North Sunderland Harbour is a working harbour from which fishing and passenger vessels, dive boats, pleasure boats and the RNLI operate. It is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty and is within easy reach of the Farne Islands, many bird and marine habitats and diving sites. It provides a living for many and recreation for others; commercial, pleasure and environmental interests must work together.

North Sunderland Harbour, often known as Seahouses Harbour, is managed by North Sunderland Harbour Commissioners. As a Trust Port, the Commissioners manage the Harbour for the benefit of users and the local community. Safety, efficient use of Harbour facilities – it is a working harbour – together with protection of the environment and balancing the interests of the different types of harbour users are the Commissioners’ key aims.

This Code of Conduct applies to all Harbour users: commercial and leisure. It does not replace or override the Harbour Bye-Laws, the North Sunderland Harbour Order (S.R.A.O. 1931/928), any of the legislation that governs the use of ports and related maritime and environmental issues. As a Code of Conduct it does not in itself have statutory force, but it highlights statutory provisions relating to use of the Harbour and sets out the Commissioners’ requirements for the way in the Harbour is to be used.

Use of Harbour services and facilities, including (but not limited to) berthing, mooring and use of the Launching Facility, is subject to users complying with this Code. The Commissioners “have power to make the use of services and facilities provided by them subject to such terms and conditions as they think fit … “, (s. 40, Harbours Act 1964).


This Code of Conduct is provided as a service to the Harbour Community – to all who use or visit the Harbour in any way. The Commissioners expect the Code will develop over time, as the use of the Harbour and the law change. The Commissioners welcome feedback on the Code and will update it as necessary. It is available on the Commissioner’s website, along with the Bye-Laws and other information. See:

The Harbour Master and his deputies, have a duty to manage the harbour on behalf of the Commissioners. The Bye-Laws make it an offence to “obstruct, interrupt, hinder, threaten or insult the Harbour Master in the execution of his duty”. The Commissioners will enforce this if required.



Paul Brown
Harbour Master

Harbour Office, Harbour Road, SEAHOUSES, Northumberland, NE68 7RN

01665 720033 | 07483 126221 |



Image: Plan showing area of Responsibility of the Harbour



DEFINITIONS     "Harbour" means the water within the statutory limits of the Commissioners (see map above), both inside and outside the breakwaters and, where relevant, the harbour estate owned, leased or controlled by the Commissioners.


"Commercial vessels" means vessels in any form of commercial use, including RIBs.


NOTICES    Notices are also displayed at the Harbour Office and on the Commissioner's


Notices and directions from the Harbour Master, which may in some cases temporarily override the contents of this Code, may be posted on the Harbour Office noticeboard and, if possible, on the Commissioners' website.



  1. The Harbour Master is responsible to the Commissioners for the safe management of the Harbour. The Commissioners may appoint one or more Deputy Harbour Masters, who may exercise the powers of the Harbour Master when on duty.
  2. The name of the Harbour Master on duty is displayed at the Harbour Office. Examples of the Harbour Master's statutory authority:

 "No person shall obstruct, interrupt, hinder, threaten or insult the Harbour Master in the execution of his duty." Bye-Law 2.

 "The Master or other person in charge of any vessel within the Harbour shall obey the orders of the Harbour Master as to the berthing, mooring, or unmooring, or removal of such vessel,..." Bye-Law 7.

 "...any master of a vessel who, after notice of any such direction by the harbour master served upon him shall not forthwith regulate such vessel according to such direction shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale." S. 53 Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847.



  1. The Harbour uses VHF Channel 8. The Harbour Office is not permanently manned.
  2. The Harbour Master can also be contacted on:

Tel: 01665 720033   Mobile: 07483 126221 


  1. All commercial vessels shall keep watch on VHF Channel 16 and operate and keep watch on VHF Channel 8.
  2. Leisure vessels are expected to have and use communications equipment suitable for the type of craft. Craft/users shall have the necessary radio licences as required by law.
  3. Mobile phone signals in the vicinity of the Harbour are poor.



  1. The Commissioners are authorised by law to charge for the use of the Harbour and for services and facilities provided. The Commissioners review the charges annually. Details of current charges are available at the Harbour Office and on the website.
  2. Commercial fishing vessels are charged landing dues on their catch. Passenger vessels pay a levy per passenger.
  3. Leisure craft are required to pay a charge of £30/day.



1. The RNLI uses the Launching Facility and must be given precedence. The Launching Facility must never be blocked so as to restrict emergency access.

2. All Harbour Users must be alert to urgent instructions from the Harbour Master or from the emergency services that relate to life-saving operations.



