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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 throughout the British Isles.

The organisation is a unique professional body consisting of harbour masters, port marine operations officers, harbour managers, commercial bodies that serve the port sector, and other appropriate personnel and organisations.

Geographically, the Association consists of seven regional constituencies that cover all mainland and island ports in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The Constitution of the Association precludes it from acting as a trade union or representing Members in employment disputes.

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 or Affiliate Members. At the start of 2024, there were approximately 500 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.

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 Association’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, regional governmental bodies, etc.


The objectives of the Association are:

  • to exercise and promote the safe and efficient conduct of marine operations in ports, in accordance with the Port Marine Safety Code and the Guide to Good Practice on Port Marine Operations (or any replacement thereof);
  • to promote the interests and professional competence of Harbour Masters in the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies;
  • to encourage and facilitate the qualification, certification and continuing professional development of Harbour Masters in the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies;
  • to represent by way of professional advice and support the views of Harbour Masters to the UK Government and devolved administrations, to organisations representative of port authorities, and to other persons within the United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies and elsewhere concerned with marine operations, both within and near port waters;
  • to share experiences, knowledge, information and best practice among Harbour Masters;
  • to affiliate to such other bodies as the Council may think appropriate.

Meet our

Harbour Masters


These National Occupational Standards (NOS) detail the competencies required of a Harbour Master and are consistent with the Port Marine Safety Code.

You can download a copy of the full set of NOS by clicking here.

The Harbour Master is responsible for ensuring the safe navigation and use of the harbour. The role will vary dependant upon the size of the harbour and the type of vessels using it, but will typically include the management of:

  1. people, including vessel traffic services operators, port operators and associated staff
  2. finances and marine assets
  3. the pilotage provision
  4. the leisure use of the harbour

Published in 2011 and under regular industry review, the NOS for Harbour Masters covers 17 areas of professional competence, as follows:

  1. Manage port marine safety
  2. Produce port marine policies, plans, procedures and systems using structured methodology
  3. Review powers conferred by national legislation and local regulation
  4. Develop and operate marine enforcement policy
  5. Report and Investigate Marine Incidents
  6. Determine the need for a port pilotage service
  7. Operate a safe and efficient pilotage service
  8. Determine the need and scope of port vessel traffic services
  9. Manage Port Vessel Traffic
  10. Manage conservancy
  11. Manage other marine activities
  12. Plan for and manage port emergencies and periods of disruption
  13. Manage the port marine environmental status
  14. Manage port security
  15. Manage marine employee workplace health and safety
  16. Manage marine employees
  17. Contribute to port management

UKHMA Council and Regional Representation

The UKHMA Council consists of seven geographical constituencies (the Regions), each with representation by up to 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.

Communication and Events

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

Spring, at the first of the bi-annual conferences in Edinburgh;

Mid-Summer, when the Association holds its Annual General Meeting and drinks reception (often in association with trade exhibitions or meetings); and

Autumn, when the Association holds the second of the one-day conferences 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.

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 (and reviewed in 2019), 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 – uniquely recognised 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 is based upon a year-long qualified appraisal of knowledge, understanding and application of the PMSC, and an oral assessment by an MCA-approved review panel.

An aspiring Harbour Master may require additional qualifications dependant on the port’s trade and operations, and professional seafaring experience is normally a pre-requisite if pilotage duties are also required of the Harbour Master. Medical fitness to ENG.1 level is normally expected.

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 (Vessel Traffic Services) Officer 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: In addition to the UKHMA’s Harbour Master Certificate, 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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