Department for Transport


Places of refuge are locations into which a ship which is in need of assistance can be brought, so that its condition can be stabilised – eg through repair or transhipment of cargo – and further damage to the ship (and consequential pollution damage to the seas and coasts) averted.

In the UK system, the Marine Safety Act 2003 provides powers of intervention and direction to the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP), working with the MCA's Counter Pollution and Response Branch.

SOSREP oversees all incidents in UK waters where there is significant risk of pollution, and he or the MCA directs vessels to places of refuge when he judges it appropriate.

Anywhere around the UK's coasts could be a place of refuge and we would consider it unwise to pre-emptively rule anywhere in or out as a potential place of refuge.

We also consider that there can be no pre-conceived list or ranking of places of refuge. This is because each incident has its own unique, transient and varied nature.

When a ship in need of assistance requires a place of refuge, SOSREP inevitably takes account of all the factors which relate to the specific incident, such as the weather, the geographical whereabouts of the incident and the type of threat posed by the vessel and its cargo, with a view to determining the most appropriate place of refuge, minimising adverse consequences.

However, in making this judgement, SOSREP necessarily builds on information which has been assembled pre-event. This information takes the form of a partial inventory of the UK's coast, providing a generic analysis of locations which could lend themselves to becoming a place of refuge for ships. This information is assembled and kept up to date by the MCA. This partial inventory may be accessed by clicking below.

UK Inventory of Ports and Anchorages

This partial inventory is used as a tool, in conjunction with other published sources to identify the most suitable place of refuge on the day for a particular incident.

The partial inventory is not, and does not set out to be, exhaustive.  It includes ports, harbours, anchorages, bays, inlets and sets out detailed information about each place.