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Harbour Master

What’s it like working as a Harbour Master?

As the top authority in a seaport, the Harbour Master oversees the daily operations of these busy cargo transfer points. They ensure that ships safely navigate the area and balance the port’s commercial business with the surrounding environment and the port’s ecosystem.

Harbour Masters are often viewed as the authority in the enforcement of port, nautical, environmental, transport and security regulations pertaining to their port. They have the authority to permit ships to enter or leave the port, as well as for ship movement control in the port approach and in the port area. More generally, Harbour Masters oversee the planning of port operations.

While the job can be administrative in nature, Harbour Masters can be out on the docks in all weather conditions, and can be expected to work unsociable hours as and when required. However, the diversity of the job keeps this role exciting and rewarding.

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What kind of work can I do?

The role of a Harbour Master can vary depending on the different types of organisations operating within the port area. In smaller ports, the Harbour Master might be the only employee of the port and would need to cover a wide range of functions, whereas in a larger port the Harbour Master would potentially manage vessel movements, the environment, hydrographic survey vessels, and/or leisure activity.

More specifically, Harbour Masters may oversee vessel tracking and management systems, coordinate and plan port services – such as tugs, mooring, and pilots – be responsible for the safety systems, manage pollution and emission controls, and control security of the port.

Where can I work?

Harbour Masters can take up positions at any of the 1,000s of commercial ports around the world. Wherever the Harbour Master chooses to work, knowledge of the environment local to the port is essential, as is knowledge of the local, regional and international rules and regulations on port operations. Starting a career as a Harbour Master is an opening in the exciting onshore cargo handling industry.

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How big is this sector?

There is fierce competition for Harbour Master roles as those that take up posts generally stay in the role for many years. However, as world trade continues to grow there has been a constant stream of new ports starting up around the world that require experienced Harbour Masters.

Most Harbour Masters start their maritime career at sea, and move to the onshore role of Harbour Master after many years of service and reaching the level of captain. And while being a master mariner is not a prerequisite for the role of Harbour Master, it is a qualification that virtually all Harbour Masters hold.