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About the UKHMA

The Harbour Masters’ Association of the United Kingdom, The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (UKHMA) was formed in May 1993 at an inaugural meeting held at the University of Wales in Cardiff.

The meeting, which was an extension to a series of technical briefings held by the University for the specific benefit of harbour masters, attracted 87 Founder Members from all areas of the British Isles.

The organisation is a professional association of harbour masters. The Association consists of seven regional constituencies, including an active group in Scotland that includes both mainland and island Members.

Who is eligible to join?

The principal harbour master, or any person who in the normal course of their duties is expected to deputise for the principal harbour master, of any statutory port or harbour in the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is eligible to become a Full Member of the UKHMA.

There is provision also for other senior port marine officers, and any person interested in upholding the objectives of the Association, to become Associate Members. At the start of 2019, there were approximately 400 Full and Associate Members of the UKHMA.

Commercial Membership is also invited from companies and other organisations whose business or profession includes the supply of certain goods, services and/or technical information that relate directly to harbour masters’ duties or needs. The number of firms and other organisations admitted as Commercial Members is limited by reference to the number of Full Members.

Member Profile

Membership consists of harbour masters from ports large and small, both publicly and privately owned and represents a unique source of up-to-date, hands-on experience in a range of port and maritime operations.

Widely acknowledged as a competent partner in the shipping and port industry throughout the UK, the UKHMA’s wealth of experience is sought after and highly appreciated in many inter-industry forums, working groups and consultations, including those initiated by the MCA, DfT, MAIB, Scottish governmental bodies, etc.


The objectives of the Association are to:

• Encourage the safe and efficient conduct of marine operations in ports;

• Promote the interests and professional competence of harbour masters;

• Represent by way of professional advice and support the views of harbour masters to governmental bodies, to organisations representative of port authorities and other persons within the United Kingdom and abroad concerned with marine operations, both within and near port waters;

The rules of the Association prohibit it from acting as a trade union.

UKHMA Council and Regional Representation

The UKHMA Council consists of seven geographical constituencies (the Regions), each with representation by two Full Members (Council Members), plus a single representative of the Associate Member category. At Council’s discretion, up to three co-opted Members (one of which is a Commercial Member) may also assist in guiding the Association.

UKHMA Members may access a full list of current Council representatives, complete with email addresses, in the Members’ Area Documents section (login required).

Communication and Events

In the course of a year, the UKHMA meets on various occasions:

• Spring, at the first of the bi-annual seminars in Edinburgh or other key regional areas;

• Mid-Summer, at the Seawork exhibition where the Association holds its Annual General Meeting and Sunset Dinner, as well as several other sponsored events; and

• Autumn, when the Association holds the second of the one-day seminars and the informal Annual Dinner in London

Each event is structured to provide content of topical and professional relevance as well as providing numerous occasions in which to make and renew contacts from throughout the Association.

This website provides the most up-to-date news for Members and enhanced services of professional relevance to harbour masters and commercial organisations.

Harbour Masters Qualifications, Training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Qualifications: Currently, there are no mandatory qualifications to hold the position of Harbour Master. It is a decision for the port, or more specifically the port’s Duty Holders, to satisfy themselves that the Harbour Master is suitably qualified to carry out their responsibilities under the terms of the Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC). In 2012, National Occupational Standards for Harbour Masters (NOS) were published which set out the basic knowledge, understanding and experience required for harbour masters to comply with the PMSC.

In common practice, the Harbour Master is normally qualified to a level equivalent to that of a Master of the largest ship to visit the port - in most commercial ports this would be to the level of STCW Master Mariner Class 1 Certificate of Competency; and in some totally leisure ports this may be to a RYA Yachtmaster or equivalent qualification (normally with an appropriate level of experience in a port environment).

In 2012, a new qualification, that of Harbour Master Certificate - endorsed by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and closely reflecting the content of the NOS for Harbour Masters - was introduced on a non-mandatory basis. Award of the Certificate will be on the basis of a year-long qualified appraisal of knowledge, understanding and application of the PMSC, and an oral assessment by an MCA-approved review panel.

Additional qualifications may be required dependant on the port’s trade and operations, and professional seafaring experience is normally a pre-requisite (especially if pilotage duties are required of the Harbour Master). Medical fitness to ENG.1 level is normally expected of new applicants.

The position of Deputy Harbour Master, in which the incumbent deputises for the Harbour Master in his absence, normally requires the same qualifications as the Harbour Master, but may allow for lower levels of experience on entry.

The position of Assistant Harbour Master, Mooring or Berthing Officer, VTS Operator or Port Marine Officer may offer an entry into the sector with lesser qualifications and, in some circumstances, without previous experience as a professional mariner.

Training: Several industry-specific courses are available to Harbour Masters and those aspiring to be Harbour Masters, ranging from one- and three-day tutorials through to a one-year distance learning course. Further courses in support of the Harbour Master Certificate and NOS for Harbour Masters are under evaluation.

CPD: The UKHMA’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme is an innovative solution to maintaining a record of professional achievement while also identifying areas of expertise that need updating or enhancing. The online facility offers Members a capability to record participation in activities and events of professional value under a carefully audited scheme that is gaining recognition by employers and organisations throughout the UK maritime sector.

An individual’s CPD record forms a significant part of the ongoing revalidation of a Harbour Master Certificate.

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UKHMA Secretariat, PO Box 312, Morpeth, NE61 9GN
Tel: 07821 170488 (Exec Officer); 07707 039991 (Admin & Accounts) | Fax: n/a
E-Mail: (Exec Officer); (Membership, Events & Accounts)
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