Marine Operations Procedures

1.  Operating Parameters

Constraints on vessels using Ullapool  Harbour include:

  • Maximum LOA 120 metres, 6 metres draught at the ferry pier
  • Maximum LOA 100 metres, 7  metres  draught at the general pier
  • Possession of up to date chart BA 2500
  • All critical equipment operational and sufficient competent personnel available
  • Able to transmit and receive on VHF Channel 14

Vessels which do not meet these parameters will be subject to discussion between the Harbourmaster and master or operator. Further constraints may be imposed. In exceptional cases a formal risk assessment may be required.

Vessels greater than 7 metres draught wishing to berth alongside should contact the Duty Harbourmaster before entering.

2. Management of Marine Operations

2.1 Communications


  • Harbour Radio: VHF Channel 14
  • Harbour Office: +44 (0)1854 612724
  • Fax: +44 (0)1854 612678
  • Harbourmaster: +44 (0)1854 612724
  • Depute Harbourmaster: +44 (0)1854 612724
  • Caledonian MacBrayne:
    VHF: Ch 31
    Tel: +44 (0)800 066 5000

It is essential that visiting cruise vessels or other vessels unfamiliar with the port contact the Harbourmaster in advance to obtain best advice on approaches, anchorages and environmental factors.

Approaching vessels other than regular ferries should contact the Watchroom by radio for berth allocation and advice on current levels of activity or precautions to be taken within the harbour. The Harbourmaster will give information on the anchorages and approaches if requested.  Outside normal hours radio calls are connected to the watchroom.  At busy periods a member of harbour staff will normally be available on the piers to coordinate berth usage.

All vessels, including ferries should make a general call on VHF Channel 14 before entering, moving within or leaving the harbour in the form:

“All vessels Ullapool Harbour, this is ‘………’ about to enter Ullapool berthing at…../ move from……. to ………/sail from……. for sea.”

Small vessels, either fishing or recreational, find their own berths.  They should also listen for radio calls on VHF Channel 14  before entering or moving within the harbour.

Ferries also give three short blasts on their whistle if another vessel is observed approaching.

The harbour radar covers the navigation channel and inner anchorage.

2.2  Pilotage

Ullapool is not a Competent Harbour Authority as defined in the Pilotage Act, consequently no pilots are authorised for the port.

The Harbourmaster will provide information on the approaches, layout and hazards of the port on request.

Any vessel, owner or agent requesting a pilot will be advised that there are no authorised pilots for Ullapool.  They can contact one of the coastal pilotage organisations or individuals, but the Authority neither arrange or endorse the services of any individual or organisation.

The vessel master remains responsible for navigating his vessel into and out of the harbour, subject to any directions, general or specific, given by the Harbourmaster.

2.3 Movements within the Harbour

Visibility can be obscured by the height of the piers, hence small vessels may not be aware of other vessel movements, which may include ferries.  Before moving vessel, skippers or masters should:

  • Contact the duty Harbourmaster if possible to confirm the intended berth/route is clear and no other movements are taking place:
  • Transmit a general call on VHF Ch 14 as above;
  • Obey the ColRegs by keeping to the starboard side of the fairway;
  • Proceed with caution until confirmed visually that no other vessels are manoeuvring;
  • Wait until ferries or other large vessels have finished their manoeuvre and give way to draft constrained or hampered vessels;
  • Comply with reasonable instructions from harbour staff.

The Depute Harbourmaster will contact vessel masters/skippers who do not comply with these basic precautions.  Persistent offenders may be subject to sanctions.

2.4 Anchorages

The inner anchorage, SW of the piers is used by visiting cruise ships and other medium sized vessels.  A minimum  depth of 20 metres is available within 0.3 miles of the piers although vessels should beware of  an 8 metre patch in position 57º 53.33′ N, 05º 09.75′ W.   There are no significant length constraints on a single such vessel.  Fishing vessels anchor in shallower water further up Loch Broom.  This anchorage is covered by the harbour radar.

