KHM Plymouth

King's Harbour Master Plymouth.

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About KHM Plymouth

The Dockyard Port of Plymouth is under the statutory control of the King’s Harbour Master, Plymouth. The majority of the traffic in the port is either military or military support; the port serves the biggest naval base in western Europe, with base ported vessels including nuclear submarines and large warships, and a large number of visiting ships receiving Operational Sea Training. On the commercial side Brittany Ferries conduct 500 or so movements a year to and from ABP Millbay, while the commercial wharves in the Cattewater see Devon and Cornwall’s fuel, as well as many other cargoes, being moved.

There is a healthy commercial commuter and tour craft trade, while the recreational sector is lively, with 6 marinas, many water access points and clubs. Activity ranges from high profile and risk events such as offshore powerboat Grand Prix, through international sailing championships and local races to individual sailors, rowers, canoeists, divers, surfers and swimmers. The aim of KHM is to assist legitimate activity to the benefit of all, where possible.

KHM responsibilities

The King’s Harbour Master and organisation exist to ensure safe and orderly passage and activity for all vessels within the waters of the Dockyard Port.

KHM is an independent authority accountable to the Secretary of State through Naval Base Commander who is primarily responsible for the protection of the port, the Royal Navy and its vessels and other government assets. However, they also have far wider responsibilities ranging from environmental issues, oil pollution contingency and response and conservation to the management of the water space for all users (military, commercial or leisure) and business continuity.

This is achieved through:

  • a Dockyard Port Order
  • the provision of competent Admiralty Pilots and Vessel Traffic Service Officers
  • liaison with other authorities with an interest in safe navigation in the port

Admiralty Pilots

The Admiralty Pilots at Plymouth are part of KHM’s organisation and are employed to enable KHM to discharge his statutory duties to ensure the safe movement of vessels within the Dockyard Port.

The Admiralty Pilotage Service is geared to provide a round the clock service, every day of the year. The service provides up to 4 pilots in the core working week with reduced cover overnight and at the weekends.

The Admiralty Pilots are managed by the Chief Admiralty Pilot, on behalf of KHM. The Chief Admiralty Pilot allocates Pilots to individual tasks and assists the Movements Officer in the planning of vessel movements in the port. The Chief Admiralty Pilot is also available for advice on pilotage, the use of tugs and vessel manoeuvring within the port.

Pilotage for certain vessels (usually larger and deep draught vessels) using the port is compulsory. An Admiralty Pilot on behalf of KHM also controls vessels moved without their own power, commonly known as a “cold move”.

All Pilots have command qualifications and normally 3 to 4 years of pilotage training before qualifying as a full Admiralty Pilot.

Additional services provided by the Admiralty Pilots are port familiarisation runs and compass adjusting for RN vessels.


Notices to mariners

Vessel Traffic Service

KHM manages for the greater port, the Plymouth Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), its role is to offer traffic organisation and navigational assistance within its area of jurisdiction, co-ordinating shipping movements with berth allocation and the availability of other services, including pilotage, with which there is continuous contact.

The port hosts 2 Port Control Stations (PCS), Flag Port Control Station (Flag) which oversees movements and operations in the Hamoaze, and the Longroom Port Control Station (Longroom) which manages the moves into and out of the port and the Sound. The VTS Supervisor (VTSS) manages all traffic within the Dockyard Port of Plymouth supported by the VTS Operator (VTSO) at Longroom and Flag and during the core working day the Royal Navy Communications Senior Rate (RNCSR).

The VTSS carries the authority of KHM and is authorised to act as statutory harbourmaster for the purposes of issuing a Direction to a ship’s master. He is supported by a duty King’s Harbour Master which may be KHM, his Deputy (DKHM) or the Chief Admiralty Pilot (CAP).

The service is based on 4 radar sites with an integrated VHF radio system and CCTV network. The Port Control Stations (PCS) have their own emergency power supply for vital equipment and systems; should there be a system failure in either PCS, the other can assume the duties of both.

The VTS is part of the wider Vessel Traffic Management and Information Service which is the heart of the port’s day-to-day activities. Harbour control activities include keeping radar and radio watch and co-ordinating shipping movements; this management of vessel traffic involves the transit of vessels including nuclear powered submarines, civil tankers, continental ferries, cruise ships and coasters, all of which transit a relatively narrow and constraining tidal channel before they manoeuvre into berths.

Longroom also incorporates a separate Incident Control Room, which is equipped to deal with any maritime emergency.

Report an incident

To report an incident please complete this form.

Access services

You can access a range of KHM Plymouth services such as tidal data, our Safety Management System and useful information for port users here

How to contact KHM Plymouth

By post:

King's Harbour Master: Plymouth
Longroom House
RM Stonehouse

By telephone:

Admin enquiries: +44 (0)1752 836942 and fax +44 (0)1752 836944
General operational enquiries: +44 (0)1752 836953 and fax +44 (0)1752 836401
24hr telephone: 01752 836953

Very High Frequency channel:

CH 14

By email: