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Role of the Harbour Master

The Role of the Harbour Master

Ports can be busy places and, by the very nature of their business activities, may be hazardous places to work. The Harbour Master has a key role to play ensuring that people living and working in or close to the port, the port’s staff, customers or visitors to the port environment can go about their business safely. Harbour Masters must be familiar with all relevant safety, environmental and health laws at the international, national and local level.

Port Marine Operations

The safety of navigation for any vessel utilising the port and its approaches is the Harbour Master's primary concern. 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 by-laws, general directions, Pilotage Directions etc and these clearly define what the “rules of the road” are in terms of safe navigation.

Ship Arrival

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. Vessels arriving at a port will normally contact the port control or VTS station to receive instructions on the plan for their arrival and stay in the port. This exchange usually involves confirmation of the time the pilot will board and the berth to which the vessel is proceeding.

Harbour Masters normally designate a safe pilot-boarding area where the vessel boards her pilot who then subsequently communicates with the port authority shipping control office or VTS whilst proceeding towards the intended berth. If the vessel is exempt from pilotage, in compliance with port regulations, then clear instructions on the manner of entry and navigation will be given and the vessel will be asked to register and confirm its passage plan. The passage plan is the detailed and recorded confirmation of what the ship intends to do at every stage of its passage from the pilot station to finally arriving alongside. Any subsequent movement of the vessel, a berth shift, for example, will also be subject to passage planning.

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

Vessel Types

Ports handle a huge variety of ship types ranging from supertankers, through cruise and cargo ships, large container vessels, bulk carriers, warships, Ro-Ro vessels and ferries right down to smaller but no less important vessels such as fishing vessels and pleasure craft. Different types of vessel require different port facilities to enable then to be handled efficiently and safely. Part of the Harbour Master's role is to be fully conversant with the types of vessel that represent the port's main business and to have a thorough knowledge of their requirements whilst they are in port.

Ship's Stay in Port

The role of the Harbour Master in terminal and cargo operations will vary according to the governance of the port. The Harbour Master's advice is regularly sought during a ship’s stay by companies, organisations or government officials associated with such activities as fuel bunkering, tank cleaning and the delivery of stores, water and crew.

The Harbour Master has a role to play in determining the berthing of ships and the control of the front quay or ship-shore interface. This includes the removal or segregation of dangerous goods for a determined period on the terminal, the measures to be taken by stevedores and dockworkers to prevent safety or environmental irregularities and the accessibility to the ship-shore interface by unauthorised persons.

The success or otherwise of a ship's stay in a port will be measured by how the Master, crew and ultimately the operator/owner consider the port has met their operational requirements. Port operations must be carefully planned well in advance of the vessel's arrival alongside. There are many planning considerations for the Harbour Master but amongst the main ones are: a suitable and safe berth; provision of pilotage and tugs; confirmation of mooring resources such as linemen, line boats, mooring teams etc; liaison with stevedores on the ETA/ETD of the vessel to enable them to plan their resources for loading/discharge effectively; key loading/discharge plant and equipment availability and reliability; security requirements and liaison with statutory authorities where necessary. Another key element is a good relationship with the ship's agent who will have first-hand knowledge of the ship's requirements.

The Harbour Master’s expertise is also essential for the management of any incidents and in the timely implementation of response and emergency plans.


Port Management

In addition to the technical and statutory responsibilities of the role, today’s harbour master is increasingly involved in the day-to-day management of port operations. Increased involvement and greater responsibility for the commercial business of a port is a growing area of activity for many harbour masters.

Strategic Planning Process

If they are to remain competitive, ports must move with the times in response to global shifts in maritime trade. Strategic-level business plans must be developed. Harbour Masters may contribute to the development of a long-term master plan for the port.

Other Authorities in the Port

The Harbour Master may co-operate with a number of authorities including representatives of port state control, customs, veterinary agencies, health agencies, environmental agencies, local government and utilities.

Local Community

Ports, as with all businesses, are expected to engage with their stakeholders in an open, honest and transparent manner. Working in the port environment inevitably brings the Harbour Master into contact with the wider community. Although Harbour Masters may exercise jurisdiction over the water frontage or waterway of their port – a decision that may be determined by statute or regulation – they are also expected to consider the requirements or concerns of the community on the use of the port’s navigable area and its impact on the community.

It is not only commercial vessels that make use of a port. Recreational fisherman, diving clubs, rowing clubs, tour boat operators, visiting yachtsmen and power boat drivers, marina operators and many more must all be consulted. Conflict may arise between those pursuing different activities. The harbour master has an important role in engaging with interest groups, resolving such issues and ensuring the safety of all harbour users.

Leisure Use of Ports

Leisure activities may take many forms, including recreational boating (both power and sail), swimming, diving and organised aquatic events. The Harbour Master can mitigate the risks associated with large aquatic events through the application of safety management principles and risk assessment. However, private and irregular use of the port for recreation is difficult to monitor and control. Many ports and harbours now use their websites and social media to promulgate safety information to port users. The zoning of activities to separate, for example, swimmers from personal watercraft may be introduced. Prohibiting access to some areas may be required and will require local regulation. The focus should be on community engagement and finding a harmonious method for the co-existence of recreational activities. 

Latest News & Events

It was announced from Tokyo on 25 November that ClassNK had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cybersecurity with the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA).

Panama, the world’s largest flag state, is making various efforts to improve the safety of its own vessels. On 17 November, PMA announced the establishment of a Cyber Incident Voluntary Reporting Scheme to better understand the cyber threats that vessels are exposed to and to seek more pragmatic and effective measures to control the cyber risks. It is understood that the scheme encourages all Panama-flagged vessels to report detected cyber incidents to PMA.

The PMA has issued a relevant Marine Notice available here:  https://panamashipregistry.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/MMN-22-2021-CYBER-SECURITY-November-2021.pdf   

Under the MOU, ClassNK will provide its knowledge and experience cultivated so far to PMA for their efforts to ensure cyber security. As part of these efforts, Class NK will analyse the information collected from the cyber incident voluntary reporting scheme of PMA.

In 2018, a leading mark, a tower equipped with Sealite’s Port Entry Light (SL-PEL-10), was established at Puerto Mamonal, Colombia,  to enhance the safety of vessel traffic approaching the port from the north channel.

Since the installation of Sealite’s Port Entry Light in 2018, it has helped Puerto Mamonal increase the number of large visiting vessels and provided safer operations in the approach to the port.

However, it was found that the north and south channels were in need of additional aids to navigation for safer passage.

Puerto Mamonal’s port owners, with the help of Ingeniería Naval & Señalización Marítima S A S, installed Sealite buoys: six SL-B2200 Nautilus Ocean Buoys in Region B channel configuration.

The SL-B2200 Nautilus is rotationally moulded using UV-stabilized virgin polyethylene to prevent discoloration from the sun’s UV rays. This is especially important in hotter climates. Each buoy is foam filled with closed-cell polyurethane which prevents water logging in the event of collision.

The buoy’s lightweight and two-piece modular design makes it easy to transport and assemble. Its strength lies in the stainless steel tie bars in the buoy body or hull structure connecting the lifting and mooring eyes. This ensures even lifting and mooring stresses at major stress points.

Role of Harbour Master/ Port Operations Professional
Security
Port Call Optimisation
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Vessel Traffic Services
Safety
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Emergency Management
Environment

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Latest Events

Delivered virtually
COP26 Maritime Event

In November 2021, the UK will host COP26, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Glasgow, Scotland.  Contracting parties to the Convention will meet to assess progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. 

Ports, like other forms of transport infrastructure, are potentially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly extreme weather.  If the sector is to be well-prepared to face these changes, urgent action is needed to adapt infrastructure and to improve the climate-resilience of both assets and operations. 

In order to help promote such action, Peel Ports Group, Scotland, will be hosting a workshop at the International Maritime Hub during COP26, in collaboration with the British Ports Association, the UK Major Ports Group, Maritime UK and City of Glasgow College. 

The workshop, titled ‘Practical climate change adaptation challenges and good practice solutions for ports’, will run across two half-day sessions on 2nd and 3rd November 2021 and aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and the sharing of good practice. 

The workshop will feature speakers from ports around the world including:

  • Captain Yoss Leclerc, Chief of Marine Operations, Port of Quebec, Canada; and
    President, International Harbour Masters’ Association;
  • Captain Naresh Sewnath, Senior Manager Pilotage & VTS, Transnet National Ports Authority, South Africa; and Vice-President, International Harbour Masters’ Association; 
  • Captain Karuppiah Subramaniam, General Manager of Port Klang Authority, Malaysia; and President, International Association of Ports and Harbours; and Chair of the IHMA 2022 Congress 

Please use the following link to register your interest in attending this free event:

https://www.maritimeuk.org/imh-2021/imh-events/adaptation-solutions-ports/

For more information, please see the attached detailed programme.

Hilton Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
IHMA Congress 2022
IHMA Congress 2022

 

Delivered virtually
Online Workshop Sponsored by:  PIANC and Navigating a Changing Climate 14 and 15 September 2021

Working with Nature for Climate-Resilient
Ports and Waterways

Online Workshop Sponsored by:
PIANC and Navigating a Changing Climate

14 and 15 September 2021

PIANC’s Environment Commission (EnviCom) and the Navigating a Changing Climate partners are collaborating to run a workshop entitled Working with Nature for Climate-Resilient Ports and Waterways.  This workshop builds on a 2021 workshop run by Navigating a Changing Climate with SedNet (https://sednet.org/) focused on sediment management and climate change.  

Two sessions are planned on consecutive days, each 2 hours long, allowing for keynote presentations, case studies, and facilitated round-table discussions. 

The workshop Working with Nature for Climate-Resilient Ports and Waterways is designed to facilitate knowledge exchange, disseminate good practice, highlight opportunities, and identify gaps in understanding or research needs in relation to the following sessions: 

  1. Session 1: 14th September.  Scaling Up and Changing Entrenched Current Practices
    • Transitioning nature-based solutions to full-scale
    • Persuading those who prefer business as usual to explore nature-based alternatives
  2. Session 2: 15th September.  Making a Business Case and Securing Finance
    • Preparing the case for investment in nature-based solutions
    • Facilitating public and private sector funding for nature-based solutions

For more information and to register, please reach out to Victor Magar (vmagar@ramboll.com) and copy to Kate Panayotou (Kate.Panayotou@ghd.com) and navclimate@pianc.org

The email title line should be marked with “PIANC‑NavClimate Working with Nature Workshop.” 

PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure, provides the global waterborne transport community with expert guidance, recommendations, and technical advice (https://www.pianc.org/).  Navigating a Changing Climate is a PIANC-led Global Climate Action initiative under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Find out more at https://navclimate.pianc.org/

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Latest News & Events

Panama Maritime Authority  MOU on cybersecurity Panama Maritime Authority MOU on cybersecurity

It was announced from Tokyo on 25 November that ClassNK had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cybersecurity with the Panama Maritime… FIND OUT MORE

Sealite Case study into the provision of aids to navigation at Puerto Mamonal, Cartagena Bay, Colombia Sealite

In 2018, a leading mark, a tower equipped with Sealite’s Port Entry Light (SL-PEL-10), was established at Puerto Mamonal, Colombia,  to enhance the… FIND OUT MORE

Latest News & Events

It was announced from Tokyo on 25 November that ClassNK had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cybersecurity with the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA).

Panama, the world’s largest flag state, is making various efforts to improve the safety of its own vessels. On 17 November, PMA announced the establishment of a Cyber Incident Voluntary Reporting Scheme to better understand the cyber threats that vessels are exposed to and to seek more pragmatic and effective measures to control the cyber risks. It is understood that the scheme encourages all Panama-flagged vessels to report detected cyber incidents to PMA.

The PMA has issued a relevant Marine Notice available here:  https://panamashipregistry.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/MMN-22-2021-CYBER-SECURITY-November-2021.pdf   

Under the MOU, ClassNK will provide its knowledge and experience cultivated so far to PMA for their efforts to ensure cyber security. As part of these efforts, Class NK will analyse the information collected from the cyber incident voluntary reporting scheme of PMA.

In 2018, a leading mark, a tower equipped with Sealite’s Port Entry Light (SL-PEL-10), was established at Puerto Mamonal, Colombia,  to enhance the safety of vessel traffic approaching the port from the north channel.

Since the installation of Sealite’s Port Entry Light in 2018, it has helped Puerto Mamonal increase the number of large visiting vessels and provided safer operations in the approach to the port.

However, it was found that the north and south channels were in need of additional aids to navigation for safer passage.

Puerto Mamonal’s port owners, with the help of Ingeniería Naval & Señalización Marítima S A S, installed Sealite buoys: six SL-B2200 Nautilus Ocean Buoys in Region B channel configuration.

The SL-B2200 Nautilus is rotationally moulded using UV-stabilized virgin polyethylene to prevent discoloration from the sun’s UV rays. This is especially important in hotter climates. Each buoy is foam filled with closed-cell polyurethane which prevents water logging in the event of collision.

The buoy’s lightweight and two-piece modular design makes it easy to transport and assemble. Its strength lies in the stainless steel tie bars in the buoy body or hull structure connecting the lifting and mooring eyes. This ensures even lifting and mooring stresses at major stress points.