2.5 Moorings

All vessels, whatever their size, must be properly moored and moorings properly tended at all times.  If vessels are left unattended, the skipper must make arrangements for moorings to be checked and tended regularly.   If one vessel of a group moored abreast leaves, then the skipper must ensure that moorings of the remaining vessels are left in a satisfactory condition.

If any vessels are found to be improperly moored or tended, harbour staff may adjust those moorings without liability.

The Depute Harbourmaster will raise the matter with skippers who fail to comply with the above.

2.6  Unattended Vessels

In exceptional circumstances and with express permission of the Depute Harbourmaster, medium sized fishing vessels may lay over at the Inner Anchorage or the Fishing Pier.  Such permission requires that:

  • The vessel is properly moored alongside or at an agreed anchorage
  • The weather forecast is suitable
  • The vessel skipper leaves an accessible point of contact with the duty Harbourmaster
  • If the vessel is at anchor, the harbour radar is operational
  • The skipper accepts that harbour staff may take essential steps to assure the safety of the harbour and its  users,  without liability
  • Harbour staff will monitor the position of such vessels at anchor and periodically check the moorings of vessels alongside

2.7 Handling Dangerous Goods

Under the Dangerous Goods in Harbour Areas Regulations, vessels intending to land Dangerous Goods must advise the Harbourmaster of details 24 hours before arrival.  Imports of Dangerous Goodss into Ullapool are very rare, being restricted to returned items or empty containers.

Limited amounts of flammable liquids are carried on ferries which operate from Ullapool.  The ferry operators are responsible for their safe handling and shipment.  During shipment, basic safety precautions are required such as:

  • excluding non-essential personnel form the immediate vicinity;
  • careful handling to avoid puncturing containers;
  • prohibition of smoking and heat sources in the immediate vicinity.

The harbour office is kept informed of such shipments and receives copies of ferry manifests showing dangerous goods carried.  Periodically, the Harbourmaster will observe the precautions being taken and review the handling of these goods with the operator.

2.8 Deficient Vessels

Based on Incident and Near Miss Reports the Harbourmaster keeps a record of vessels which due to deficient performance, crewing or equipment, increase the hazards of the port or are otherwise unsuitable. In consultation with the operator and the Port Manager, the Harbourmaster may take appropriate steps to restrict the operation of such vessels pending modifications or improvements.
The Harbourmaster has powers to issue Special Directions in respect of specific vessels or groups of vessels restricting their activities or requiring special provisions whenever such vessels use the port.  Such Directions may include restrictions to daylight, certain states of wind and/or tide – in extreme cases, prohibition from the port.

The Deficient Vessels record will include actions taken and restrictions imposed.  It will be used as feed-back to the incident reporting system where appropriate.

3. Conservancy

3.1 Surveys

The Harbourmaster reviews the need for surveys annually in consultation with the Trustees and users of the port.  Need for a survey will be considered in the event of:

  • Reported significant shoaling or siltation in the navigation channel or in the vicinity of the piers
  • Grounding due to verified decrease in available depth
  • Repeated reports of decreased depths in a particular area.  The survey may be general or specific to a particular area.

A diver’s inspection of the quays and immediate vicinity is carried out periodically on an as required basis.  The annual review also considers need for such divers’ inspection.

A hydrographic survey will be carried out before any significant harbour works and again, allowing time for the effects to become apparent, after the works are complete.

3.2  Dredging

If surveys indicate a significant decrease in depth, the Harbourmaster will review the need for maintenance dredging to re-establish target depths.   See Section 4.4 of these procedures for safety & operational and notification requirements.

During divers’ inspections mentioned above, tyres and significant debris are removed from the vicinity of the quays.

Any capital dredging to increase the controlling depth would be a special project requiring additionally justification based upon cost effectiveness and detailed survey

  • Approval from the Crown Estates
  • Risk Assessments
  • Determination of whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required under the Harbour Works (EIA) Regulations 1999.

