On 3 November 2016, the Department for Transport and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency released an updated version of the Port Marine Safety Code. It provides additional advice for non-statutory harbour authorities and the introduction of 10 principles designed to assist organisations in focusing on the issues they should be considering to ensure compliance.

The Port Marine Safety Code ('PMSC') sets out a national standard for every aspect of port marine safety. Its aim is to enhance safety for everyone who uses or works in the port marine environment. It applies to all statutory harbour authorities. In addition, the Government is now placing a greater emphasis on proportionate compliance with the Code by other marine facilities, berths and terminals in the UK. The PMSC now strongly advises such organisations adopt a formal risk assessment process and the implement a marine safety management system (“MSMS”) which complies with the Code or any alternative similar standard applicable to their sector.

The PMSC is not mandatory and does not create any new legal duties. However, although failure to comply is not an offence in itself. The Code represents good practice as recognised by a wide range of industry stakeholders and a failure to adhere to good practice may be indicative of a harbour authority being in breach of certain legal duties.

In order to comply with the PMSC, the Code states that, statutory harbour authorities must consider the following 10 measures. Other organisations are advised to identify which of the items may be applicable to their port marine activities. It is recommended that, at the very minimum, items 4, 5 and 6 below should be considered by all organisations.

  1. Duty holder: Formally identify and designate the duty holder, whose members are individually and collectively accountable for compliance with the Code, and their performance in ensuring safe marine operations in the harbour and its approaches.
  2. Designated Person: A ‘designated person’ must be appointed to provide independent assurance about the operation of the marine safety management system. The designated person must have direct access to the duty holder.
  3. Legislation: The duty holder must review and be aware of their existing powers based on local and national legislation, seeking additional powers if required in order to promote safe navigation.
  4. Duties and Powers: Comply with the duties and powers under existing legislation, as appropriate.
  5. Risk Assessment: Ensure that marine risks are formally assessed and are eliminated or reduced to the lowest possible level, so far as is reasonably practicable, in accordance with good practice.
  6. Marine Safety Management System: Operate an effective MSMS which has been developed after consultation, is based on formal risk assessment and refers to an appropriate approach to incident investigation.
  7. Review and Audit: Monitor, review and audit the risk assessment and MSMS on a regular basis – the independent designated person has a key role in providing assurance for the duty holder.
  8. Competence: Use competent people (who are trained, qualified and experienced) in positions of responsibility for managing marine and navigation safety.
  9. Plan: Publish a safety plan showing how the standards in the Code will be met and produce a report assessing performance against that plan at least every 3 years.
  10. Aids to Navigation: Comply with directions from the General Lighthouse Authorities and supply information & returns as required.

It is strongly recommended that the duty holder (usually those members of the organisation, both individually and collectively, who are ultimately accountable for marine safety) and all officers involved in marine safety, should familiarise themselves with the updated PMSC and review any implications for their marine operations.

They should also consider the associated Guide to Good Practice on Port Marine Operations as well as reviewing the recommendations and the common lessons learned from major accidents and incidents which can be found on the Marine Accident Investigation Branch website.

Further detail on all of the above is provided in the update PMSC which, along with the Guide to Good Practice on Port Marine Operations, can be accessed here.