Harbourmaster Profession in Red Sunrise | World Anvil



In some places harbourmasters call themselves Port Captain, in a feeble attempt to give their job name more prestige, usually failing utterly. Not to be confused with the Captain of the port which in many nations is a military navy or coast guard position, dedicated to security.

Duties & Responsibilities

A harbourmaster is either a (local) government or private company employee who carries the responsibility of the day-to-day affairs in a harbour, their duties lay in the fields of navigation, security, safety, maintenance, pilot services, traffic regulation, port planning, ship inspections, customs, collecting fees and toll


Taking care of the infrastructure on and near the water, the buoys the pier lights, the signposts and the water depth.


From both the water as the land side, protecting the assets of the harbour as well as the ships in it from unwanted visitors with bad intentions


Overarcing both navigation and maintenance. Making sure the harbour is in good maintenance is step one in safety. That all the lifebuoys and ladders are in place is another good example.


Maintenance of the buildings and facilities in the harbour, as well as the docks, jetties, mooring bollards. Etc.


In many places this is done by another company, but sometimes they fall under the responsibility of the harbourmaster, either way pilots always work in consultation with the harbourmaster.

Traffic regulation

In bigger ports with a VTS this is part of the job of the harbourmaster. Talking ships via the radio, guiding them in and out of port.

Port planning

With a lot of ships visiting, it sometimes occurs that they have to wait for each other out on the anchorage, the harbourmaster check the availability of births and when ships are expected to arrive and depart.

Ship inspections

In some nations, it is the HM's duty to inspect ships of their own flag for compliance with the law on, for instance; safety.


In smaller ports, the harbourmaster is also in charge of performing customs services, such as the registering of visiting persons.

Collecting fees and toll

Partly connected with the above, he is also there to collect harbour fees, otherwise he cannot get his own salary paid, and collecting tolls on customable goods landed ashore. In bigger ports there will be a separate customs officer for that.


In small harbours there is usually one harbourmaster, with some people employed for specific duties below that, maintenance staff for example. Several marinas may even share a single harbourmaster.

Bigger ports can have multiple harbourmasters, where there then is one chief harbourmaster, and several deputy harbourmasters. the division of their work can be based on area or on field of responsibility.

In private owned harbours, the harbourmaster can be on the board or even the head of the board, but more often they are an employee and the company is run by a port director.

Not even a minute after they had dropped the anchor a small dingye came bouncing over the water, on the bow in big letters was printed
PORT AUTHORITY. That was a big name for such a small place, but whatever. Rose thought.

"Make sure he doesn't go inside." Rose told Jan, as she hurried below decks to her cabin to grab the (false) papers that would identify them as the Lir a superyacht registered in Malta. She also pulled the ring binder with the name Lir on the back of it, so she would have the right certificates to show the harbour master when he would want to see if they were up to date.

Half the crew hid below decks as Michael and Aleksey prepared a boarding ladder. Rose grabbed the pile of equally false passports of a wide variaty of countries and a matching crew list. Hoping that the handy work of Armani would stand up to the inspection, not wanting to know what else would happen.


Author's Notes

In response to: Summer Camp 2021, prompt 20: An often undervalued but vital profession.

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Aug 5, 2021 15:12 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

So people don't respect the poor harbourmasters? :( Or is it just the pirates' POV? :p

To see what I am up to: World Ember 2023 list of articles.
Aug 5, 2021 17:55 by Bart Weergang

Nah, all people dislike bureaucratic paper pushers who know they got too much power, and regularly abuse that.

Aug 5, 2021 18:07 by Amélie I. S. Debruyne

My... someone's speaking from experience? :p

To see what I am up to: World Ember 2023 list of articles.