If spoil is to be disposed of in tidal waters, Consent is required under the 1949 Coast Protection Act from Scottish Executive, Transport Division.  If disposal at sea – a license is required from the Scottish Executive, Fisheries Research Service.

3.2  Wrecks and Derelicts

Under general powers and specific powers in the byelaws, the Harbourmaster may order or arrange the removal of any wreck, abandoned vessel or other derelict obstructing the approaches or navigable channel within Port Limits.  This is unlikely to be necessary outside the immediate harbour area.
The Authority will try to identify the owners of any such derelict and require them to arrange removal.  If ownership cannot be established in a reasonable period, or if the derelict is seriously impeding traffic, the Harbourmaster may arrange removal.

The Depute Harbourmaster will ensure that any such operation is properly planned taking account of safety, environmental, traffic and recreational aspects, the location of the derelict and the potential risks.  For any major operation the contractors must operate under a risk based safety management system and the operation be subject to an Unusual Event Risk Assessment involving concerned parties.  Minor operations will be carried out in line with the authority’s safety standards after an informal risk assessment by personnel involved.   See Section 4.7 of these procedures – Salvage.

3.3  Navigation Aids

The following are located at or in the approaches to Ullapool:

  • Cailleach Head       Fl (2) 12 sec 9 miles
  • Rubha Cadail          Fl W.R.G. 6 secs 9-6 M

Various Sectors covering the approach through the Summer Isles and entrance to Loch Broom

  • Ullapool Point         Buoy Qk Fl R marking the bank
  • Ullapool Point         Iso R 4 sec 6 miles
  • Ferry Pier                 2 FR (vert)
  • Fishing Pier              Fl R 3 sec.

The outer lights are operated and maintained by Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB).  The buoy is owned by the Authority but maintained by NLB.  The Point and harbour lights are operated and maintained by the Authority.

Target availability is IALA Category II, that is 99% overall availability per year. The Authority maintains the navaids in line with NLB document “Instructions on the Provision and Maintenance of Aids to Navigation”.

The Harbourmaster will:

  • As soon as possible, verify any reported navaid deficiencies, and take necessary steps to mitigate the resultant risks
  • Promptly issue advice of any navaids unlit to UKHO, to NLB, to vessels in port and to other users by means of a local Notice to Mariners
  • Arrange for all navaids in the harbour area to be checked daily

4. Marine Services

4.1 General

The configuration and trade of Ullapool Harbour are such that few marine services are necessary and none are regularly available.  Nonetheless Ullapool Harbour Trust has a duty to ensure that any marine services are carried out safely by suitable craft, crewed by competent, experienced personnel and with due consideration for local environmental conditions.

4.2 Towage

Any proposed towage operation must be discussed and agreed with the Harbourmaster in advance.   The contractor must satisfy the Harbourmaster that the proposed towage vessel is:

  • Of sufficient power and manoeuvrability for task and the confines of the harbour
  • Is adequately and competently manned
  • That all critical equipment is operational
  • Is operated in accordance with a risk based safety management system, either formal or specific to the operation.

If the towage vessel is unsuitable for these or other reasons, then operations will not proceed until suitable arrangements are in place.

Any non-standard towing operation, such assisting a disabled or grounded vessel or any lightening operation will be subject to an Unusual Event Risk Assessment, in advance, involving concerned personnel.  Any additional control measures indicated by the risk assessment must be implemented.

4.3 Miscellaneous Boat Services

4.3.1 Harbour Works

Any small craft used for harbour and associated works, including harbour surveys, whether operated by Ullapool Harbour Trust or by contractors on their behalf must:

  • Be suitable, and certified where appropriate, for the task, the working area and the environmental conditions;
  • Be crewed by at least two competent persons;
  • Be aware of scheduled ferry traffic and other large vessel movements which may affect the operation;
  • Keep a radio watch on Ch 14 VHF before shifting location and throughout the operation;
  • Have an alternate means of propulsion to the primary engine;
  • Be in constant radio contact with a designated person onshore;
  • Carry life jackets,  a torch, flares and other means of attracting attention;
  • If proceeding into open waters, be equipped with compass or other reliable direction finding means.

