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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.

Latest News & Events

ABPmer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Associated British Ports Holdings Limited, reported on 13 August with regard to Langstone Harbour Board it had been appointed to provide an independent Designated Person (DP*) service and associated annual Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC**) audit.

Workforce training programme to be based at Long Beach City College.  Port of Long Beach and Long Beach City College (LBCC) leaders officially launched an innovative new programme on 8 August to provide opportunities to local students seeking the employment skills they need to join the goods movement workforce.

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Latest Events


Thursday 27 - Friday 28 June 2019

How and with who will the ship of the future communicate?

This is the question that industry, ship owners and managers, ports, nautical service providers, university and research projects will seek to answer in this biennial EHMC seminar.  The day will include live demonstrations of industry products and a visit by boat within the Port of Gothenburg that will also take us around the harbour area.

The host: Port of Gothenburg

The Swedish shipping industry has recently been labelled a role model for the global shipping community because of the work being done to reduce emissions.  The Port of Gothenburg is not only Sweden's, but moreover Scandinavia's most important gateway for goods, cruise and passengers.  The hinterland includes three capital cities - Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm and almost 3o per cent of Swedish foreign trade passes through the port.

For further details please contact the EHMC Secretary,

Tanger Med

"Port Choice"

The 2017 seminar was a first in the history of our Committee, as it was held in the Moroccan port of Tanger Med. This was a consequence of the previous seminar in 2015, which was held in Marseille and where we reached out to our North African colleagues who are Harbour Masters, Port Captains and their deputies.

Tanger Med has built a leading hub port on the south shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. Beginning service in July 2007, the Tanger Med port is now operating amongst the world's leading ports.


Download includes
Programme en Francais Le program complèt du jeudi et vendredi 11 et 12 mai, séminaire EHMC, Tanger Med
Program in English - The full program for the Thursday and Friday 11 and 12 May 2017, EHMC seminar, Tanger Med




On the occasion of the 2015 seminar in Marseille, we reached out to our North African colleagues who are Harbour Masters, Port Captains and their deputies. 

Le séminaire biennale de l’ EHMC est un événement sur deux jours qui permet aux Commandants des port Européens de se rencontrer pour se connaitre et échanger sur des sujets d'intérêt commun.


Download includes
Group picture
Press article  ’L’accueil des géants préoccupe les commandants de port’ le Marin, l’hebdomadaire de l’économie maritime  12 juin 2015
Press article  ’Le gigantisme cause commune des commandants de ports européens’ l’Antenne, les transports au quotidien   29 mai 2015
Presentation; Grand Port Maritime de Marseille -’Improve weather forecasts, more accurate navigation positioning, use of tugs, information to masters, improve experience’ AMAURY DE MAUPEOU, Harbour Master Port de Marseille et Marseille Fos
Presentation; The container ship market in 2015 ’Ultra-large box vessels: scaling effects in the container trade’ JAN TIEDEMANN, senior analyst liner shipping and ports, Alphaliner
Presentation; Le Port Tanger Med ’L’accueil dans le port des grands Porte-Conteneurs’ Cdt. KHALID SAMIR, Harbour Master Tanger Med Port Authority
Presentation; pilotage Marseille Fos “Piloter les plus grands navires dans le port en toute sécurité avec deux pilotes et la mise en œuvre du PPU” Capitaine NICOLAS PETIT, Pilot Station de Marseille Fos
Presentation; Bigger container vessels; more P&I claims? ’Replies from; the ship’s side, statistics, lessons learned & port installations’ JEAN-FRANCOIS REBORA, Director France P&I
Presentation; IHMA Congress 2016 ’Theme; Port expansion, challenges and opportunities’ PAUL O’REGAN, IHMA congress papers committee Port of Cork
Presentation; Weather forecasts ’Improving weather and wind forecasts in ports’ PAUL HUTCHINSON Vaisala
Presentation; Weather forecasts Text version; ’Improving weather and wind forecasts in ports’ PAUL HUTCHINSON Vaisala
Presentation; The Mariner’s Handbook ’What is the maximum draught that can fit into the port?’ SUSIE ALDER, Product Manager UK Hydrographic Office
Participants Registrations until 21-5-2015
Full program EHMC seminar, in English The full program of the seminar, 28 May, and the technical visit on 29 May
Programme complète du séminaire EHMC, en Francais Le programme complète du séminaire le 28 mai et de la visite du port et cocktail le 29 mai
The Port of Marseille, in English Presentation brochure Marseille Fos; ’Global Port & Multi-Activities’




