The Finnish Harbour Masters´ Association is probably the oldest European national association and perhaps the world. It was established in 1936, followed by the Dutch in 1949, the Belgian in 1971, the French in 1992, the United Kingdom in 1993, and the German and Polish Associations in 1994. Overseas Harbour Master Associations were subsequently founded in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Southern Africa.
European Harbour Masters’ Association (EHMA)
As early as the 1950s some Harbour Masters of the major northwest European ports met on an occasional basis to discuss matters of mutual interest and to get to know each other better. After a break in the early 1970s, several biennial congresses of the north European Harbour Masters were held in different ports of northwest Europe, until finally the European Harbour Masters’ Association (EHMA) was created as a non-funded association on the 30th of May 1985, during a Harbour Masters’ congress in Cork, Ireland. A biennial congress and working groups, which dealt with matters of importance to Harbour Masters, were the backbone of the Association. In due course, the Association was recognised as a highly professional and reliable association within the shipping and port community and its advice was sought on many occasions. Close co-operation with other organisations, such as IAPH, IMPA, and IALA, then followed.
In 1992, during a Congress in Bristol, it was evident that the association had to alter its status from non-funded organisation to funded. A working group was established to examine the possibilities and it soon became apparent that an association that included harbour masters world-wide could bring some very important advantages, both in terms of meeting the Association’s objectives and providing a more assured financial footing.
The solution was that, for the time being, the European association would be retained as a funded organisation, but steps would be taken to assess the possibility of expansion into an international one.
During the 5th EHMA Congress at Marseilles in 1994 the EHMA constitution was changed accordingly and an International Harbour Masters’ Association Founding Group was introduced.
A considerable task faced the Executive Committee of the EHMA at that time; to come up with a proposal and a constitution that would be accepted by the European and Overseas harbour masters. That they succeeded was apparent on the 21st of June 1996, when all members of the European Harbour Masters’ Association attending the 6th EHMA Congress in Reykjavik voted unanimously to establish an International Harbour Masters’ Association (IHMA), whilst retaining the European association as an integral part of it.
Since then, in 2006, the EHMA ceased to be a separate entity, with its own management team, and became the European Harbour Masters’ Committee, a regional grouping within the IHMA.