Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
Harbour Masters may be recognised as the competent authority in the enforcement of port maritime and nautical legislation and therefore may have legal powers. Powers that they exercise in the enforcement of laws or port bylaws may include powers of inspection and detention. Harbour Masters should be fully aware of the extent of their powers and under which legislation they apply.
Harbour Masters may have powers to detain a vessel and will be consulted when a vessel detention is considered.
Some countries may give port state control duties to Harbour Masters.
When a ship enters a port, it must declare to the customs organisation, at least 24 hours before arrival, the cargo (cargo manifest), the stores on board and the belongings of the crew. Similarly, the passenger and crew list has to be sent to the immigration office before arrival. This is regulated by the IMO Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (IMO FAL convention). During the stay in port, a ship can take on stores, discharge waste, change crew and disembark or embark passengers. All these operations have to be declared to the customs and the immigration authorities, both of which will need to give clearance before the ship departs.
The IMO’s International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code governs the carriage of dangerous goods by ships. The handling of dangerous goods on port premises is governed by national regulations. The handling of dangerous goods is part of the day-to-day business of ports and depending on local arrangements may be the Harbour Master's responsibility. While some ports or terminals are specialised in handling dangerous goods in bulk, the majority of ports and terminals may handle dangerous goods in smaller packaged quantities.
The safe stowage of dangerous goods on board ships as well as on terminal premises has to be controlled. Risk assessments have to be conducted and proper response strategies have to be developed in co-operation with, for instance, the fire brigade and handling terminals.
In the past, port security was concerned with deterring theft, the passage of illegal immigrants and countering smuggling and contraband. Some smaller ports had no security measures of any significance. Other, larger ports, had their own security personnel.
In other countries, ports were considered military installations and security was an integral part of their management.
This changed in the light of the 9/11 attacks in the USA in 2001. The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) was agreed in 2002, came into force in 2004, and is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities based on risk management that determines what security measures are appropriate.
The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is intended to provide improved protection from terrorist attacks for all port facilities receiving seagoing ships larger than 500 Gross Ton on international routes.
The ISPS Code, the 2012 Guide and other IMO publications are available for purchase at IMO's Catalogue & Book Code List.
In many ports the Harbour Master is also the Port Security Officer (PSO) and members of the marine team may be Port Facility Security Officers (PFSOs) and have obligations under the ISPS Code. Many ports have facilities within their area of jurisdiction and these facilities will have their own Security Plans. Irrespective of whether the Harbour Master is the port security officer or not, he or she will need to be fully aware of the requirements of the ISPS code as it applies to their port and will be involved in developing, implementing and monitoring Port Security Exercises and audits from time to time.
The Antwerp Port Authority has introduced a game with a difference, an on-line tool that seeks to create security awareness in a port as port users learn how they can make their own individual contribution towards a more safe and secure port in an entertaining way. The on-line port security game will make port users aware of their responsibility to report suspicious situations, take the correct actions and inform the right people. You can play the game on the website of the Port of Antwerp. It is also available for download on the iTunes App store for free.
The bulk carrier Eaubonne (former name GH Storm Cat) is now (4 May) under quarantine in Durban harbour. On the same day that the South African government issued a statement saying that the ports were on high alert for the Indian variant of the Coronavirus (B.1.617) that has emerged in devastating numbers in India, it was learnt that a ship that arrived on Sunday night, 2 May, has been placed under quarantine after the discovery that a crew member had died en route. Another 14 crew have since been taken for testing for Covid-19.
‘All our ports of entry employ stringent containment procedures to minimise the importation of COVID-19,’ said Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize in the statement issued on 4 May 2021.
The ship Eaubonne (IMO 9663104), sailed from the port of Kandla in India on 18 April on a 14-day voyage to Durban, where she arrived off port on 1 May, prior to entering port and berthing at Maydon Wharf 2 on 2 May at 2000.
During the voyage one of the crew members passed away and authorities in Durban were advised that he died of a heart attack.
The ship was carrying a cargo of 6,250 tons of rice to be discharged in Durban.
However, on 4 May dock workers and others working on the ship were told to stop all operations and that the vessel was under quarantine. Fourteen of the crew were taken for COVID-19 testing but the real worry is that a large number of dockworkers had already been exposed to the crew.
The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) welcomes the adoption of the own-initiative (INI) report of TRAN-Committee Chair, Karima Delli*, on technical and operational measures for more efficient and cleaner maritime transport by the European Parliament. This was reported on 28 April.
It is understood that the report was adopted with 453 votes in favour, 92 against, and 154 abstentions.
The final text adopted in the European Parliament plenary contains many of the key strong points which are supported by ESPO:
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