Marine Navigation Act 2013


The Marine Navigation (No.2) Bill ("the Bill") received Royal Assent on the 25th April 2013 becoming the Marine Navigation Act 2013 ("the Act") and is expected to come into force over the next few months. The Act amends existing legislation in relation to pilotage, harbour authorities, general lighthouse authorities and the manning of ships, as well as extending the powers of port police.

This article provides a brief overview of the main provisions of the Act but seeks to concentrate on new powers given to harbour authorities to issue 'Harbour Directions'.


The Act has been described as 'broad in content but specific in nature that seeks to invigorate, liberate and innovate to the benefit of the maritime industry'. Supporters of the Act see it as a mechanism to enhance safety whereas others are concerned that it may reduce safety and provided a mechanism for unelected harbour authorities to create new criminal offences. A brief summary is provided below.

Pilotage Exemption Certificates

The requirement to have a maritime pilot on board a vessel to enter or traverse some harbours creates an added expense to shipping companies. In some instances, where a master or first mate has a detailed knowledge of a particular harbour and meets the requirements set by that harbour authority, that person is eligible for a Pilotage Exemption Certificate ("PEC") under s.8 of the Pilotage Act 1987. Section 2 of the Act amends the Pilotage Act 1987 and extends eligibility to hold a PEC to any 'deck officer'.

The objective of the Act here is to create greater flexibility by allowing harbour authorities to grant PECs to other deck officers if they can prove themselves to be competent. Concerns that broadening the categories of persons eligible to hold PECs may compromise safety was illustrated by comments from the UK Harbour Masters' Association who wrote in a letter to the House of Commons that: "it is essential that the role of the pilot is, in the interests of marine safety, restricted to only the most experienced navigation officers signed on the vessel's articles or other official documents".

Despite these and other concerns, section 2 was enacted un-amended on the basis that a competent harbour authority is restricted by section 8 of the Pilotage Act to only issue a PEC when they are certain that the applicant's skill, experience and local knowledge are sufficient for him to be able to pilot the ship. A PEC is specific to a particular waterway and a specified named vessel or vessels. Although the qualifications required to obtain a PEC are set by the harbour authority it is envisaged that a PEC should be restricted to deck officers that are regularly tasked with the navigation of the ship and who can demonstrate this.

Section 4 of the Act (which amends the Pilotage Act 1987 by substituting a new section 15(3)) makes it an offence for the master of a ship not to give a pilotage notification before the ship is navigated in an area for which a pilotage direction is in force.

Harbour Directions

Section 5 of the Act provides a new power to all designated harbour authorities to give 'harbour directions' to ships within, entering or leaving their harbour. This section has been the most controversial part of the Act and has been viewed by many as providing an unlimited power to a non-democratically elected authority to impose byelaws that may restrict important freedoms including the right to navigate. Section 5 and 'harbour directions' generally are considered in greater detail below.

Port Constables

This section extends the geographic jurisdiction for ports police forces in England and Wales beyond the boundary of the port.

General Lighthouse Authorities


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