Port Operation Procedures

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A. Procedure for a Vessel Entering Hong Kong Waters

No vessel is allowed to enter Hong Kong waters without the permission of the Director of Marine. Not less than 24 hours prior to entering into Hong Kong waters, the owner, his local agent, master or coxswain of the vessel shall apply in writing for permission by providing a Pre-Arrival Notification (PAN) to the Marine Department (MD). The PAN of a Convention Vessel should be provided to the Vessel Traffic Centre (VTC) of MD by fax 2858 6646 or by email to pmovtc1@mardep.gov.hk whilst the PAN of a Mainland or Macau Non-convention Vessel or a Visiting Yacht/Pleasure Vessel (PDF) should be provided to VTC by fax to 2359 4264 or by email to pmovtc1@mardep.gov.hk. Tankers should also submit a Tanker Arrival Notice (TAN).

B. Procedure for a Vessel Departing from Hong Kong Waters

Prior to departure, the master must obtain port clearance from the Director of Marine by providing the CMO with a completed set of documents as described in Entry and Clearance Procedures for Convention vessels (PDF) and Entry and Clearance Procedures for Non-Convention vessels (PDF) or a Visiting Yacht/Pleasure Vessel (PDF) .

Not less than 15 minutes prior to departure, the master should provide the VTC on the appropriate VHF channel with information on name and call sign of vessel, location, next port, formal port clearance number, confirmation of Immigration departure clearance, etc. and seek permission for departure.

Subsequent to permission being given (which is valid for 10 minutes only), the vessel shall get underway and advise the Vessel Traffic Centre accordingly.

Emergency Port Clearance

In case a vessel without a valid port clearance requires to depart but the CMO is closed, the Port Management Office (PMO) of the Vessel Traffic Centre may be requested to process an Emergency Port Clearance.

Shipping companies or agencies should nominate their representatives to process Emergency Port Clearances and register their names with the CMO, and they should notify the CMO of any change of their representatives.

To apply for an Emergency Port Clearance, the representative should make an appointment with the PMO at 2233 7808, prepare the letter of application and the required documents, and follow the advice of the PMO.

A fee for the provision of service outside normal office hours will be charged in addition to the normal Port Clearance fee.

C. Pilotage

The Director of Marine is the Pilotage Authority in Hong Kong. Compulsory pilotage currently covers ships of 3,000 gross tonnage. Please refer to Pilotage webpage for detail.

D. Harbour Mooring Buoy

Commercial ships intending to book a government mooring may refer to the Harbour Mooring Buoys Booking and Allocation Procedures.

E. Carriage of Dangerous Goods

The owner, agents or master of an ocean-going or river-trade vessel arriving in Hong Kong waters and having on board any dangerous goods (DG) shall, not less than 48 hours before the vessel's estimated time of arrival, submit a dangerous goods manifest through the Electronic Business System (eBS) of the Marine Department (MD) or a hard copy of it. For circumstances where for reasonable cause it is not possible to furnish such manifest in the manner and time aforesaid, a manifest shall be furnished immediately after the arrival of the vessel in the harbour. The master of the vessel shall ensure that the carriage of the dangerous goods complies with the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. A locally licenced vessel conveying dangerous goods shall possess a valid Declaration of Fitness for carriage of dangerous goods, Operating Licence and be granted the Conveyance Permit (For Dangerous Goods other than Class 1 Dangerous Goods) or Conveyance Permit (For Class 1 Dangerous Goods). For more details, please visit this link: http://www.mardep.gov.hk/en/ele_services/dgis.html

F. Search and Rescue

The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) has full communications capability for the co-ordination of search and rescue mission for ships getting into difficulty within about 1,300 kilometres of Hong Kong.

G. Port Controls by Other Government Departments

Some Government Departments are responsible for other aspects of port and harbour services control.

H. Establishment of Ship's Agent

Companies who wish to establish a Ship's Agent in Hong Kong should follow the procedures in the Guidance Notes to the Application for Provisional Registering as a Ship's Agent.

After six months in the Provisional Register, Provisional Agent may be transferred to Confirmed Agent when they have a good trading manner and handled.

  1. more than one coaster and made more than 18 trips; or
  2. more than six ocean-going vessels and made more than 12 trips.

I. Special Operating Conditions

Specific permits are required for vessels to operate under special conditions in Hong Kong waters.


