Ports and harbours regulation
Produced in partnership with Nicola Canty, Barrister of 9 Hazel Tree Chambers
Ports and harbours regulation

The following Environment guidance note Produced in partnership with Nicola Canty, Barrister of 9 Hazel Tree Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Ports and harbours regulation
  • Brexit impact
  • Overview
  • Types of ports and harbours
  • Sources of duties and powers
  • International
  • European
  • National

Brexit impact

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this content.

For further guidance, see: Brexit—impact on environmental law and Brexit Bulletin—key updates, research tips and resources.


A harbour authority is an independent self-governing body that is responsible for safely managing and efficiently running a harbour. While there is a significant amount of general legislation that applies to ports and harbours, the specific powers, duties and responsibilities of a harbour authority are provided in most cases by a number of local Acts and Orders, some of which may be hundreds of years old and still in effect (in whole or in part).

The powers available to harbour authorities under local legislation include the power to make:

  1. byelaws

  2. special and general directions

  3. pilotage directions (for Competent Harbour Authorities)

In addition, a harbour authority may have powers under local legislation to:

  1. levy ship, passenger and goods dues

  2. appoint harbour, dock and pier masters

  3. exercise various function in relation to the safety of navigation (such as the laying down of buoys, the erection of lighthouses and the exhibition of lights, beacons and sea-marks)

  4. nominate