The Port Marine Safety Code and Guide to Good Practice on Port Marine Operations


1n 1998 the Department of Transport, in light of the” Sea Empress” disaster, undertook a review of the 1987 Pilotage act, the act of Parliament that had conferred responsibility for Pilotage in the UK upon Competent Harbour Authorities. The review concluded that Pilotage should rightly remain the responsibility of Competent Harbour Authorities and become integrated with other port marine activity under the management and responsibility of the Statutory Authority. Several recommendations also came from this review, the principle one being the Port Marine Safety Code. (PMSC)

The Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC) was first published on 15 March 2000 and introduced a national standard for every aspect of port marine safety. The Code establishes a measure by which harbour authorities can be held accountable for their legal powers and duties to run their harbours’ in safety.  It is intended that the Code applies to all harbour authorities, to the extent that they have duties and powers relating to marine safety.

This position has been agreed nationally with representatives of all parties but relies on existing legal duties and powers for its legitimacy. The Code therefore applies to all those harbour authorities founded on primary legislation i.e. Statutory Harbour Authorities. A summary of the legal duties and powers of harbour authorities relating to marine safety is included within the Code. However, it does not create new legal duties for harbour authorities.  

Put simply, the PMSC serves to outline the requirements of the various applicable laws, acts and orders, in such a way that we, as Harbour Authorities and their appointed port marine staff, can be reasonably assured that if we follow the code we are following the national standardand are most probably fulfilling the various duties and responsibilities under the legislation that we are duty bound to observe. 

Both the Code and Guide to Good Practice have been updated and new versions were published in November 2016 and February 2018