Harbour Formalities

Formalities on departure

Before leaving a harbour, the master must be sure his ship is seaworthy. He must delegate his crew (deck and engine officers and ratings) to run a thorough check as described hereunder.

Some of the duties of the master is to ensure his ship leaves the harbour of departure in perfect condition of safety so that he can sail to the harbour of arrival in the same perfect condition. He must also deliver the goods he is carrying to the receiver in the same apparent good order and condition.

He must also make sure that all conditions of any contract the Owners entered into (Charter-Party, insurance, etc.) are fulfilled correctly and at no extra expenses to the Owner.

Before departure he shall also arrange for a thorough search for drugs in the vessel and in the cargo. In most countries, if drugs are found aboard or in the cargo, the Owner will automatically be held responsible and will have to pay very high fines. Therefore, the checklist referring to "Drugs Search" (which is specific to every ship) must be carried out very conscientiously.

See also IMPORTANT NOTE at the end of this list.

A. Crew
  • Check if everyone is on board.
  • Collect the seaman's books and vaccination certificates.
  • Collect certificates of competency and/or their endorsements. See STCW 95.
  • For ships carrying special cargoes, such as gas or chemicals, collect the special certificates of competencyspecial endorsements
  • Collect the GMDSS Certificates.
  • Distribute the work clothing.
  • Show each crew member his or her cabin;
  • Assignment of tasks: at departure, at sea (watch lists) and at arrival.
  • Fire muster.
  • Boat muster.
  • If carrying passengers, collect their passports and vaccination certificates.
  • Before ship's departure, check for stowaways and drugs. Enter these searches and the name of the person who carried them out into the logbook.

B. On the Bridge

Test the following:
  • All navigational instruments (compasses, radars, SATNAV, GPS, radios, GMDSS-installation, etc.).
  • Steering gear.
  • Emergency steering gear.
  • Navigation lights.
  • Ship's whistle.
  • Watertight doors.
  • Main engines.
  • Check if the vessel is properly moored and that no damage can occur to other vessels or lighters.
  • Make a proper voyage planning.
  • Check if all sea/nautical charts are on board.
  • Check if all sailing directions (i.e. pilot books, Guide to Port Entry or Ports of the World are on board.).
  • Check if Notices to Mariners are on board.
  • Check if Lists of Lights, Lists of Radio Signals, the relevant IMO publications etc. are on board. See also "Publications" for a list of the ship's library.
  • Enter the name of the officer who carried out these tests and/or checks into the logbook.

If the necessary charts for the planned voyage, and other compulsory publications are not on board, or if those publications are not properly corrected, the ship will be considered as being NOT SEAWORTHY.


Well ahead of the ship's departure, check with the heads of departments (Chief Mate, Chief Engineer, officer responsible for GMDSS and Chief Steward), if there are enough provisions and stores for the planned voyage and if enough fuel, lubricating oil and fresh water have been taken on board.

Also check equipment regarding:
  • Fire protection.
  • Pyrotechnic equipment.
  • Life-saving appliances.
  • Life jackets.
  • Etc.


Before commencement of loading, check the following spaces for cleanliness and possible odours:
  • Holds.
  • Refrigeration chambers.
  • Tanks (put manholes under pressure).
  • Bilges.
Also check:
  • Possible damage to ceiling.
  • The proper working of bilge pumps
  • If hold covers are watertight (e.g. via a hose test).
  • Calculate the ship's stability with eventually reference to the Captains Booklet" or "Loading Manual".
  • Make the stowage plan with reference to the dangerous goods.
  • Make all necessary remarks regarding the goods during loading/discharging operations such as:

Make a proper statement of every complaint the receiver of the goods could make, to hold the carrier responsible in case the goods are damaged when delivered or if they are delivered in another condition as described in the Bill of Lading.

Every statement regarding the goods must be properly entered in the ship's logbook.


Before departure check if all necessary documents are on board and if they are still valid. It concerns mainly administrative, technical and/or commercial documents imposed by the law or by the customs and uses of the place. See also List of Shipping Documents.

For chemical tankers:

For Liquid gas carriers:

We insist on the fact that all formalities carried out before leaving the harbour must be duly entered into the logbook. Failing to do this, the carrier (master or owner) will not be able to prove that he exercised due diligence to make his ship seaworthy before sailing. This is an obligation imposed by Article III – Responsibilities and Liabilities – of the Hague-Visby Rules governing the Bills of Lading (where applicable).