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International Harbour Masters’ Association

International Harbour Masters’ Association

A worldwide common understanding and definition of terms in connection with port design and daily operation is essential for safety, sustainability and efficiency and is the interest of all parties involved in waterborne transport. In a co-operation which started in 2006 during a congress of the International Harbour Masters Association (IHMA), ports and shipping lines have been working together to achieve that and can claim impressive results.

The priority has been to improve communications between ships and ports using clear and authoritative definitions for the various terms used in daily operations. The definitions have been sourced from existing standards within the shipping industry. Only when no applicable definition could be found was a new one introduced. The definitions include names given to areas within a port; terminology associated with restrictions that might be imposed by an authority on vessel operations related to vessel dimensions, external conditions, manoeuvring and berthing; event information associated with arrival and departure times; and nautical and vessel service times. These were incorporated in the 11th edition of the UKHO’s Mariners Handbook (NP100) (2016).

One of the co-operating partners, the International Taskforce Port Call Optimization, shared the terms used for vertical measurement of vessels, depth and draughts with CEDA’s Dredging Management Commission (DMC) during one of their meetings.

Standardising definitions to improve communication between ports and shipping lanes and other stakeholders is an ongoing process which is vital to the port call optimisation process . Co-operating organisations continue their important work with the next objective to improve data sharing between interested parties.

For further information visit the website of the International Taskforce Port Call Optimization , or contact IHMA: Ben van Scherpenzeel,



UKHO (2016). Admiralty. The Mariners Handbook (NP100).

IHMA &UKHO (2017). IHMA and UKHO Port information project: Functional definitions for nautical port information.

Project Officer to the International Harbour Masters’ Association, Captain Ben van Scherpenzeel, will represent the Association at the Port Symposium “A holistic approach to standards for port operational data in maritime supply chains”, to be held 30 April 2020 at IMO headquarters in London.

The symposium will address the priorities and challenges in the development of international standards for operational data in ports, including for berth to berth navigation, the ship-port interface and the end-to-end supply chain. The programme is in line with the findings of the IMO Global Industry Alliance (GIA) for Low Carbon Shipping, to realize e.g. Just In Time Arrivals.

Remote participation in the event is open to IMO’s Member Governments, IGOs, NGOs and the general public and information regarding livestreaming the event can be found at

Wednesday, 09 October 2019 16:27

International Harbour Masters' Association

About IHMA

IHMA is the International Harbour Masters’ Association. IHMA has around 250 individual members from 40 different countries.


IHMA’s objectives

The main objectives of IHMA are to:

  • Promote safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sound conduct of marine operations in port waters 
  • Develop and foster collaboration and good relations among harbour masters world-wide 
  • Represent the professional views of harbour masters internationally, regionally and nationally Promote the professional standing and interests of harbour masters generally 
  • Collect, collate and supply information of professional interest to the membership.


IHMA’s aspirations for Navigating a Changing Climate

Whilst there is some recognition amongst IHMA’s members of the risks associated with climate change, IHMA intends that participation in the Navigating a Changing Climate Partnership will increase awareness amongst its members, who have responsibility for the safety of navigation and port operations, of the actions that can be taken to adapt to the changing climate and to strengthen the port’s resilience.


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