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Port Information

Safety & Emergency


Operating Safety Limitations

Notes and guidance on the Port’s marine operational safety limitations including on-board emergencies and serious environmental pollution.

Also included is information on general Port closures, safe operating limits for tugs, tidal streams and reduced visibility.

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Safety & Emergency


The Port of Dover marine operational safety limitations may only be exceeded in exceptional circumstances, such as the situations described below. 

When such occasions arise, full consultation and assessment must first take place involving all parties concerned and/or affected, in particular with the vessel’s master, her operators and the Board’s marine managers.

This consultation and assessment must take full account of the prevailing circumstances prior to the initiation of any such actions.

In the event of an emergency on board a vessel that is likely to cause loss of life, personal injury or serious environmental pollution, the master of that vessel may deem it necessary to berth or sail the vessel in order to prevent such loss or damage.

In the event of the likelihood of structural damage to a vessel or quay, the Harbour Master may require a vessel to sail from a berth.

All vessels

General Port Closure – Wind Directions from SSW to WSW

The port shall close to all shipping movements when the sustained wind speed within the harbour exceeds 55 knots from these directions, that is violent storm, force 11. Prior to such a general port closure all scheduled operators, agents and the masters of vessels immediately affected shall be consulted and an assessment made in conjunction with them which shall take full account of the prevailing circumstances.

Swell Height and Safe Operating Limit for Tugs

The port tugs can operate in almost any wind strength, however eventually the swell conditions will cause the parting of a tug’s towline or prevent effective assistance alongside any vessel, particularly those fitted with side belting. It is recommended that the tugs should not continue operations once the swell height inside the harbour reaches 1.5 metres.

Eastern Arm and South Jetty Berth Windspeed Limits

These berths are particularly susceptible to the effects of strong winds from a SSW to WSW direction and the accompanying sea swell. Once the windspeed attains a sustained 45 knots, damage to the fendering, the vessel and quayside is likely to occur. It is recommended that when a force 9, strong gale, or more is forecast these berths should be vacated prior to the onset of winds of this strength.

Tidal Streams

Particular caution is necessary at any time when maneuvering both within and immediately outside the harbour as a result of strong and varying currents during the period from 2 hours before High Water until High Water.

Commercial Vessel (Other than Scheduled Ferry) Operations

The Port and berths can at times experience weather or sea conditions that would make a passage for a commercial vessel more hazardous or her berth untenable. The following passage and berth guidance limitations are the parameters recommended for all commercial vessels, other than scheduled ferry traffic, using the Port.

Vessel Size

Vessels of up to 260m length can be safely maneuvered to suitable berths within the Port provided they have adequate handling capabilities and their draft is not excessive. Before berthing vessels with an LOA greater than this, it is recommended that the pilots and vessel owners should carry out a joint risk assessment before any attempt at berthing is made. The assessment should include if possible, the use of the Danish Maritime Institute (DMI) simulator or a similar accurately modelled simulator.

Reduced Visibility

When visibility reduces to less than 500 metres, movements within the harbour should not be undertaken unless the vessel is equipped with suitable radars capable of assisting with the manoeuvre and has sufficient trained officers to operate such equipment.

The parameter of 500 metres corresponds to a visible distance from Dover VTS to the end of Pier and ED1 Berth. It also represents the distances from the Prince of Wales Pier to the ends of the Admiralty Pier and Southern Breakwater in the cruise ship turning area.

Vessel Manoeuvring Limiting Windspeed

When the sustained wind speed within the harbour or at the relevant berth exceeds 40 knots, strong gale force 9, the movement of a vessel should not be undertaken.

Safety & Emergency

Bunkering Operations

Strong winds and accompanying swell, principally from a SW’ly direction, may at times adversely affect the manoeuvring of the bunker barge and the safety of bunkering operations.

The severity of these effects will also vary depending on the tidal height and berth location. During any bunkering operations, and particularly in these circumstances, the need for established and clear radio communication between the vessels’ masters and port control is essential.

When a berth, or any vessel in that berth, is directly exposed to sustained gale force winds of 35 knots or more, bunkering should only be undertaken after the masters of the vessels involved in the operation have assessed that it is safe to do so. Such an assessment, including any special arrangements, must be confirmed with Port Control prior to commencing the bunkering operation.

If during a bunkering operation the wind and swell conditions deteriorate to such an extent as to make the operation untenable, then bunkering should cease and the barge moved from the vessel using tug assistance if necessary.

Alternative berthing arrangements can always be made in order to accomodate bunkering during adverse weather and sea conditions.

Safety & Emergency

Cruise Vessel Manoeuvres off the Prince of Wales Pier

Masters and Pilots are advised that during the times of the Western Entrance jetstreams, that is a period approximately 2 hours 40 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes before High Water, a passage, inwards or outwards, through this area should not be undertaken on vessels with an LOA in excess of 125m, unless there are particular compelling reasons to do so.

Masters and agents of vessels whose ETA at the pilot boarding area, or ETD from the berth, would coincide with these adverse conditions should be advised to adjust the time in order to avoid this period.

If the ETA or ETD cannot be adjusted, the pilot on boarding the vessel must advise the master of the conditions likely to be encountered and should advise the master to delay berthing the vessel.

In circumstances when it is considered necessary to berth or sail a vessel during this period, any manoeuvre past the Prince of Wales Pier should only be undertaken when both the master and pilot have fully assessed the prevailing situation and are in agreement with the intended procedure. Such manoeuvre may only be undertaken provided a tug (or tugs) is made fast (or standing by) as deemed operationally appropriate.