If a vessel is to undergo sea trials, an application must be made to the CMO for a permit for this activity. (Download the application form) (PDF).


(a) Definition

The term "Dead Ship" includes a vessel which is unable to proceed under its own power, or to manoeuvre with its own steering gear or to work its own anchors or has any part of the hull structure removed, or under repair which may affect the watertight integrity of the ship.

A deadship which is due to arrive in Hong Kong waters must apply for and obtain a deadship permit prior to her arrival. A vessel which is within the precincts of a dockyard is not required to be in possession of this permit but she must obtain one before leaving such precincts.

Very often a vessel in port may wish to shut down its machinery to carry out maintenance and/or repairs. A "Dead Ship" permit must be obtained by the vessel before this can be done unless the vessel is within the precincts of dockyard.

(b) Application Procedure

Agent should send request to the CMO by completing the application. (Download the application form) (PDF).

Agent should note that no cutting or hot work to take place on board a dead ship unless a valid "Repair Permit" has been obtained from the Safety Section of the Marine Department.

Under section 40 of the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance, Cap. 313, no repair or break of vessels shall be carried out except with the written permission of the Director of Marine. Agent can apply permission for a vessel to carry out repairs at the Safety Section which located at 23rd Floor Harbour Building. (Download the application form) (PDF). The issue of Repair Permit is free of charge.


Any vessel exceeding 50 metres in length, other than a dead ship, which remains within the waters of Hong Kong through lack of employment or pending the outcome of any legal proceedings before any court, shall obtain a quot;Laid-Up Vessel Permitquot;

Loaded or non-gas free tankers are not permitted to lay up in Hong Kong waters.

Application procedure

  1. Agents requesting a laid-up berth to lay up a vessel should complete an "Application for a Laid-up berth" obtained from Licensing and Port Formalities Section (LPF). Enquiries may be made at 2667 6931.
  2. Completed application should be forwarded to LPF for processing. Upon approval, LPF will return the "Process and Result of Application for Laid-up Berth" back to the agents.
  3. On receipt of a copy of "Process and Result of Application" indicating approval and a letter application from the agent, a Permit for Laid-up Vessel will be issued. The Permit is valid for 7 days and a fresh application should be submitted by the agent for renewal.
J. Minimum Safe Manning Level on Ships while in Waters of Hong Kong

Regulation 26(1) of the Shipping and Port Control Regulations, Chapter 313A states that a ship shall, while within the waters of Hong Kong, have on board at all times such number of crew as is, in the opinion of the Director of Marine, qualified and capable of carrying out all duties which may reasonably be required to ensure the safety of the ship having regard to the circumstances pertaining thereto.

The following table is produced to clarify “the opinion of the Director of Marine”:-

Table of Minimum Safe Manning Level

Condition of Vessel XO XO or CO DO CE EO MSML Ratings Remarks
Vessel Underway* 1   2 1 2 3/4 Under all conditions
Vessel Not Underway:
at anchor or mooring buoy 1 1 1 1/3 Except when tropical cyclone warning issued
made fast to shore 1 1 1/3 Except when tropical cyclone warning issued
when tropical cyclone warning issued 1 2 1 3/4
Vessel Laid Up 1 1 1/3 Except when tropical cyclone warning issued
Vessel Laid Up :
when tropical cyclone warning issued 1 1 1 3/4

XO = Master
CO = Chief Officer
DO = Deck Officer
CE = Chief Engineer
EO = Engineer Officer
MSML = Minimum Safe Manning Level

*Alternatively, in accordance with the manning level as shown on the Minimum Safe Manning Certificate (MSMC) when vessel underway.

In complying with the Table of MSML above, it should be noted that the requirements relating to Masters, Deck Officers and Engineer Officers are shown as actual numbers. The requirements for MSML Rating, however, are shown as a fraction to be applied to the total number of Deck and Engine Ratings shown on the ship’s MSMC, if carried, or to the total number of Deck and Engine Ratings on board on ship's arrival in Hong Kong. Where number of Ratings so obtained is not a whole number, it shall be rounded up to the next whole number.

The minimum safe manning levels contained in the Table above may be varied by the Director of Marine either on a written application made to him, or on his own initiative, following due consideration of any special conditions or circumstances which may attach to a particular vessel or class of vessel.