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A port's navigational safety policy underpins the Harbour Master's responsibility for the safety of navigation. The navigational safety policy, which should be approved by the highest level of management within a port, usually a board of directors, is a publicly available document which states what the board holds itself responsible for in respect of the safety of navigation within its area of jurisdiction.

The reputation of a port is dependent on its safety record and efficiency. Any damage to a port’s safety record may impact on its reputation and by extension, its trade.

The Harbour Master plays a key role in the development and implementation of a safety management system which manages the hazards and risks associated with port operations along with any preparations for emergencies. This should be operated effectively and revised periodically.

Some countries provide guidance to their ports on port safety. An example of this is the UK’s Port Marine Safety Code and its accompanying Good Practice Guide can be found here.

Port Safety

Safety Management and Risk Assessment

To achieve a safe port, a Harbour Master must identify the hazards which present in the port and then assess the risks associated with those hazards. The risks must then be managed down to an acceptable level usually identified as the ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable) principle. This is the underlying principle of risk assessment – a practice that will not only lead to a safer port but may also help to reduce insurance premiums, a commercial benefit to the port company. Thorough risk assessments can be used not only in the formulation of better operating procedures but also in the formulation of effective emergency plans.

Port By-laws

Navigational safety and care for the environment are governed by numerous international, national and local laws and regulations. Harbour Masters have to not only obey local by-laws but also enforce them. They may also be authorised to draft by-laws for their own ports. Port by-laws and admission policies set the conditions under which vessels may enter and leave the port and where they berth.

Rotterdam Port by-laws:

Admission to Port

Harbour Masters rely on reliable and accurate information to inform decision-making concerning the entry and departure of commercial shipping. The geographical configurations of the port, prevailing weather conditions, port water depths, and the height and strength of the local tides are some of the factors that a Harbour Master considers. This information and other factors will inform a port's navigational safety policy and at operational level affect the decisions concerning the arrival and departure of shipping. Harbour masters specify their entry requirements in great detail. These include safest approaches to a port, pilot boarding ground and details of advance notifications to be given to the port prior to arrival.  

The arrival of a commercial vessel into a port is always a planned event. Notification of the vessel’s arrival sometimes begins weeks before the actual arrival. The vessel normally gives 72-48-24 hour notices to all the parties concerned and corrects the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) with every notice so as to be as close to their declared ETA as possible when arriving at a pilot station.

Pilot boarding and communication between the ship, pilot and port authority shipping control office or VTS are critical to the safe arrival of a ship as it proceeds to its intended berth.

Various agencies including the vessel’s designated Agents, the Harbour Master or his representative, the Pilot company, towage company and the stevedores working the vessel are involved with the arrival of a commercial ship into a port.

Points of notification are predesignated positions set by the Harbour Master when the vessel calls Marine Control on a pre-agreed VHF Channel and informs them of the vessel’s actual position. This information warns other vessels in the area of the incoming vessel’s progress and allows the Marine Controller or VTS to alert ancillary services, such as tugs and lines-boats.


The task of the pilot is to advise the ship’s master on passage through the port and its approaches. The pilot brings knowledge of the local maritime conditions and operational practices that have been gained through extensive experience of navigating ships in the restricted waters of the port and its approaches. Use of a pilot is compulsory in many territorial waters.

In most Member States legislation provides the possibility of some form of exemption from pilotage, either in the form of exemptions in the regulations for compulsory pilotage or by issuing Pilotage Exemption Certificates (PEC).

Tugs and Towage

Many ports deal with big ships in confined or restricted areas and in many cases the risk of contact (allision) with port infrastructure and the risk of grounding is managed by the use of tugs. The use of tugs may be compulsory in some ports for some ships and this is one of the decisions the Harbour Master will make when considering safety of navigation. The Harbour Master may also monitor the competence and qualifications of tug personnel and the performance of tug operations.

High-speed craft

High speed craft in port waters may pose potential risks to safe navigation, channel / bank erosion and danger to persons working under or around wharf structures. It may be necessary to manage the speed of high-speed craft in areas of risk. Engagement with high-speed craft associations will ensure that key risk areas are identified and managed appropriately. Use of AIS on commercial high-speed craft will allow monitoring by VTS / Port control.

Mooring Operations

Safe and efficient mooring processes are vital for ports and terminals. A ship breaking loose from its moorings is a hazard to other vessels and to port infrastructure. A drifting vessel may cause serious damage to cranes, cargo manifolds and fenders and injuries to staff ashore and afloat.

Appropriately trained shore-based berthing crews will work with ship crews to bring ropes or wires from the ship ashore and put them on the shore bollards by hand or with the use of winch trucks. This is a specialised activity involving significant safety issues.



Cargo needs to be lashed safely and effectively.  Lashing gangs may be dockworkers or authorised crew members (for instance on short sea RoRo (Roll-on/Roll-off) ferries). Deck cargo, containers and RoRo trailers on the weather deck are vulnerable because they can be hit by waves in bad weather and need special attention. For example, steel coils and other heavy cargo can shift during rolling and pitching when not properly stowed and lashed. When a ship arrives with a list due to shifted cargo, the harbour master is informed and will send a nautical expert on board to ensure that the ship will enter the port safely before providing a berth.

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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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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