A prime consideration for any Harbour Master is safety of navigation for any vessel that is utilising the port and its approaches. 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 Bye-Laws, General Directions, Pilotage Directions etc. and these clearly define what the “Rules of the Road” are in terms of safe navigation.
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. A passage plan contains the detailed and recorded confirmation of what the ship intends to do at every stage of its passage at a port. Any subsequent movement of the vessel, a berth shift for example, will also be subject to strict passage planning criteria.
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.