  1. The Launching Facility is situated just to the east of the Harbour Office.
  2. Use of the Launching Facility is subject to the Harbour Master's approval, which must be obtained before being used. The Harbour Master has authority to close the Launching Facility in adverse weather and to regulate or prioritise its use.
  3. Leisure vessels may use the Launching Facility - please see below under "Leisure Vessels" for details.
  4. Commercial vessels may, with the Harbour Master's consent, use the Launching Facility for launching and hauling out and for emergency repairs of short duration.
  5. RIBs may be hauled out during bad weather with the prior consent of the Harbour Master.
  6. Commercial vessels, including charter boats, must not operate from the Launching Facility or use the Launching Facility to load/discharge goods or to embark/disembark passengers.
  7. The Launching Facility must not be used for storage of vessels or equipment.



1. The master of all vessels entering the Harbour shall notify the Harbour Master of any special circumstances on VHF Channel 8.


2. "All vessels coming into the Harbour shall be subject to the control of the Harbour Master as to the place for mooring or anchoring; " Bye-Law 3.




1. All vessels must comply with the Collision Regulations, exercise good seamanship and navigate with consideration for other Harbour users and the protection of the environment.

2. The speed limit inside the Harbour is 3 knots

3. Small craft must give way to larger vessels that may be constrained by their draft and restricted in their ability to manoeuvre when using the channel from the Pier-End to the Outer Breakwater to enter or depart from the Harbour.

4. All vessels must be manned by competent crew. Vessels that are required by law to be manned by certified crew must be manned by sufficient crew holding the necessary certificates.

5. Lights, including lasers, must not be used within the Harbour limits, whether afloat or ashore, that may impede safe navigation or cause confusion with navigation lights.

6. It is an offence to operate a vessel whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs: Railways and Transport Act 1983.

7. The master of any vessel involved in a collision, grounding, fire or other incident must report the incident to the Harbour Master.

8. The master of any vessel using the Harbour whose safety or seaworthiness is compromised must (A) notify the Harbour Master and (B) not use the vessel until the problem has been rectified.




No vessel shall "anchor so as to impede traffic within the Harbour". Bye-Law 3.




    1. "All vessels coming into the Harbour are subject to the control of the Harbour Master as to the place for mooring." Bye-Law 3.

  1. It is a condition of berthing in the Harbour that vessels comply with this Code of Conduct.
  2. Public landing places must not be obstructed.
  3. Mooring lines must not restrict the ability of other vessels to berth or navigate within the Harbour.
  4. Vessels in distress or difficulty take priority when berthing.
  5. Vessels must be secured alongside using adequate mooring lines: Bye-Law 12.
  6. Vessels coming to, berthed at, or leaving the quays must use fenders, to the satisfaction of the Harbour Master. Bye-Law 13.
  7. Vessels may be required to permit and assist other vessels to berth outboard. An inboard vessel must facilitate and if necessary assist the crew of outboard vessels to access their vessel to/from the pier. MCA M Notices may apply.


  1. The Commissioners make the Inner Harbour available for the berthing of commercial vessels, subject to available space. Berths are usually allocated on an annual basis.
  2. Berthing is subject to a berthing license and payment of the prescribed charges.




1. RIBs are not permitted to berth in the Inner Harbour, for safety reasons.


2. The Harbour Master may, on receiving an application and subject to space, allocate Outer Harbour berths to RIBs.



  1. Passengers must only embark/disembark from the Pier-End Steps or from the steps on the Inner Harbour Slipway.
  2. No vessel may remain alongside the Pier-End Steps and Inner harbour Steps unless actually embarking or disembarking passengers or goods.
  3. Unless otherwise ordered by the Harbour Master, vessels shall queue for access to the Pier-End Steps in the order of their arrival in the vicinity of the steps. Leisure craft shall give priority to commercial vessels.


  1. Leisure craft must comply with all parts of this Code of Conduct except those that relate exclusively to commercial vessels.
  2. Leisure craft (which excludes all vessels in commercial operation) must register at the Harbour Office prior to launching and pay the appropriate fee.
  3. Leisure craft will be issued with a registry board, which must be clearly displayed on the craft at all times.
  4. The owners of leisure craft must produce on request a valid certificate of insurance, which includes third-party liability cover on terms that a prudent owner of such a craft would consider appropriate in the circumstances.
  5. No water-skiing, paragliding, kite surfing, windsurfing and the use of personal watercraft ("Jetskis" and similar craft) is permitted in the Harbour for reasons of the safety of all harbour users and protection of the environment.
  6. Powered leisure craft must use "kill cords" at all times, where fitted to the craft's engine.
  7. The landing of shellfish from leisure craft launched from the Launching Facility is prohibited.
  8. Leisure craft are not permitted to enter the Inner Harbour.
  9. Leisure craft are permitted to use the Outer Harbour, including the Pier-End Steps for embarkation and disembarkation of passengers and loading and unloading of goods. However, commercial vessels shall have priority at the Steps.




