UKHMA Harbour Master Certificate in Detail


Your first contact will be via this website.  You’ll click the button below to make contact with Port Training’s Administration Manager, who will help you through the application process.

This is a blended learning course, but it is not open to everyone and you should know that not all applicants are accepted onto it.  Because of the demand, you may be put onto a waiting list until a place becomes available.  We have intakes annually every January, March, and September, although we are planning to increase to four intakes per year. More about that later.

To be a successful applicant, you need to have spent time working within the harbour environment and be working towards becoming a Harbour Master as a career goal.  You don’t have to have a Master Mariner’s Certificate – you don’t even need to have been to sea to join this course, although some seagoing experience is useful, if only because you will have experienced harbours from a user’s perspective.  And it’s likely that you might know a thing or two about buoys and general navigational practice.

If you are a UKHMA member, you qualify for a discount, so be sure to mention it on your Application Form.

Your Course is centred on the HM NOS and the Port Marine Safety Code (and its Guide to Good Practice).  It is a rigorously assessed course, and your submissions will be scrutinised by two remote assessors.  It is likely that you will have work returned to you for a second attempt at some point in the time that you spend with us.

You have EIGHTEEN months in which to finish the course, so once you’ve been inducted as part of the Welcome and Introductory Day, the clock is ticking. It is very important to understand that once you have started your course of study with us, your course fee is non-refundable.

Your Mentor will contact you, and you should use this resource wisely. Your Mentor is your Critical Friend but is not your Proxy Assessor.

You are not cast adrift all by yourself.  You will have your Mentor at your side, and you will be able to attend webinars, hosted at regular intervals, where you can discuss problems and seek advice from assessors and mentors. Think of these as clinics, designed to help you succeed. We won’t give you the answers, but we’ll certainly point you in the right direction! We at Port Training will also maintain regular contact with you, and of course, you can always drop us a line at any time!

You will need to monitor your time-management quite closely.  We will send you reminders from time to time to keep you on track.  This is the single most important reason that people do not finish the course, so invest in a calendar!

When you attend your Welcome Session (where we will explain aspects of the course to you and introduce you to some assessors and mentors) we will set you some work to do as a taste of the future…

Your first contact will be via this website. 

Candidates whose work meets the criteria will have this work credited as a “Pass” and their workload lessened slightly!  The idea is that you will have a live assessment experience and that you are able to discuss your assessment with your assessors then and there, picking up pointers for continued success.  And hopefully, you will have met the requirements for a pass for that part of the course!

All the assessment from this point onwards is done remotely.  You download questions from our website, work on your answers, and upload them to us for onward passing to our assessors, who are both remote and anonymous to you.  They will assess your work, complete a Results Sheet, and give you useful feedback, irrespective of whether you meet the criteria for a pass or not.

Once you have submitted a unit, we recommend that you start the next one to keep the momentum going.  After successfully completing the Welcome Unit, you may answer the Units in any order.  All Units are mandatory.

It is highly likely that there will be other people in your group because we only accept SIX Candidates per cohort. We suggest setting up a Whatsapp (or similar) group for collegiality and additional support.

Once you have successfully completed all the units to the Course standard at the end of the Remote Assessment process, you will be invited to attend a face-to-face Oral Examination, chaired by our Chief Examiner and one other examiner. This is not an MCA type orals (for those of you from a seafaring background), it is a topping-and-tailing of the course, looking at areas across the breadth of knowledge that you have ingrained over these last 18 months. 

Your Examiners will determine whether you are competent and merit the award of the HM Certificate during this interview. Port Training will host and moderate this examination, and the MCA may be present for quality purposes.

At the end of the interview you will be asked to leave the room so that the Examiners can confer, and then you’ll be invited back, hopefully to the sound of champagne corks popping.
Once successful, you will be awarded your HM Certificate at the next convenient UKHMA gathering, in front of your peers in the profession. Sweet!

To date, we have a 100% pass rate. Most people drop out rather than fail the course, and they drop out (usually) due to poor time-management.

What are you waiting for? Click the button below, and let’s get started!



The HM Certificate is a voluntary, standalone qualification, open to all Harbour Masters – or those aspiring to become Harbour Masters. It exemplifies professionalism, shows capability, and is tangible evidence of intimate knowledge and understanding of the National Occupational Standards for Harbour Masters (NOS).

Its origins can be traced to 2008 when the UK Transport Select Committee voiced concern over the lack of consistent safety standards exercised between Harbour Authorities when discussing the Draft Marine Navigation Bill. The Draft Bill introduced the concept that Harbour Authorities should employ only “qualified persons” as Harbour Masters.

The HM Certificate course closely follows the HM NOS, which were developed by the port industry training body, Port Skills and Safety (PSS), and the course assessment strategy itself was a joint venture between the UKHMA and PSS, culminating in the first five HM Certificates being issued in 2013.

Uniquely, the HM Certificate is officially recognised by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Department for Transport. The HM Certificate is not STCW-compliant.

In practice, the HM Certificate assessment process takes place over a prescribed 18-month period, during which a Candidate is required to identify, gather and present evidence and submissions showing understanding of the seventeen NOS units for appraisal by two independent and remote assessors who have been appointed by the HM Certificate Management Group.

This is a blended learning course, where Candidates are able to attend Introductory Days and are assessed live by assessors as part of the learning experience. Candidates put together a portfolio of evidence, supplemented by practical underpinning knowledge essay type answers to show their learning as the course progresses.

Much of the course is self-learning, each Candidate has a personal Mentor and there are a number of webinars on topics related to the Course Material which are held throughout the duration of the course.

There are 16 Units in the HM Certificate suite, related to the 17 units of the NOS. Each sets out the requirements for the subject and points you in the right direction. All units are mandatory, irrespective of the background or working environment of the candidate.

Full details of how to submit evidence to the assessors is contained in the course guidance notes as well as discussed with assessors as part of the Welcome and Introduction Session. This is normally done online, through a video conferencing platform.

On successful completion of the remote assessment process, the candidate is invited to attend a face-to-face examination meeting conducted by two oral examiners, hosted and moderated by Port Training. This interview may be monitored by the MCA. The oral assessment may be undertaken virtually, using a video conferencing platform, should circumstances dictate..

After successfully completing this process (and subject to the approval of the MCA), the Candidate is awarded a Harbour Master Certificate, valid for a period of 5 years. Revalidation of the HM Certificate can be achieved by the holder submitting Continuing Professional Development (CPD) evidence, to a prescribed level, for the previous five years.