Skip to main content

With a good team, you can do anything

Harbour Master Äsa Karnebro

Åsa Kärnebro has spent her entire working life in the shipping sector, fulfilling diverse roles both on board and on shore. In this article, she looks back at the route she took to get where she is today and talks about how, with the support of her team and network, she is preparing for tomorrow. 

Åsa set sail as soon as she left school. It was 1985 when she took up her first position as able seaman on a tanker vessel with Swedia Shipping. It was to be the start of a dynamic maritime career. By 1991, when she was just 24 years old, Åsa had already earned Junior Officer status – combining her experience a year later with a Masters degree at the Merchant Marine Academy.

A few years later, Åsa decided to start a family. It was time to go ashore, at least for a while. Soon though, she was back out on the water, working on pleasure craft amongst the islands of the Stockholm archipelago. At this stage, though, she was sure that she wanted to spend time with her family and was going to have to come ashore for the long-term.

“The difficulty was, I had only ever worked on board. My whole career to that point had been on the water. I didn’t know anything else.”


“My whole career had been on the water. I didn’t know anything else.”

Undeterred, she started applying for every sort of shore-based maritime role she could find. It wasn’t long before Åsa found herself a position teaching navigation and tanker-based courses at the Merchant Marine School in Gothenburg.

Soon after, however, Swedia Shipping approached her and offered her a HR role and she was back with her old company. It was a time of change in the Swedish maritime industry. For the first time, the country’s shipping sector was about to employ Filipino sailors onboard. Åsa’s role was to help prepare the ground for this.

The process went smoothly and Åsa quickly attracted the attention of DFDS, who were also about to embark on the employment of Filipinos. It was time for another change.

“I really enjoyed working with other cultures. I learned a lot about other people, but also a lot about myself. I particularly enjoyed the personal contact we had with the sailors and their families. We organised a lot of events to introduce them to the company and its values.  At the same time, we were providing Swedish officers with inter-cultural training to help them bring out the best in the crew and ensure they were well treated. This was one of my best years.”

As Åsa herself says, however, all good things come to an end. Fortunately, new beginnings were just around the corner. In 2002, she started work in a new role as personnel manager for the pilots and VTS personnel in the Port of Gothenburg. This led, in time, to employment in the port itself. Here, Åsa helped to set up a 24/7 vessel traffic centre. With her experience in pilotage, she was able to make a valuable contribution.

“I learned a lot about other people, but also a lot about myself. This was one of my best years.”

“I felt something was missing,” she explains. “I felt the port needed to work with VTS. I started lobbying and, in 2012, we brought them in. Since then, we’ve had a very good cooperation. It’s made a significant improvement in port communications.”

It was after this that Åsa took up the position of Deputy Harbour Master in the Port of Gothenburg. In 2015, a new opportunity arose when the Harbour Master retired. Åsa was offered the position. Initially, however, she declined.

“I felt it would be difficult to fill the Harbour Master's shoes, but with a good team, you can do anything.”

“There was a lot of responsibility involved. Besides, the Harbour Master is a very public figure in the port and in the area generally. The former Harbour Master was a very outgoing person. I felt it would be difficult to fill his shoes.”

In the end, though, Åsa was persuaded to give the role a go, with things turning out well.

“I have a good team. With a good team, you can do anything,” she states.

Already in her role as Deputy Harbour Master, Åsa had come into contact with the IHMA.

“As soon as I started work in the port, my predecessor had said to me ‘you need to be a member of the IHMA’. So, I signed up and soon the President at the time asked me to join the council.”

Åsa is very clear that the IHMA has been of benefit to her in her career, and also to other Harbour Masters out there.

“The IHMA is very important for Harbour Masters. Being a Harbour Master can be a lonely job. The only people who understand you and the challenges you face are other Harbour Masters. The IHMA is a valuable network that provides the means for Harbour Masters to find one another. If I need to get in touch with a colleague, I know they will welcome that contact.”

The association, she says, also provides a platform for Harbour Maters preparing for the future.

Container Terminal Goteborg

“The only people who understand you are other Harbour Masters. The IHMA provides the means to find one another.”

“The many seminars the IHMA holds are a great place, not only to meet new colleagues, but also to get answers, for example, about the energy transition. We work very closely with the IMO, which also helps. There is plenty of discussion about alternative fuels and other solutions that will be of increasing importance. The chance to share thoughts and experiences in this way is very important.

“That’s the thing about this job, you are learning new things every day. It can be stressful, and the questions keep coming, but with my team and the support of my colleagues in the IHMA, I feel very confident.”

Posted on: in:

Latest News & Events

The main approach channel and Berths 8&9 at Hutchison Ports Port of Felixstowe have been deepened to improve access for the world’s largest container ships.

The announcement was formally made today (4 October 2023) during the maiden call at the port of its namesake the OOCL Felixstowe, the latest in a series of 24,188 TEU mega container vessels operated by Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. (“OOCL”).

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports…

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

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

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.

Tanger Med Port Centre, Morocco
IHMA Congress 2024

Join us on a marine adventure in Morocco. The 14th International Harbour Master Congress will take place at Tanger Med Port Centre from 21-24 May 2024. This year’s theme is The Marine Adventure – Evolving and Adapting to Change in Today’s Ports. You are welcome to come along for three days of presentations, deliberations and discussions covering every step of the port call process. On the fourth day, you can enjoy a guided tour of the Port of Tranger Med. To learn more, or to register for the event, please visit the IHMA Congress EventBrite Page.

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

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

Harbour Master & Towage Conference

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports in cooperation with KOTUG.


Latest News & Events

The main approach channel and Berths 8&9 at Hutchison Ports Port of Felixstowe have been deepened to improve access for the world’s largest container ships.

The announcement was formally made today (4 October 2023) during the maiden call at the port of its namesake the OOCL Felixstowe, the latest in a series of 24,188 TEU mega container vessels operated by Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. (“OOCL”).

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports…