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Harbour master’s powers

Powers of direction

Harbours, Docks & Piers Clauses Act 1847

The Harbour master has powers of direction to regulate the time and the manner of ships entry to, departure from and movement within the harbour waters, and related purposes. Directions may include the use of tugs and other forms of assistance.

The Harbour master may give directions for all or any or the following purposes; (that is to say):

For regulating the time at which and the manner in which any vessel shall enter into, go out of, or lie in or at the harbour, dock or pier, and within the prescribed Limits, if any, and its position, mooring or unmooring, placing and removing, whilst therein:

For regulating the position in which any vessel shall take in or discharge its cargo or any part there of, or shall take in or land its passengers, or shall take in or deliver ballast within or on the harbour, dock or pier:

For regulating the manner in which any vessel entering the harbour or dock or coming to the pier shall be dismantled, as well for the safety of such vessel as for the preventing injury to other vessels and to the harbour, dock or pier, and the moorings thereof:

For removing unserviceable vessels, and other obstructions from the harbour, dock or pier and keeping the same clear:

For regulating the quantity of ballast or dead weight in the hold which each vessel in or at the harbour, dock, or pier shall have during the delivery of her cargo, or after having discharged the same.

Dangerous vessels

Section 2 of the Dangerous Vessels Act 1985

The Harbour master may give directions prohibiting the entry into, or requiring the removal from, the harbour of any vessel if, in his opinion, the condition of that vessel, or the nature or condition of anything it contains, is such that its presence in the harbour might involve a grave and imminent danger to the safety of persons or property or risk that the vessel may, by sinking or foundering in the harbour, prevent or seriously prejudice the use of the harbour by other vessel

Dangerous substances

The Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987

The Harbour master has powers to regulate or prohibit the entry into a Harbour or Harbour Area or require the removal of any Vessel, freight container, portable tank, receptacle, or vehicle carrying dangerous goods, if in his opinion the condition or those goods, or their packaging, or the Vessel/Vehicle carrying them is such as to create a risk to health and safety of any person.

The Harbour master also has powers to regulate the handling, movement or position within the Harbour of Vessels carrying dangerous goods.

A person to whom directions are given shall comply with those directions.

Directions may be given by the Harbour Master in any such reasonable manner as he may think fit.

A minimum period of 24 hours notice must be given in writing to the Harbour master before the Dangerous Substances enter the Harbour Area. This is the responsibility of the ship’s Master (or Agent) with regard to imports from sea, and the Haulier for exports from inland. (A lesser period may be agreed with the Harbour Master for short sea operations, for example cross Channel Ferry services).

The Harbour master may refuse the entry of un-notified Dangerous Substances.

Oil pollution

In general under Section 131 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, If any oil or mixture containing oil is discharged into the sea from a ship, then the owner or master shall be guilty of an offence.

Under Section 144 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, the Harbour master may detain a vessel if he has reason to believe that it has committed an offence by discharging oil, or a mixture containing oil, into the waters of the harbour.

Section 259(6) of the above Act gives the Harbour master powers to board vessels to investigate possible offences.

Removal of wrecks

Section 252 of the Merchant Shipping Act

Where there is a wreck in, or near, the approaches to a harbour which is or is likely to become a danger to navigation the harbour authority may take possession of, remove or destroy it. They may mark the location of the wreck until it is raised, removed or destroyed.