous goods for a determined period on the terminal, the measures to be taken by stevedores and dockworkers to prevent safety or environmental irregularities and the accessibility to the ship-shore interface by unauthorised persons.

The success or otherwise of a ship's stay in a port will be measured by how the Master, crew and ultimately the operator/owner consider the port has met their operational requirements. Port operations must be carefully planned well in advance of the vessel's arrival alongside. There are many planning considerations for the Harbour Master but amongst the main ones are: a suitable and safe berth; provision of pilotage and tugs; confirmation of mooring resources such as linemen, line boats, mooring teams etc; liaison with stevedores on the ETA/ETD of the vessel to enable them to plan their resources for loading/discharge effectively; key loading/discharge plant and equipment availability and reliability; security requirements and liaison with statutory authorities where necessary. Another key element is a good relationship with the ship's agent who will have first-hand knowledge of the ship's requirements.

The Harbour Master’s expertise is also essential for the management of any incidents and in the timely implementation of response and emergency plans.


Port Management

In addition to the technical and statutory responsibilities of the role, today’s harbour master is increasingly involved in the day-to-day management of port operations. Increased involvement and greater responsibility for the commercial business of a port is a growing area of activity for many harbour masters.

Strategic Planning Process

If they are to remain competitive, ports must move with the times in response to global shifts in maritime trade. Strategic-level business plans must be developed. Harbour Masters may contribute to the development of a long-term master plan for the port.

Other Authorities in the Port

The Harbour Master may co-operate with a number of authorities including representatives of port state control, customs, veterinary agencies, health agencies, environmental agencies, local government and utilities.

Local Community

Ports, as with all businesses, are expected to engage with their stakeholders in an open, honest and transparent manner. Working in the port environment inevitably brings the Harbour Master into contact with the wider community. Although Harbour Masters may exercise jurisdiction over the water frontage or waterway of their port – a decision that may be determined by statute or regulation – they are also expected to consider the requirements or concerns of the community on the use of the port’s navigable area and its impact on the community.

It is not only commercial vessels that make use of a port. Recreational fisherman, diving clubs, rowing clubs, tour boat operators, visiting yachtsmen and power boat drivers, marina operators and many more must all be consulted. Conflict may arise between those pursuing different activities. The harbour master has an important role in engaging with interest groups, resolving such issues and ensuring the safety of all harbour users.

Leisure Use of Ports

Leisure activities may take many forms, including recreational boating (both power and sail), swimming, diving and organised aquatic events. The Harbour Master can mitigate the risks associated with large aquatic events through the application of safety management principles and risk assessment. However, private and irregular use of the port for recreation is difficult to monitor and control. Many ports and harbours now use their websites and social media to promulgate safety information to port users. The zoning of activities to separate, for example, swimmers from personal watercraft may be introduced. Prohibiting access to some areas may be required and will require local regulation. The focus should be on community engagement and finding a harmonious method for the co-existence of recreational activities. 

Latest News & Events

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the World Health Organization’s decision to name seafarers as one of the groups of transportation workers that should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination in instances of limited supplies. This was reported on 22 July.

Updated guidance for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap from the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) states: ‘Seafarers and air crews who work on vessels that carry goods and no passengers, with special attention to seafarers who are stranded at sea and prevented from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions.’

IMO Secretary General Lim commented: ‘I am glad to see that the WHO recognises the importance of vaccinating seafarers on cargo ships.

These individuals are responsible for transporting over 80% of all goods around the world, including food, medicine and vaccine supplies – and have continued to do so despite extremely challenging circumstances. Seafarers will play a key role in the global recovery, and barriers to international travel and crew change must be removed.’

On 28 September 2019, a cargo tank containing styrene monomer on board the Cayman Islands registered chemical tanker Stolt Groenland ruptured causing an explosion and fire. The tanker was moored alongside a general cargo berth in Ulsan, Republic of Korea and the Singapore registered chemical tanker Bow Dalian was moored outboard. Ignition of the styrene monomer vapour resulted in a fireball, which reached the road bridge above. Both vessels were damaged, and two crew suffered minor injuries. Fifteen emergency responders were injured during the fire-fighting, which lasted for over six hours.

