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Cargo ships preparations for entering ports

Oceangoing cargo vessels preparations for entering ports involve many complexities and careful consideration will need to be made for safe berthing
Summarized below are some basic check items that need to be complied with. Watch officers should also kept in mind the procedures explained here are only indicative, not exhaustive in nature and one must always be guided by practices of good seamanship. Also specific ship will have her own characteristics .

The Master shall inform the estimated time of arrival port to the head of departments. There should be a meeting between all Senior officers and where necessary, Junior officers and Crew, convened well before arrival port, to discuss all matters pertaining to the port arrival and stay.

The concerned officers shall confirm the completed condition of the corresponding items of the “Check list for Entering Port” and report the same to the Master. Relevant entry to be made in the Deck Log Book to this effect.


Main Engine Astern Testing should be carried out before every port entries. The testing area should be Safety area where is prior to Pilot onboard (or before reaching to Pilot boarding ground), with considering vessels’ maneuvering factors.


The stations for Entering (and Leaving) port shall be as follows, but the Master may change these as actual circumstances require.

• The Chief Officer shall be at the Bow to command the forward station.

• The Second Officer shall be at the Stern to command aft station. However, in case the aft station is not required, he shall follow Master’s instruction.

• The Third Officer shall assist the Master on the Bridge.

• The Bosun shall assist the Chief Officer at the Bow

• Other Deck Ratings shall be at the Bow or Stern and engaged in the operation under the direction of the Chief Officer or the Second Officer, as appropriate

• Deck Ratings stationed on the bridge shall be engaged in Steering and Lookout.

• The Chief Engineer shall be in the Engine Control Room and take command of the machinery in general

• The First (Asst.) Engineer shall be in the Engine room and engaged in the operation of Machinery by commanding his subordinates.

• The Second (Asst.) Engineer and Third Asst. engineer shall be stationed as ordered and engaged in the operation of the Machinery.

• No.1 Oiler shall assist the First (Asst.) Engineer in the engine room in necessary operations under his direction and supervise Engine ratings

• Other Engine Ratings shall work under the direction of the First (Asst.) Engineer in the engine room.

Related procedures and rules

The following procedures must be complied with when preparing for entering port:

• Procedures for Confirming Stability and Hull Strength

• Procedures for Pilotage

• Procedures for Navigational Watch-keeping

• Procedures for Inspection of Nautical Instruments and Steering Gear

• Procedures for GMDSS Communication

• Related Local Laws and Regulations, such as CFR and port rules

• SSP (Ship Security Plan) related procedures

Unsafe Ports

Unsafe ports are ports where you have, for any reason, an above normal chance/risk to damage any part of the ship or cargo under the prevailing conditions. Examples of unsafe ports/places:
  • Where the weather and sea conditions can damage the vessel and you have no weather forecasts.
  • Where the vessel must berth without tugs or without pilot or with insufficient tugs and it is not customary for your type of ship to do so.
  • Where there is a risk that for political reasons the vessel will not be allowed to leave the place.
  • Where the prevailing weather/sea conditions make it dangerous to enter or leave the port.
  • Where logs or other flotsam are in the water endangering the propeller and that you need your main engine to sail or manoeuvre.
  • Where there is insufficient water to safely stay afloat or lack of charts and sailing directions to make a judgement.
  • When your vessel is under time charter you will on occasion meet with the “Unsafe Port” problem. You should contact your management office and operator as soon as you encounter any such situation.

Related articles

Port watch check item

Ships navigation - Preparation for departure port

Deck officers guideline for watchkeeping in port

How to ensure safe working atmosphere onboard?

Collecting Information and Data for Passage Planning

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