Essential information


Harbour Master Certificate Information


In 2008, the UK’s Draft Marine Navigation Bill voiced concern over the lack of consistent safety standards exercised between Harbour Authorities. Among a raft of proposals to rectify the situation, the Draft Bill introduced the concept that Harbour Authorities should employ only ‘qualified persons’ as Harbour Masters.

In the absence of a formal Harbour Master qualification, and by way of defining what a ’qualified person’ may be, the Draft Bill suggested that the Secretary of State should prescribe the standards of competence to be attained and the conditions to be met in order to be suitably qualified for these purposes.

Although this requirement was removed from the final version of the subsequent Marine Navigation (No 2) Act 2013, there remained an implicit obligation for the Department for Transport and the port industry to review the qualifications of harbour masters (and other marine professionals in the port environment) and to develop suitable qualifications.

At much the same time, it was widely recognised that a skills shortage was looming in the harbour master sector, brought about by fewer certificated seafarers coming ashore and a highly-competitive international market for suitably qualified mariner candidates. As a consequence, it was expected that a much wider catchment would be required to fulfil demand for harbour masters of the future, including the training and qualification of non-seafarers and the introduction of a clear career path for school-leavers and marine apprentices.

Fortuitously, the port industry training body, Port Skills & Safety, had already initiated the National Occupational Standards for Harbour Masters in line with the various elements of the Port Marine Safety Code. After widespread industry consultation and input, this set of standards was published in early 2012 and set a benchmark to which a national Harbour Master qualification could be aligned.

Jointly, the UKHMA and Port Skills & Safety, and with the encouragement of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, set about developing an assessment process for a Harbour Master Certificate that would demonstrate a candidate’s knowledge, understanding and practical experience of the seventeen modules of the National Occupational Standards. This process was initially tested by the UKHMA in 2012 and a year later a full-scale trial was undertaken, leading to the issue of the first five Harbour Master Certificates in November 2013.


The Harbour Master Certificate and Assessment Process

The Harbour Master Certificate (HM Certificate) is a voluntary qualification, open to all Harbour Masters (see * below), that demonstrates capability, knowledge and understanding of the current National Occupational Standards for Harbour Masters (NOS). Uniquely, the HM Certificate is officially recognised by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Department for Transport. The HM Certificate is not STCW-compliant.

In practice, the HM Certificate assessment process takes place over a prescribed 12-month period during which a candidate is required to identify, gather and present evidence relating to the seventeen NOS units for appraisal by two independent and remote assessors nominated by the HM Certificate Management Group.

On successful completion of the assessment process, the candidate is invited to attend a face-to-face assessment meeting conducted by two different assessors and monitored by the MCA. On successful completion of all assessments, and subject to the approval of the MCA, the candidate is awarded a Harbour Master Certificate, valid for a period of 5 years. Revalidation of the HM Certificate can be achieved by the holder submitting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) evidence, to a prescribed level, for the previous five years.


There are 17 Units in the HM Certificate suite. Each sets out the requirements for the subject and gives examples of evidence of capability. All units are mandatory, irrespective of the background or working environment of the candidate.

Full details of how to submit evidence to the assessors is contained in the course guidance notes which are supplied to successful applicants. Candidates are required to have access to a PC connected to the Internet and a scanner (optional).

Course Administration

With effect from April 2016, Liverpool John Moores University has been appointed as administrators of the HM Certificate and CPD schemes on behalf of the UKHMA.

All enquiries relating to course availability, content and payment of fees should be directed to


Please apply to for prevailing fees. VAT is applicable and fees are non-refundable in the event that the candidate does not complete the course for whatever reason. Applicants will be required to settle their course fees, or provide an official purchase order for the fees, prior to commencing the course.

Course Dates and Candidate Numbers

It is proposed to accept applications from candidates, as follows:

• Starting January – 5 candidates

• Starting March – 5 candidates

• Starting September – 5 candidates.


Applicants wishing to be considered for the HM Certificate assessment programme are invited to make their interest known to Applications will be treated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and a waiting list will be implemented in the event of over-subscription.

*The HM Certificate assessment process is available to all Full and Associate Members of the UKHMA, appointed Harbour Masters (not Members of the UKHMA) and other suitable candidates (who may or may not be Members of the UKHMA) nominated by a serving Harbour Master. All applications to partake in the HM Certificate are subject to the approval of the Harbour Master Certificate Management Group.


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