Emergency Plans

Ship's Hold

Ports are complex areas as they operate at the interface between land and sea and between different transport modes. An accident or incident in one part of the port area may affect other users of the port as well as the surrounding community. Whilst a shipping incident may affect land based activities and the surrounding area and vice versa.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires that employers, including self-employed persons, prepare and revise as appropriate, adequate plans and procedures to be followed and measures to be taken in the case of an emergency or serious and imminent danger.

The main aim of a port emergency plan is to:

  • Contain and control emergency incidents and prevent adjacent berths, premises, materials or ships from becoming involved,
  • Safeguard people in the port, harbour and neighbouring areas, and
  • Mitigate the effects and minimise damage to property and the environment.

The port should have an overall documented emergency plan with each enterprise in the port having its own documented plan also. Plans should be compatible with one another and should include arrangements for alerting the Port Authority to emergencies in individual terminals. The Port Authority is the person or body empowered to exercise effective control in the port area and responsible for port services and facilities. The extent of their responsibilities will vary according to the type of port management that is in place. To be effective emergency plans require close co-operation between the port authority, berth and terminal operators and other bodies such as the emergency services.  

Note: Facilities within ports that fall under the Control of Major Accident Hazards Involving Dangerous Substances Regulations (COMAH) will have specific obligations including both internal and external planning requirements.

Types of Emergencies

The emergency plans should cover all foreseeable incidents identified from the risk assessment. The basic plan should cover overall procedures and control and be supplemented by more detailed procedures for specific types of emergencies. The emergency procedures in the plan must clearly explain how to respond to various types of emergency such as:

  • Fire or explosion: localised fires at pumps and flanges, spontaneous combustion of cargo, flammable liquids or gases, actions to be taken by ships in the event of a fire on shore.
  • Incidents with dangerous goods: spillage, leaking containers, ruptured hoses or fractured pipes, incidents with explosives or radioactive materials.
  • Rescue of person: from the water, from isolated or dangerous positions, from activated personal fall protection, from a crane or other work at height, from the hold of a bulk carrier with access only available by hold ladder or from a confined space.
  • Workplace transport, road or rail vehicle accidents.
  • Extreme environmental conditions: high winds, lightning, temperature extremes, extreme tide or sea conditions, flooding.
  • Marine emergencies: vessel collision, sinking, fire on the ship, grounding, security breaches, oil spill.

Factors to Consider

Port emergency plans should take account of factors such as:

  • Not all persons in port areas may be English speakers.
  • Access / egress for emergency services.
  • Allocation of role and responsibilities for specific actions in an emergency.
  • Emergency phone numbers including out of hours contact numbers.
  • People who may require special assistance to evacuate e.g. vulnerable workers or people with disabilities, visitors or people unfamiliar with the terminal or port.
  • Specific procedures for shutting down equipment or power. With crane stoppage during high winds sufficient time should be factored into procedures to ensure that the crane operator can safely egress from the crane.  
  • Backup communication systems: primary systems can fail and mobile phone networks cannot always be relied on in emergency situations.
  • Maintenance of all emergency plant and equipment.

Display site plans that illustrate the location of fire protection equipment, emergency and assembly points and ensure there is clear signposting so emergency services can locate areas. Train all employees in the actions to be taken in an emergency. Regularly review plans and update as necessary.