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Transport & Logistics

The role of Harbour Master: Q&A Session with Captain Kevin Richardson Part 2

15 Dec 2011, by Informa Insights

Captain Kevin Richardson

Capt. Kevin Richardson, General Manager Port Operations/Harbour Master, Port of Dover & President, United Kingdom Harbour Masters Association, United Kingdom highlights the importance of the role of Harbour Masters to the marine industry as a whole and offers an insight into how harbour masters help keep a port moving! Capt Richardson’s presentation at the 8th IHMA Congress will address harbour masters’ qualifications.

The role of harbour master seems to be evolving to include roles such as operations manager and marine services manager. Are these changes cosmetic or has the role itself changed?
I think my responses to the first two questions clearly demonstrate that the role of Harbour Master in some ports has evolved considerably from its original marine technical origins. The role has definitely changed in Dover over the past 10 years or so on the back of the huge expansion of the port. It very much depends on individual port authorities though. Some PA’s keep the Harbour Master role restricted to the marine technical and statutory role for good and valid reasons. There is no global template.

The problem of sourcing suitably qualified personnel for this important role is very much a global phenomenon. How do you explain this decline? Has there been a shift in the source of recruitment? Have other positions become more attractive for those with the necessary qualifications?
In my view there is a definite lack of qualified and competent people suitable for the very important role of Harbour Master. The traditional recruitment pond which used to be fed by the Merchant Marine and Royal Navy in the UK is drying up fast. I believe the same is true of Europe and other parts of the world. There have been very definite shifts in the source of recruitment with agencies going much further afield and international in most cases to try and get the right people with the right qualifications and the right experience.

What is the right qualification? The answer to that used to be “A Masters Foreign Going Certificate of Competency” (Coc) and this qualification is still at the forefront of most port authorities’ minds when they produce the person specification for the recruitment process. However, I think things are changing and indeed they will have to change because the supply of Master Mariners is drying up… slowly but surely.

What actions have been taken in the UK to address this problem?
The UKHMA has been pushing for some 5 years now for a Harbour Masters Certificate of Competency. Such a certificate would be endorsed by the MCA in the UK and open to marine professionals to
undertake. They would need to demonstrate their compliance with the CoC criteria which are based on the National Occupational Standards for Harbour Masters. These criteria are much more specific on
what is actually needed to become a Harbour Master in the UK today – not just the possession of a Masters Ticket, although this would be a very important step in the process.

How are these developments progressing?
Very well.

The UKHMA has completely revised the National Occupational Standards in concert with Port Skills and Safety: the UK organisation tasked with the stewardship of all National Occupational Standards in the marine industry. The CoC criteria are almost complete and the MCA have been consulted in the process at every step. I anticipate the first H/Master CoC to be issued by mid-2012 and the roll out will continue over the next few years.

Your paper at the 8th IHMA Congress will ask the question as to whether the UK model might be suitable for application on an international basis. At this stage, can you offer us any insight into the answer?
Well I don’t want to pre- empt my presentation but I hope to demonstrate the value of the CoC system if nothing else. I believe the CoC would be welcomed not least by existing Harbour Masters. Why would they not welcome a qualification that demonstrates their continued competence and moreover is developmental and potentially extremely valuable when looking at career advancement opportunities? Also, what Port Authority Management Board would not welcome the reassurance that such a fundamentally key appointment for them can be filled by a person with such a qualification?

I ask myself, if I were the Chief Executive of Port Future and presented with two candidates: one has a Harbour Masters CoC and the Masters Certificate; the other has a Master Certificate… which one would I choose?

Captain Kevin Richardson is delivering his presentation, ‘Harbour Masters Qualifications: Could the UK model become an international template?’ at the 8th IHMA Congress on Monday 14th May 2012. Click for more details on the conference programme for the 8th IHMA Congress in Cork, or contact:

Click here to read Part 1 of the interview.

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