Harbor Safety Committees & Best Maritime Practices

One recommendation in the Five-Year Implementation Status Review of the West Coast Offshore Vessel Traffic Risk Management Report, published in October 2008, is as follows:

In order to ensure that Best Practices for navigation safety developed by any one Harbor Safety Committee (HSC) are communicated to other West Coast HSCs as models, the WCOVTRM Workgroup recommends that the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force serve as a clearinghouse for this information by posting links to West Coast HSC websites/Best Practices on its own website, and work with HSCs to encourage them to consider the benefits of reviewing/adapting existing Standards of Care as appropriate.

This webpage and the links it provides to each of the West Coast Harbor Safety Committees therefore acknowledges the value of each Harbor Safety Plan on the West Coast and provides a mechanism whereby Harbor Safety Committees can learn from one another and promote good ideas and applicable “Best Maritime Practices.”

West Coast Harbor Safety Committee weblinks:

Grays Harbor Harbor Safety Committee

Hawaii Ocean Safety Team (HOST):

Humboldt Bay Harbor Safety Committee:

Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Safety Committee:

Lower Columbia Region Harbor Safety Committee :

InfoPort Hueneme Harbor Safety Committee:

Puget Sound Harbor Safety Committee :

San Diego Harbor Safety Committee :

San Francisco Bay Region Harbor Safety Committee:

Best Maritime Practices
The California Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) is mandated by statute to prevent, or reduce the number and size of, oil spills occurring in California’s marine environment. As part of this endeavor, OSPR supports the ongoing workings of five Harbor Safety Committees (HSC or Committee), one in each of California’s major commercial harbors (see links above). Each Committee is comprised of representatives from the surrounding maritime community and annually updates its Harbor Safety Plan (HSP) to advance the safe navigation of all vessels transiting its geographic region of responsibility. The enhancement of navigational safety is expected to reduce vessel casualties and resultant oil spills.

To elevate the HSCs’ efforts, the OSPR Administrator, as authorized by regulations, has requested that each Committee develop Best Maritime Practices (BMPs) for inclusion in its HSP. BMPs are not to be confused with regulations as they have no legal status. Instead, they provide guidance by the HSC to the maritime community on how a prudent mariner would proceed under specified circumstances. BMPs are clear and concise, as well as easily-accessed and understood by the mariner. It is hoped that such practical, hands-on safety measures will have broad appeal in the maritime community and reduce personnel, vessel and environmental casualties while facilitating the flow of maritime commerce.

Below are Best Maritime Practice “BMP” Guidelines which OSPR presented to the California Harbor Safety Committees at their Summit on 11/3/2009:

  1. BMP should “NOT” be considered as follows:
    1. A regulation, unless the Harbor Safety Committee (HSC) chooses to make this recommendation to the OSPR Administrator
    2. An underground regulation–it cannot be enforced by any regulatory agency
  2. BMP should be considered as follows:
    1. A common-sense measure or practice that would normally be employed by a prudent mariner
    2. A useful tool that promotes safety and adds value and is not an exercise in generating paper
    3. The result of “brainstorming at the grass roots level” by each HSC
    4. An improved process or procedure that may originate as a recommendation from the HSC
    5. “Best Maritime Practice” is an accepted and agreed upon method to conduct an operation or process that will enhance safety for vessels, personnel, dockside facilities and marine resources
    6. A good example of a “Best Maritime Practice” would be the SF and LA/LB Harbor Safety Committees’ recommended procedure with respect to bunker barge transfer operations while alongside containers vessels at terminals
    7. Include as a disclaimer that the “BMP” are not in conflict with nor do they replace existing regulations which are already in place
  3. The BMP process
    1. Once a “BMP” is developed it should be communicated to members of the respective harbor community in one of or all of the following manners
      1) Incorporated into related procedure manuals or references made to the particular “BMP”
      2) Posted on the OSPR web page with links to appropriate Marine Exchange HSC web pages for the public at large
      3) Distributed in the form of brochures
      4) Referenced in the “Coast Pilot” as appropriate
    2. “BMP” should also be included in the Committee’s respective Harbor Safety Plan
    3. “BMP” should be reviewed or revisited annually to determine if they can be improved upon, or even discontinued as the case may be

For more information on BMPs developed by the five California Harbor Safety Committees, see the 2009 HSC BMP PowerPoint (pdf, 192k).


Summary Notes of the 2014 West Coast Harbor Safety Committee Summit hosted by the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife October 28, 2014
(pdf, 294k)

Summary Notes of the 2013 West Coast Harbor Safety Committee Summit hosted by the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife October 29-30, 2013
(pdf, 2.8MB)

Summary Notes of the 2011 West Coast Harbor Safety Committee Summit hosted by the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force and the California Department of Fish and Game October 25-26, 2011
(pdf, 741k)