Anglers must comply with all applicable closed seasons and Minimum Conservation References Sizes (MCRS) both nationally and locally



  1. All Harbour users are required to take all necessary steps to prevent fire, explosion and pollution, including such steps that are set out in relevant MCA M Notices.
  2. Craft using petrol shall only refuel in the Outer Harbour and shall ensure that people who are not connected with the refuelling are warned to keep at a safe distance.



The master or agent of every vessel loading or unloading cargo shall give an accurate account of the cargo handled to the Harbour Master.



  1. The piers form part of a working harbour. All visitors and users should be alert to the risks that arise from the operation and maintenance of the various types of vessel using the Harbour.
  2. The Harbour Master may instruct people not to loiter, cycle, drive or park on the piers. Bye-Laws 24, 26 and 27.
  3. No person shall obstruct the embarkation or disembarkation of passengers. Bye-Law 23.
  4. Nothing may be thrown into the Harbour and vessels may not pump bilges within the Harbour. Bye-Law 15.


  1. Harbour users wishing to use equipment that could affect other Harbour users must ask the Harbour Master for permission to bring the equipment onto the Harbour estate and use it.
  2. Users of trailers, marine straddle carriers, cranes and other equipment designed to launch and recover vessels and to load or unload goods or to carry or transfer people must ensure that such equipment is in good and safe working order and compliant with applicable safety rules and design criteria. The use of such equipment will be taken as a warranty of compliance by the owner/user. The Harbour Master may take any appropriate action if there are reasonable grounds for believing this term of the Code is being breached or the safety of people or property may be compromised, including requiring the production of insurance, testing, maintenance and user training/competence documents.



  1. It is the legal duty of owners, masters and crew of vessels using the Harbour to be familiar and comply with all applicable regulations.
  2. Some M Notices issued by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency apply to the types of vessel using the Harbour. These can be easily accessed on the MCA website:
  3. The Commissioners do not act as an enforcement agency, but will, as resources allow, investigate incidents, safety and environmental issues coming to their attention. If necessary, reports will be made to the Police, MCA, HSE and other regulatory bodies, as may be deemed appropriate.



North Sunderland Harbour lies within the Northumbria SPA (Special Protection Area) and not far from the Farne Islands SPA, both of which are situated within the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast SAC (Special Area of Conservation). There is a wide variety of flora and flora within this area most of which are protected under various legislation. Please be aware of this during your visit to the area. Our resident Eider ducks are ever present in the harbour and during the spring they will gather with their ducklings feeding on mussels, crabs and invertebrates. Disturbance from dogs and bathing can impair the eider duck's ability to feed and nurture their young which can cause the ducklings to starve or weaken them making them easy prey for our resident Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls. In the Autumn and Winter, waders such as Curlews, Plovers and Oyster Catchers travel from as far away as Scandanavia to feed in the harbour. Every time they take flight due to disturbance they expend vital energy. Remember they have travelled a long way to visit Seahouses too. Please keep dogs on a lead at all times.

 The area outside of the harbour around the Farne Islands is home to a variety of different mammals such as our smallest cetacean the Harbour Porpoise, Bottlenose Dolphin, White Beaked Dolphin and Killer Whales.  Cetaceans can be impacted by activities that disturb them and can interfere with their feeding, breeding and rearing of young. They rely on echolocation to interpret their environment and find out where other animals and objects are. Engine and propeller noise can drown out these sound signals which can disorientate the animals and disrupt their communication and breeding. This uses up vital energy making animals more prone to disease and attack from predators. They can also be killed in collisions with boats and propellers.

 The Farne Islands are home to one of the largest colonies of grey seals on the east Coast of England with thousands of pups born there every Autumn. disturbance can cause mothers to abandon their pups or crush them as they race to gain shelter in the sea.

 Finally please do not feed the birds. They quickly become habituated to humans which can make them aggressive. Also human food is often heavily processed which is high in calories and low in nutritional value which can affect the long term health of the birds and their young. Gulls have been known to attack adults and children as well as pets and they can also carry a variety of pathogens.