"Adapting to changes; ships using LNG as fuel, reporting through a Single Window"

Andreas Mai has hosted a triple E-event in which one day knew the EHMC seminar, a second day was dedicated to the Green Efforts project and a third day to an ESPO MAS meeting. The EHMC Seminar was about;

  • the Harbour Master and ships using LNG as fuel
    For LNG marine fuelling and bunkering there is without doubt a very fast growing interest; studies by class societies even show a parallel in the development of LNG as a fuel with the changeover to oil as a fuel some 100 years ago (see for documents under the heading 'LNG'). One may easily loose the overview these days of all developments, feasibility studies and political demands.
  • The implementation of the EU Reporting Directive in June 2015
    Same applies to the implementation of the reporting directive that can be viewed as a compulsory introduction of electronic communication in the European maritime world.


Download includes
LNG Infrastructure Development in European ports Mahinde Abeynaike, Bomin Linde LNG
LNG – marine fuel of the future? Mr. Markku Mylly – EMSA Director
LNG as a fuel for ships, Activities in the ports of Bremen Bjela König, Port Development Bremenports
WPCI LNG Working Group Bjela König, Port Development Bremenports
Simultaneous LNG bunkering and passenger operations Capt. Henrik Cars, Harbour Master Port of Stockholm
LNG–issues to be considered by Harbour Masters Jan Tellkamp - Det Norske Veritas
IT in ports -supporting business processes - since the ‘70s Andreas Mai
Directive on reporting formalities, implementation in Germany Uwe Kraft, deputy harbour master Bremen/Bremerhaven
Data collection and reporting esp. for smaller companies Peter Langbein, BSMD
EHMC Seminar program Please find here the full program for the EHMC seminar on 17 April 2013.
Participants EHMC Seminar The participants that registered for the EHMC seminar on 17 April so far.
EHMC seminar and Bremen events April 2013 Flyer with all information about the events, venues, hotel and travel. Digital version.



London, UK

"The Safe Port; information and education"

When and how can Harbour Masters consult the SafeSeaNet system? 

UK Certificate of Competency for Harbour Masters 

Bachelor and Master degree for ex-seafarers aiming at a higher university degree 

EHMC and the ESPO Maritime Affairs & Security Committee 

European Nautical Platform 

EHMC film on Safe Mooring “the Missing Link, improving the mooring process" 

IHMA Nautical Port Information Project 

How do we improve IHMA's professional standing, members' involvement and members' benefits 

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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

ABPmer ABPmer appointed Designated Person for Langstone Harbour

ABPmer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Associated British Ports Holdings Limited, reported on 13 August with regard to Langstone Harbour Board it had been appointed to provide… FIND OUT MORE

Long Beach Maritime Center of Excellence launched in Long Beach

Workforce training programme to be based at Long Beach City College.  Port of Long Beach and Long Beach City College (LBCC) leaders officially launched an innovative new… FIND OUT MORE

Latest News & Events

ABPmer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Associated British Ports Holdings Limited, reported on 13 August with regard to Langstone Harbour Board it had been appointed to provide an independent Designated Person (DP*) service and associated annual Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC**) audit.

Workforce training programme to be based at Long Beach City College.  Port of Long Beach and Long Beach City College (LBCC) leaders officially launched an innovative new programme on 8 August to provide opportunities to local students seeking the employment skills they need to join the goods movement workforce.