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

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

  • Ports and harbours regulation
  • Overview
  • Types of ports and harbours
  • Sources of duties and powers
  • 1. Local legislation
  • 2. General legislation
  • 3. Common law

Ports and harbours regulation


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 persons to act as special constables (a small number of ports and harbours have the statutory power to have their own port police, who have full police powers within the limits of the harbour land and extending one mile beyond, though they may act outside that area with the consent of the chief of the local police force)

If such powers are not included within a harbour authority’s local legislation,

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