Rupture of the styrene monomer tank resulted from a runaway polymerisation that was initiated by elevated temperatures caused by heat transfer from other chemical cargoes. Elevated temperatures caused the inhibitor, added to prevent the chemical’s polymerisation during the voyage, to deplete more rapidly than expected. Although the styrene monomer had not been stowed directly adjacent to heated cargo, the potential for heat transfer through intermediate tanks was not fully appreciated or assessed.

Role of Harbour Master/ Port Operations Professional
Security
Port Call Optimisation
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Vessel Traffic Services
Safety
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Emergency Management
Environment

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Women in Shipping Virtual Summit 2021

IHMA is pleased to once again be partnering with the Women in Shipping Virtual Summit in 2021. The following information is provided by the event organisers.

Two-days of unmissable insights on the professional development of Women in Maritime

Women in Shipping Summit will go live this September offering you the chance to hear and learn from 30+ inspiring leaders on the topics that matter to you the most.

The full agenda is ready, and we're delighted to provide you with 15+ hours of content accessible from anywhere in the world and live streamed direct from the virtual platform. Speaking companies include Danish Shipowners’ Association, The Rising Tides, Fichte & Co., Svitzer, Siemens, Wista and lots more.

This is your only chance this year to join the community and develop your career as a maritime professional. Join us on the road map to recovery, as we approach a post-pandemic world.
Key sessions you can't afford to miss include:

Public health policies:
Considering seafarers as an extreme case study, this emphasises the need to find real solutions to protect mental and physical wellbeing to ensure the work-life balance is stable and maintained.

The future of work:
2020 created the perfect test environment, leading all of us to ask what the future holds. What about childcare and paternal leave, and what are companies likely to adopt as working routines beyond 2021?

The key to a balanced lifestyle:
Gain mental health tools and understand the correct way to apply them. This is vital for cultivating mental strength in the face of adversity.

Power talk:
Redundancies, organisations going out of business, role restructures and questions on the sustainability of our professions. As such, many of us have found ourselves asking is it time to make a change, and if so, where to start?

Nutrition & mental health:
Even though one of modern life's well-established truths is that nutrition is closely linked to mental and physical health, it's also something that is often neglected or ignored. Join us as we take a step back into nutrition school.

Want to book?
Secure your pass today for two days of live and on-demand sessions, plus the chance to see the full attendee list with unlimited networking opportunities.
Use the exclusive 20% discount code FKT3826IHMA for IHMA members to benefit from the maximum saving in addition to the early bird rate - find out more and book now.

The super early bird rate closes Wednesday 30 June 2021.

#WomenInShipping

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IAPH virtual world ports conference 2021

IAPH is pleased to invite IHMA Members to join the virtual IAPH World Ports Conference from 21-25 June 2021.

A world-class virtual event assessing the indispensable role of ports in global maritime trade and brings together key industry stakeholders for learning, information sharing, networking and collaboration.

View the full agenda and register today.

IHMA Congress Platform
IHMA 360 Webinar - 30 June 2021

The next IHMA 360° Webinar will be held on Wednesday, 30 June at 09:00 (BST).

Join Graham Howe, Business Development Director for ION for his presentation on'Global Challenges and Solutions for the Digitalisation of Mixed-use ​Ports'  (see below for more information). 

IHMA Commercial Member, ION is an innovative, asset light global technology company that delivers powerful data-driven decision-making to offshore energy, ports and defense industries. 

Congress attendees and IHMA Members will be able to watch the webinar, including access to Q&A and live chat, once logged into the IHMA Congress event platform. Keep an eye out for the reminder email to access the session on Wednesday 30th.

Ports and terminals are at the centre of the digitalisation process in the shipping industry. To date a lot of focus, time and resources have been spent on the digitalisation of global hub container ports. These hub container ports have invested heavily in smart technologies in their drive to transform themselves into 'digital ports’ in order to facilitate the just in time shipping of large numbers of TEUs.  

This has led to a ‘digital divide’ in smart technology adoption between the hub ports and the medium/smaller mixed use ports. There is, however, now a global awareness that the other part of the port sector has been underserved by technology. To address this, new solutions are entering the market at a faster rate than ever before and the cost barrier to port entry has also decreased. 

