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Safer Ports for Thousands of Workers

Thousands of workers at UK ports are set to benefit from higher safety standards as Transport Minister Paul Clark launched an updated Port Marine Safety Code.

The changes were unveiled at a special event on board HQS Wellington in association with the Port of London Authority. The revised Code - and the accompanying Guide to Good practice - are designed to promote safety amongst the 54,000 people who work in ports around the country through greater transparency of roles, responsibilities and legal obligations for the industry.

Transport Minister Paul Clark said:

"With 54,000 people working at our ports, it's very encouraging to see tireless dedication to high standards across the industry, making ports safety here among the best in the world.

"When accidents do happen, the consequences can be very serious, but thanks to the professionalism of those who manage our ports this is now a rarity.

"This work is a great example of what the industry and the Government can achieve by working closely together. I hope that by updating the Code, the industry will have an even clearer guide to port marine safety, enabling them to continue the excellent work they already do."

Port of London Authority chief harbour master, David Snelson, said;

"The Port Marine Safety Code is the cornerstone of UK harbour authorities' operations.  This new edition provides improved guidelines and principles for each port's Safety Management System, which identify risks and steps needed to eliminate or keep them to a minimum.  This helps ensure people, vessels and the environment stay safe. 

"The revision to the Code brings a consistent template to this important safety tool, which can be scaled up or down to suit large ports like London or smaller harbours like Fowey.  It's importance can’t be overstated as ports are essential trade gateways which at their most basic help keep people clothed, fed and warm."

Steve Clinch, Deputy Chief Inspector, Marine Accident Investigation Branch said:

"Investigations into previous accidents within Port and Harbour limits have highlighted how important it is for port operators to maintain robust safety regimes. The MAIB has recently raised concerns over the industry’s ability to learn from previous accidents but the launch of the refreshed Port Marine Safety Code, and in particular the industry's ownership of the Guide to Best Practice, provides me with encouragement that there is now clear recognition about the importance of the Code. I look forward to this event marking the beginning of significant improvements in future safety."

Notes to editors:

  • The Port Marine Safety Code was first published in March 2000. The voluntary code of practice covers the management of safety for marine actives in ports. The Health and Safety Executive has responsibility for regulating shore-side activities.
  • The Code aims to improve the safety of marine operations and to establish clear national standards of compliance for all port authorities. To support the Code, the Department also published the Guide to Good Practice in March 2002. This provided detailed advice and examples of good practice to help harbour authorities comply with the Code.
  • UK ports currently employ around 54,000 people directly, with a further 40,000 indirect jobs
  • The Code applies to all UK ports that have statutory powers and duties. Its purpose is to improve the safety of marine operations and to establish clear national standards of compliance for all harbour authorities.  Key requirements for those harbour authorities who sign up to the Code include:
    • Using risk assessments techniques to review all marine operations;
    • Develop and maintaining a safety management system;
    • The appointment of a 'designated person' to provide independent assurance to the harbour board regarding the authority's compliance.
  • Over the past year, a working group of industry representatives; the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Department for Transport (DfT) officials have been updating the two documents. The group concluded that the Code should be refreshed to enable easier implementation of the Code by harbour authorities through the use of plain english and clarity of detail. Improvements to the shortened document include:
    • Clearer definitions of roles - notably those of the 'duty holder'; and 'designated person';
    • Advice on incident management to harbour authorities;
    • Details of relevant new legislation;
    • Information and links for port personnel to learn lessons arising from Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) reports.
  • Ministers have agreed that the DfT and MCA should retain ownership of the Code, but that the ports industry (led by the UK Major Ports Group and the British Ports Association) would become directly responsible for owning and maintaining the Guide.  This should help fulfil the original intention of the Guide being updated on a regular basis.
  • Last October in a response to the House of Commons Transport Committee, the Department confirmed that it was working with industry and the MCA on a project to update and refresh the Code and the Guide. Publication of the new versions now will fulfil both commitments with the Guide containing an expanded section relating to formal risk assessments.
  • Copies of the refreshed Code and Guide can be found on the DfT website (opens in a new window).