Skip to main content

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 commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July. This step represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships.

In a joint statement, representatives from 12 countries expressed their deep concern about the current crisis and acknowledged that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures imposed by Governments around the world have caused significant hurdles to crew changes and left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships, or unable to join ships. It is currently estimated that at least 200,000 seafarers worldwide are stranded on ships and require immediate repatriation, and a similar number urgently need to join ships to replace them. This has led to a growing humanitarian crisis, in addition to concerns that seafarer fatigue and mental health issues may lead to serious maritime accidents. There are also concerns about the continuity of the global supply chain.

French container carrier, CMA CGM has announced its intention of launching a new product called Round the Africa (RTA) service to add to and complement the current 31 CMA CGM services already operating to sub-Saharan Africa.

A bit of a misnomer, the service is unique in terms of providing a direct service from Asia to Senegal and Sierra Leone along with best transit times, as well as calls to other selected West African ports.

Dakar is reached weekly from Ningbo in 35 days, from Nansha in 32 days. Freetown (Sierra Leone) is reached in 35 days from Nansha. The service offer to Tema (Ghana) is improved with three weekly departures.

Our exporters from West Africa will benefit of excellent transit time and direct service to China. Shanghai is reached in 29 days from Abidjan, 31 days from Tema, 36 days from Freetown and 39 days from Dakar,’ says the line in a statement.

One is left to assume the Round Africa part comes from the ships returning to Asia via the Cape of Good Hope.

Round the Africa service rotation is as follows:

Shanghai – Ningbo – Nansha – Singapore – Malta – Tanger – Dakar – Freetown – Tema – Abidjan – Port Kelang – Shanghai

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

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

Klaipeda, Lithuania
Baltic LNG & Gas forum

Capitalise on LNG and gas uptake in the Baltics

Creating greater energy security and independence. Meeting environmental regulations.

Join industry game changers who are altering the Baltic gas and LNG markets by providing greater energy security and meeting European climate change targets.

Port of Sillamäe, Estonia
EHMC 2021 Seminar

The Port of Sillamäe (SILPORT), Estonia, is the most eastern port of the EU, located only 25 km from the EU-Russian border and is one of the largest private ports in the EU. It is a relatively new, multifunctional deep-sea port. Natural depth at the quaysides of the port are sufficient for servicing the largest vessels that can enter the Baltic Sea through the Danish Straights. The port was opened for navigation in 2005 and offers an infra- and superstructure capable of handling all cargo groups from oil-products and dry bulk to containerised cargo.

Theme of the 2021 event; the Climate; ports, terminals, ships and harbour masters. Captain René Sirol, Harbour Master, Port of Sillamäe and the EHMC look forward to welcoming you in 2021. Sillamäe Port will provide shuttle busses from the airport of Tallinn to the venue. 

Hilton Canary Wharf, London
Smart Ports Summit

The Smart Ports Summit, 19-20 February 2020, brings together the experts and innovators who are addressing the real need for optimatision of global supply chains and ports to secure fast and efficient movement of goods, manage mega vessels and meet sustainability targets.
Shippers have become increasingly frustrated with lack of visibility, communication, modern equipment and technology at port hubs. Problems often arise whereby a full logistics team is not ready to receive a vessel; leading to unnecessary delays with transporting goods to their final destination.
What can ports do to be more transparent for shippers?
To overcome these difficulties, ports and their supply chains are transforming into smart port ecosystems. Key to embracing this change is the adoption of data-sharing, transparency, collaboration, fast and well-connected software and corresponding cyber security protections.

Exclusive: Introducing the Just-in-Time Arrival Concept

The pioneers behind the Just om Time Concept at the Port of Hamburg have chosen the Smart Port Summit as the venue to announce their results. Created by Wärtsilä, HVCC Hamburg Vessel Coordination Center and Carnival Maritime - the findings from these innovative stakeholders will be presented for the first time at the Summit.
Join us at the Smart Ports Summit this February to find out how the marine industry is adapting to customer demands and paving the way to a new, faster approach to handling vessels and cargo.

View the full agenda >> http://bit.ly/2Rdfz81

Our experts include innovators, ports and equipment suppliers

Jan Gardeitchik, Senior Lead Digitization/Business Development Manager, Port of Rotterdam
Arjan Kampman, Head of Digital & IT, Port of Amsterdam
Hanno Husar, Head of IT, Port of Tallinn
Kyyle Flanigan, Business Analyst, Belfast Harbour
Mar Chao Lopez, Head of Commerical and Business Development, Port of Valencia
Geoff Lippitt, Business Development Director, PD Ports
Gerald Hirt, MD, Hamburg Vessel Coordination Centre
Christopher Crokall, CCO, Inchcape Shipping Services
Peter O'Shaughnessy, Chief Human Resources Officer, Port of Cork

Meet the speakers >> http://bit.ly/2Rdfz81

20% DISCOUNT

As a member of the IHMA you are entitled to an additional 20% saving.