Many medium and small size ports are now realising that digital technology adoption is key to increasing their operational efficiencies by reducing the errors associated with manual, paper-based processes. Digitalisation can have many positive outcomes including: 

  • An increased awareness of HSE issues, leading to an improved safety record
  • Increased efficiency in back office functions, improving operational cash flow 
  • The reduction of vessel fuel consumption which will lower the port’s carbon footprint 

This presentation will include case studies from around the world and outline the direction of digitalisation in the medium/small port sector in the next three to five years.  

 

MarSec 21+
MarSec 21+

MarSec21+ | The Countdown Begins

Join us for the second instalment of our conference series on the future of port and maritime security. MarSec21+ will bring together key industry leaders from commercial shipping and ports, and cyber security specialists, to delve into the transforming trends, challenges and opportunities in maritime security in the post-COVID world and beyond.

MarSec21+ is a free to attend event and our ambition is to create a dialogue between Company Security Officers, Port and Facility Security Officers, Cyber Information Security Officers, and their management teams with service providers, shipping associations and importantly, our regulators, to give them a voice to engage in a debate on the key issues that shape maritime security. 

 

Delivered virtually
Andreas Mai

The IHMA is pleased to present the first in its series of monthly webinars.

 

Simply click HERE to access the presentation.

 

Topic: Casualty Management - Collapsed Container Stacks on Board a 19K TEU Ship 
Speaker: Captain Andreas Mai, Harbour Master (rtd)
Session Chair: IHMA President, Captain Yoss Leclerc

Speaker Bio

Andreas is a former Master Mariner and was appointed Harbour Master for the port of Bremerhaven in 1996. In 2000 he also took over the position of Harbour Master at the port of Bremen. During his active time as Harbour Master and Director of the Governmental Port Authority, he chaired the 2004 IHMA Congress in Bremen and, for a few years, the European Harbour Masters’ Committee (EHMC). He retired from his duties at the end of last year after 24 years of service.   

 

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Latest News & Events

WHO vaccine roadmap Seafarer vaccine prioritisation

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the World Health Organization’s decision to name seafarers as one of the groups of transportation workers… FIND OUT MORE

Stolt Groenland fire MAIB report Cargo tank explosion and fire on chemical tanker Stolt Groenland Ulsan, Republic of Korea, September 2019

On 28 September 2019, a cargo tank containing styrene monomer on board the Cayman Islands registered chemical tanker Stolt Groenland ruptured… FIND OUT MORE

Latest News & Events

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the World Health Organization’s decision to name seafarers as one of the groups of transportation workers that should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination in instances of limited supplies. This was reported on 22 July.

Updated guidance for Stage II of its vaccine roadmap from the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) states: ‘Seafarers and air crews who work on vessels that carry goods and no passengers, with special attention to seafarers who are stranded at sea and prevented from crossing international borders for crew change due to travel restrictions.’

IMO Secretary General Lim commented: ‘I am glad to see that the WHO recognises the importance of vaccinating seafarers on cargo ships.

These individuals are responsible for transporting over 80% of all goods around the world, including food, medicine and vaccine supplies – and have continued to do so despite extremely challenging circumstances. Seafarers will play a key role in the global recovery, and barriers to international travel and crew change must be removed.’

On 28 September 2019, a cargo tank containing styrene monomer on board the Cayman Islands registered chemical tanker Stolt Groenland ruptured causing an explosion and fire. The tanker was moored alongside a general cargo berth in Ulsan, Republic of Korea and the Singapore registered chemical tanker Bow Dalian was moored outboard. Ignition of the styrene monomer vapour resulted in a fireball, which reached the road bridge above. Both vessels were damaged, and two crew suffered minor injuries. Fifteen emergency responders were injured during the fire-fighting, which lasted for over six hours.

Rupture of the styrene monomer tank resulted from a runaway polymerisation that was initiated by elevated temperatures caused by heat transfer from other chemical cargoes. Elevated temperatures caused the inhibitor, added to prevent the chemical’s polymerisation during the voyage, to deplete more rapidly than expected. Although the styrene monomer had not been stowed directly adjacent to heated cargo, the potential for heat transfer through intermediate tanks was not fully appreciated or assessed.