The crew must wear life vests, properly fastened, when on exterior decks or when in an open craft.

The crew and their onshore supervisor must carry out a “tool-box talk” before commencing the operation, at the least this should cover:

  • All required tools and equipment for the task available;
  • Sufficient, competent crew for operation, task requirements understood;
  • Weather and tidal conditions, present and expected, checked and suitable;
  • Movements of ferries and other significant vessels known;
  • Marine craft safety and communications equipment in place, usage understood by crew;
  • Communications procedures and methods agreed and understood;
  • Parameters for aborting the operations agreed;
  • Contingency/escape plans agreed and understood in the event of problems or incident.

The Depute Harbourmaster is responsible for ensuring these requirements are met.

4.3.2 Small Passenger Craft

These may include local small ferries, fish farm launches and cruise vessel tenders.

The operation and safety provisions for passenger craft are the responsibility of the operator.  Operation of such craft should be generally in line with the MCA Code of Practice for the Safety of Small Workboats and Pilots Boats.

Ullapool Harbour Trust has a duty to advise the operators of any factors which affect the safety of such operations such as environmental conditions, ferry or other large vessel operations, other special operations.

4.4 Dredging

Any dredging contractor operating within the port will be required to:

  • Demonstrate its experience and competence for the particular project;
  • Employ personnel who are properly qualified, experienced and trained for the type of project;
  • Operate a risk based safety management system.

The Harbourmaster and dredging contractor will, before commencement:

  • Carry out a risk assessment of the operation;
  • Develop special harbour procedures for the duration of the operation, these must involve the ferry operator if close to the ferry route;
  • Issue necessary warnings and notices, locally and via UKHO.

Dredging operations will be subject to a Permit to Work.

4.5 Diving

Ullapool Harbour Trust has a responsibility to ensure that any diving within the Harbour Area is carried out safely, by competent divers, in accordance with HSE Guidance.  Commercial diving requires a Diving Permit to Work valid for the specific operation and a specific duration, issued by the harbour office. Any diving works on behalf of UHT will be carried out by competent diving contractors, operating a risk based safety management system.  Contractors must provide evidence of their competence and SMS at the time of tendering.

Any required diving on vessels within the Harbour Area must also be carried out by a competent diving contractor or otherwise be in compliance with HSE Guidance for Diving on Fishing Vessels.  No such diving may take place without prior consultation with and approval by the Harbourmaster.

For any of the above diving operations:

  • The diving system/vessel must be properly equipped and manned
  • Weather and tidal conditions must be suitable
  • Warnings must be displayed and broadcast
  • Other vessels, vehicles and persons not involved in the operation must be kept at a safe distance
  • Diving must be suspended when there are increased risks from passing vessels or other activities in the harbour, or when other conditions change significantly
  • A Diving Permit is required
  • The Harbourmaster may order the cessation of diving if any of the above are not met or the operation appears otherwise unsafe

Recreational, sport or shellfish diving may only take place in the immediate vicinity of the harbour with the express permission of the Harbourmaster and then only after the operator has provided evidence of its safety.   When in any doubt as to the safety of diving activity, the HSE Diving Inspectorate should be consulted.  Safety of any such diving away from the immediate vicinity of the harbour is the responsibility of the operator of the diving craft.

4.6 Line Handling

Harbour staff assist with mooring/unmooring larger vessels including the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries.  Other vessels outside normal working hours are expected to make their own arrangements for line handling.

All persons handling moorings should take proper precautions against injury and/or drowning, including wearing of protective headgear, high visibility clothing and life vests.  Harbour staff must set an example and remind others of the requirement.