To claim this quote your VIP code: FKT3669IHMA

Register online: http://bit.ly/2Rdfz81

Or contact Roxanna.Kashfi@informa.com

Please make sure you apply for the discount at the time of registration.  

Radisson Blu Edwardian New Providence Wharf Hotel, London
LNG Bunkering europe
LNG Bunkering Europe

 

Hilton London Tower Bridge
Salvage and wreck conference London

IHMA members can save 20% on their registration for Salvage & Wreck Removal conference, 4 – 5 December 2019, London.
The following information is provided by the conference organiser:

Kick off the festive season by attending the biggest salvage industry event of the year – Salvage & Wreck Removal conference (4 – 5 December 2019, London) – meet all the key industry stakeholders, and discuss legal and insurance issues, examine recent casualty operations and incidents, and focus on the future of salvage, new ways of working and emerging technology.

Use IHMA’s exclusive VIP code FKT3652IHMA at the checkout to save 20% on your place: http://bit.ly/36knRBO.

What’s on agenda

Casualty management case studies:

  • Hear how the ‘MSC Zoe’ incident was managed with Jason Bennett, Director EMEA, Ardent and Joram Bootsma, Project Manager, Deep BV
  • Understand the legal implications of the ‘Sanchi’ with Andrew Chamberlain, Partner, HFW, Victor Fenwick, Legal Director, HFW and Paul Walton, Shipping Technical Director, LOC

Dealing with the risks of salvage in a war zone:

Find out how to effectively manage the risks in the Straits of Hormuz and other hot spots – presentations by Helene Peter-Davies, Partner, MFB Solicitors and Jim Scorer, Secretary General, International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA).

New approaches to wreck removal:

Use of Quantitative Risk Assessment for assessing wreck removal with Sam Kendall-Marsden, Director of Claims, The Standard Club.

See the full agenda and speaker line-up to date: http://bit.ly/2N0Z9ir.

Networking Dinner

As part of Global Marine Casualties Week, Salvage & Wreck Removal will offer you a unique opportunity to connect with 300+ industry professionals while enjoying a relaxed atmosphere, superb three-course meal with a great selection of drinks. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/2WppauT. Register now

Places are filling up fast so secure yours while you still can. Use code FKT3652IHMA to save 20%: http://bit.ly/36knRBO.

If you have questions about the event or registration process, please email event organisers at viktoriia.derkach@knect365.com.

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

IMO Crew changes IMO SG on seafarers’ conditions

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for… FIND OUT MORE

CMA CGM round Africa CMA CGM to launch Round the Africa service

French container carrier, CMA CGM has announced its intention of launching a new product called Round the Africa (RTA) service to add to and complement… FIND OUT MORE

Latest News & Events

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the commitment of 12 countries to facilitate crew changes and achieve key worker designation for seafarers, following a virtual ministerial summit hosted by the UK Government on 9 July. This step represents significant progress to help resolve a growing crisis facing the maritime industry, and enable hundreds of thousands of stranded seafarers to go home or join ships.

In a joint statement, representatives from 12 countries expressed their deep concern about the current crisis and acknowledged that “the inability of ship operators worldwide to conduct ship’s crew changes is the single most pressing maritime operational challenge to the safe and efficient movement of global trade”.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and border closures imposed by Governments around the world have caused significant hurdles to crew changes and left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded onboard ships, or unable to join ships. It is currently estimated that at least 200,000 seafarers worldwide are stranded on ships and require immediate repatriation, and a similar number urgently need to join ships to replace them. This has led to a growing humanitarian crisis, in addition to concerns that seafarer fatigue and mental health issues may lead to serious maritime accidents. There are also concerns about the continuity of the global supply chain.

French container carrier, CMA CGM has announced its intention of launching a new product called Round the Africa (RTA) service to add to and complement the current 31 CMA CGM services already operating to sub-Saharan Africa.

A bit of a misnomer, the service is unique in terms of providing a direct service from Asia to Senegal and Sierra Leone along with best transit times, as well as calls to other selected West African ports.

Dakar is reached weekly from Ningbo in 35 days, from Nansha in 32 days. Freetown (Sierra Leone) is reached in 35 days from Nansha. The service offer to Tema (Ghana) is improved with three weekly departures.

Our exporters from West Africa will benefit of excellent transit time and direct service to China. Shanghai is reached in 29 days from Abidjan, 31 days from Tema, 36 days from Freetown and 39 days from Dakar,’ says the line in a statement.

One is left to assume the Round Africa part comes from the ships returning to Asia via the Cape of Good Hope.

Round the Africa service rotation is as follows:

Shanghai – Ningbo – Nansha – Singapore – Malta – Tanger – Dakar – Freetown – Tema – Abidjan – Port Kelang – Shanghai