Information for Masters

We’ve put together this useful guide, which provides key information and useful contact details for visiting Masters.

Our Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) are based in a dedicated operation centre, which operates around the clock. Services for Haven Ports Pilotage – including boarding and landing – is also coordinated by the team.

Our jurisdiction

The seaward limit of our VTS area follows the arc of a circle radius 4 statute miles centred on position 51°55′.96N; 1°18′.84E with an easterly extension de fined by a line joining the following positions (all positions in WGS 84):

  • 51°57′.43N; 1°23′.91E
  • 51°59′.03N; 1°37′.14E
  • 51°53′.79N; 1°33′.92E
  • 51°52′.60N; 1°33′.92E
  • 51°52′.60N; 1°30′.79E
  • 51°54′.31N; 1°30′.79E
  • 51°55′.28N; 1°24′.34E

Pre-arrival information


Our VTS provides information, traffic organisation and navigational assistance services 24 hours a day with the authority of the Harbour Master. Failure to comply with any instruction given with the purpose of preserving marine safety, may constitute an offence.

All vessels must maintain a continuous listening watch on VHF Channel 71 and report to VTS on anchoring or berthing and clearing anchorages or berths.  Vessels must obtain permission before getting underway from anchor or leaving a berth.

  • Call sign: Harwich VTS
  • MMSI: 002320025
  • Telephone: +44(0)1255 243000
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • VHF: Ch 71, 09, 11, 20
  • Times: All times should be given in local time


Vessels requiring a Pilot should send their ETA to VTS at least 24hrs in advance or on leaving last port if later, stating their name, call sign, gross tonnage, maximum draft, destination, ISPS Security Level, the number of people on board, their last port of call and any deficiencies which may affect the vessel’s safe navigation.

Pilotage is compulsory for all vessels over 50m in length, except HM ships.

  • Call sign: Sunk Pilots/Haven Pilots
  • MMSI: 002320025
  • Telephone: +44(0)1255 243111
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • VHF: Ch 09
  • Times: All times should be given in local time

Sunk Pilot Station

The Sunk Pilot Station provides pilotage for Harwich, Felixstowe, Ipswich and Mistley (vessels under 180m LOA may use the Haven Pilot Station) and pilotage service for the Port of London Authority and Medway Ports for vessels bound to and from River Thames and River Medway.

Pilots board vessels 3.4 nautical miles east of Sunk Inner Light Float (at 51°51′.50N; 1°40′.50E).

All VHF communication on the approach and at the Sunk Pilot Station should be conducted on Channel 09.

Haven Pilot Station

The station provides Pilotage for Harwich, Felixstowe, Ipswich and Mistley.  It should only be used by vessels under 180m in length overall or under 8m draught.

Pilots board vessels 2 nautical miles east-north-east of Harwich Approach Buoy (at 51°56’76N; 1°30′.65E).

All VHF communication on the approach and at the Haven Pilot Station should be conducted on Channel 71.

Vessels giving two hours notice of ETA at the Pilot boarding position should call on VHF Channel 09.


Vessels must confirm their ETA 3 hours before, or as soon as practical, when within VHF range on Channel 09 and must obtain permission from VTS before entering the area.

On their transit into the Harbour, vessels are required to report to VTS on VHF Channel 71 when passing the following points:

Name Position Remarks
N Shipwash Outer Approach 52°03′.70N; 1°42′.00E N Approach
N Shipwash Lt buoy 52°01′.70N; 1°38′.32E N Approach
Mid Bawdsey Lt buoy 51°59′.00N; 1°35′.60E N Approach
Cutler Lt buoy 51°58′.55N; 1°28′.00E N Approach (Inshore route)
S Shipwash 51°52′.00N; 1°35′.10E S Approach (Haven Ports Traffic only)
Stone Banks Lt buoy 51°53′.23N; 1°18′.88E S Approach (Inshore route)
HA Lt buoy 51°56′.76N; 1°30′.65E
Harwich Channel No 7 Lt buoy 51°56′.00N; 1°22′.20E
Fagbury Lt buoy 51°58′.00N; 1°16′.78E Ipswich Approach – then transfer to Ipswich LPS on VHF Ch 68

Shifting or Departing

Vessels must send estimated time of departure at least 2 hours (and will not be accepted more than three hours) prior to departure.  30 minutes before the estimated time of departure, vessels should confirm its accuracy.

All vessels must obtain permission to move from Harwich VTS.  Permission to move is valid for 15 minutes only and if the vessel has not cleared within this time then a new permission must be obtained.

On their transit out of the Harbour, vessels are required to report to VTS on VHF Channel 71 when passing the following points:

Name Position Remarks
No. 4 Orwell Lt buoy 51°59′.80N; 1°14′.41E R Orwell – preliminary
No. 2 Orwell Lt buoy 51°58′.95N; 1°16′.60E R Orwell – transfer from IPswich lPS
Erwarton Lt Bn 51°56′.95N; 1°13′.25E R Stour
No. 8 Lt buoy 51°55′.78N; 1°22′.75E
Rough Lt buoy 51°55′.73N; 1°30′.70E Southbound
Cross Lt buoy 51°56′.50N; 1°30′.56E Stating if north bound or southbound
Walker Lt buoy 51°53′.78N; 1°33′.90E Southbound (rep ort to Sunk VTS on VHF Ch 14)
Stone Banks Lt buoy 51°53′.23N; 1°18′.88E Southbound (Inshore route)
Cutler Lt buoy 51°58′.55N ; 1°28′.00E Northbound (Inshore route)
Mid Bawdsey Lt buoy 51°59′.00N; 1°35′.60E Northbound
N Shipwash Lt buoy 52°01′.70N; 1°38′.32E Northbound


Masters of vessels receiving bunkers and Masters of bunkering barges/tankers, are advised that all bunkering operations within the jurisdiction of Harwich Haven Authority must be carried out in accordance with the Authority’s Bunkering Conditions.

Ship-to-ship provision of bunkering services within the Authority’s jurisdiction requires that the vessel is registered and holds valid documentation. Permission to bunker must be sought at least 3 working days prior to requirement and a Bunkering Approval Certificate sought. Successful application and approval will be valid for 2 year period.

Complete the necessary paperwork and send via fax to 01255 507177 three working days before the service is required:

Bunkering incurs fees which can be found in the Authority’s schedule of dues and charges.

Important notes

The following procedures are mandatory for all vessels over 50 GT and those vessels. licensed to carry 12 or more passengers.

Hazardous Goods

All vessels carrying dangerous or polluting goods as classified in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IDMG), in Chapter 19 of the International Gas Carriers Code (IGG), in Chapter 17 of the International Bulk Carriers Code (IBC) and MARPOL (Annex I, II and Ill) should comply with the Merchant Shipping (Traffic Monitoring and Reporting Requirement) Regulations 2004.

Note: See General Directions for Navigation for details of carriage of dangerous goods in the Harwich VTS area.

Marine Emergency

In the event of a major incident details will be broadcast on VHF Ch 71 with the message marker Harwich Marine Incident.

In the event of an incident all vessels should maintain current communication watch, minimise all VHF radio traffic and be ready for vessel traffic instructions.

Any vessel requiring emergency assistance within the Harwich VTS area should contact Harwich VTS on VHF Ch 71.

Radar Surveillance

Radar surveillance is maintained within the Harwich VTS Area for the provision of vessel traffic services. Radar video and radio/ telephone audio of Harwich VTS operations is recorded for the purposes of maritime safety, protection of the environment and to maintain the operational standards of Harwich VTS.