By definition, sea ports and harbours straddle
the interface between land and sea. The law however,
uses the coastline as a legal boundary. This situation
means that both maritime law and the law of the
land apply to ports. Establishing management schemes
for SACs will enable collaboration with other relevant
authorities to address potential problems identified
within the existing regulatory framework.
The majority of port operations are administered
by statutory harbour authorities, who are each governed
by their own legislation tailored to the needs of
each port. The Docks and Harbour Act 1972, places
statutory responsibility on the harbour master to
ensure navigation and safety within the harbour
limits. In addition, ports have a duty to have regard
to the environment under the Harbours Act 1964 as
discussed in more detail in Appendix F. Under such
legislation, the harbour master may issue general
or specific directions to control movements of vessels
within the estuary in order to fulfil their statutory
responsibilities. Various Merchant Shipping Acts
and Regulations apply to both the ports and commercial
Ports do not regulate ships and manning. This should
be done by flag state control operated
by the country in which the ship is registered.
As this has proved unsatisfactory port state
control has become common. Under this regime
the government represented by the inspection division
of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) exercises
the rights of the port state to inspect
and if appropriate detain sub-standard ships. The
port authority is not involved in this process and,
even if it is aware of the fact, it has no powers
to exclude a sub-standard ship unless it can prove
that the vessel or its cargo is dangerous as defined
in legislation or regulation.
International protocols and conventions relating
to safety, laws of the sea and pollution apply to
shipping and ports. The UK government has a responsibility
to ensure that measures are implemented in order
to honour their commitments to these protocols.
In some cases the commitments made at government
level have yet to be translated into UK legislation.
Examples of the legislative controls over commercial
port operations are listed here
and summarised in an Appendix.