4.7 Salvage

Any salvage operations in the Port must be carried out by a competent contractor, operating a risk based safety management system.

A formal risk assessment is required prior to commencing the operation.  Any specific controls or risk reduction measures identified as being necessary must be implemented.  Tool box talks are essential before each shift or phase of the operation.  A Permit to Work is required if operating in the vicinity of the harbour area.  The ferry operator must be involved in planning if the location is close to the ferry route.

Procedures for the operation must be produced by the contractor and cover:

  • Methodology
  • Required equipment and personnel
  • Exclusions zones and limitations on other harbour activities
  • Other risk reduction and control measures required
  • Parameters for suspending and aborting the operation
  • Contingency plans

Ullapool Harbour Trust will implement necessary and appropriate exclusion zones whilst the operation is being carried out.

5.  Harbour Personnel

5.1 Duties and Qualifications

Ullapool Harbour Trust staff comprise:


  • Responsible to the Trustees for the commercial and Manager administrative operation of the port
  • Also responsible for implementing legislation and safety systems
  • Liases with ferry operator, users organisations, contractors and regulators


  • Experience of marine operations with understanding of commercial and regulatory matters pertaining to port operations, combined with a recognised professional Harbourmaster’s qualification and local marine knowledge

Depute Harbourmaster

  • Responsible for the safe, day to day marine operation of the port and for liaison with ferries, users, fishermen and other operators


  • Good marine background including fishing and/or other seagoing experience
  • Familiar with the fishing industry
  • Local marine knowledge

Pier Assistants

  • General purpose employees who handle lines and equipment including fork lift trucks, on the piers
  • Operate the ice plant and the ferry linkspan


  • Ability to work independently
  • Local knowledge
  • Marine experience preferred

6. Recreational Craft

The level of recreational navigation in Loch Broom is relatively low.

There is a small pier owned by the local authority to the east of the fishing pier with small craft moorings offshore in the same area.  Further seasonal moorings are located on the western shore of the Loch opposite Ullapool Point.  Visiting yachts enter the Loch and call at the harbour from time to time.  One operator, based at the fishing pier, provides passenger trips to the Summer Isles.  Some of the smaller fishing vessels could be classed as recreational.  Jet skis are becoming more popular.  Canoeing takes place in the sheltered waters of the Loch.

Moorings can only be laid with the approval of the Harbourmaster.  No vessel may be launched into the harbour area without prior permission from the Harbourmaster.

Regattas, races and public events involving a number of craft require 14 days advance notice and consultation with the Harbourmaster. In reviewing such proposals the Harbourmaster will consider:

  • Potential interference with other port activities
  • Interaction with regular users such as ferries and fishing vessels
  • Provision of safety equipment and safety boats
  • Contingency planning in case of bad weather or an incident
  • Competence and safety culture of the organisers

Jet skis, water skiing, kiting, parachute towing and similar activities are prohibited in the vicinity of the piers.  Harbour staff observing such activities should bring this to the attention of the persons involved.

7. Public Access

The Byelaws prohibit the public from the pier.  Nonetheless, there is a perceived right of access.  Access on foot to the CalMac ferries is direct and controlled.  The entrance gate is normally kept closed to restrict access to the Pier.

The risks inherent from public interaction with fish landings, cargo operations, net maintenance, line handling and vehicle movements on the piers are obvious.   Harbour staff should actively but sensitively manage this interaction by:

  • Reminding members of the public when they are in a working area or otherwise at risk
  • Requesting members of the public to stand back from hazardous activities such as line handling, fish landings and cargo operations
  • Requesting members of the public to use the safe walkways where marked, encouraging workers and crews to do the same
  • Enforcing parking restrictions on vehicles or plant which cause obstructions
  • Enforcing designated gear storage areas, requiring removal of equipment not in designated storage areas
  • Enforcing exclusion zones around hazardous operations such as handling of dangerous goods, diving, salvage etc