Port of New Bedford

America's #1 Fishing Port

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Municipal Piers and wharves

Overview of NBPA Piers and Wharves

The NBPA manages five piers and wharves for offloading.

  • Homer’s Wharf (also called Merrill’s Wharf) houses some of the waterfront’s seafood processing companies and provides berthing for commercial fishing vessels.
  • Leonard’s Wharf is home to fishing boats and the majority of the Port’s lobster boats. The wharf is named for Samuel Leonard, founder of a lumber company located on the site in 1840. Lumber from the East Coast and the Pacific Northwest was off-loaded and planed in an adjacent mill.
  • Steamship Wharf was rebuilt and doubled in length in 1979 and today houses many fishing and lobster boats. Expansion is possible by limited by its proximity to State Pier and the large vessels there impeded maneuvering capabilities. This historic pier, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places, once served as a terminal for ferries operating between New Bedford, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, and for service from Boston, New York City, and New London.
  • Coal Pocket Pier is used for berthing fishing and lobster boats. During the golden age of whaling, this short pier was a receiving point for thousands of casks of whale oil. The pier got its name in the late 19th century when coal was stored in tall containers, or pockets, until being shipped out by wagons, and later, by trucks. Due to the Pier’s size and orientation, expansion is impossible.
  • Fisherman's Wharf was originally two piers – City Pier #3 and #4. The wharf provides additional berthing for the New Bedford fishing fleet and is currently overcrowded with limited space for expansion. The wharf has served a variety of vessels from the early whalers in the 1800s to modern fishing draggers and scallopers in the Port today. Also docked at Fisherman’s Wharf are the Alert (II), a passenger ferry to Cuttyhunk Island, and the Acushnet, Whaling City Tour’s vessel providing harbor tours and launch and water taxi service.
  • South Terminal Offloading Docks consists of a 1,600-linear foot bulkhead that supports the off-loading of fish product. The facility also supports eight fish processing houses.



Estimated Linear Feet of Berthing Space

Number of Berths

Number of Vessels

Steamship Wharf

24-inch long cleats mounted directly to the timber fender system. The original structure consists of a concrete deck founded on concrete piles. The pier was extended in 1986 with a concrete deck founded on steel piles.




Leonard’s Wharf

Solid-fill structure similar to Homer’s Wharf. Derelict/abandoned vessels are located along the NSTAR bulkhead at the southwest corner of the pier.




Fisherman’s Wharf

Steel bulkhead with solid fill; timber fender system with UHMW rubber pads; 36-inch long mooring cleats mounted to concrete.




Homer’s Wharf

Steel bulkhead and solid fill structure with an asphalt deck. The fender system consists of rubber pads fashioned from tires. 32-inch cleats are mounted to concrete pads on the deck. Berthing space is limited on the north side due to buildings and proximity of Coal Pocket Pier.




Coal Pocket Pier

Timber piles and deck structure. The posted load capacity of the deck is for 1/2 –ton trucks only. Available berths are only suitable for vessel lengths less than 40 feet.




South Terminal

Provides over 25 acres of marine industrial land for off-loading fish and seafood directly into the fish processing plants that occupy most of the site.




The NBPA manages and arranges for dockside berthing when vessels that need to access the dock for loading, unloading or repairs through the issuance of permits (described further below). Rates for use are voted by the NBPA, and enforcement and billing is handle by the NBPA Marine Superintendents and Harbor Master officials. The Financial Manager tracks and issues payments.

As part of the operation of NBPA’s piers and wharves, the Harbor Master officials work to reduce the number of abandoned or derelict vessels scattered throughout the Harbor. These vessels, which are left unattended for extended periods of time, sometimes years, occupy scarce berthing space that could otherwise be used by active vessels. Additionally, there are concerns surrounding the safety of these neglected vessels, which have been reported to break free and damage adjacent property during periods of high winds and other severe weather conditions. If a vessel(s) is in violation of NBPA laws, rules and/or regulations, even if fee payments are up to date, it is protocol to no longer allow the vessel(s) to berth at NBPA facilities, as directed by the NBPA Rules and Regulations. The NBPA reserves the right to send a ‘No Trespass’ or a notice to remove the vessel and/or pursue the owner with criminal charges.

South Terminal

South Terminal is located inside the Hurricane Barrier and has over 25 acres of marine industrial land, with a 1,600-linear foot bulkhead and depths of 20 feet, for off-loading fish and seafood directly into the fish processing plants that occupy most of the site. These modern buildings are where fishing boats are unloaded. Workers fillet, clean, weigh, and package the seafood. Products then are shipped by truck and air freight around the world. The terminal also provides transient berthing for commercial fishing vessels unloading catch or laying over for one or two days. Fees are set by the NBPA Commission, enforced by the Harbor Master officials and are collected by the Financial Manager.

Permits and Dockage Rates

Operational rules, including permit conditions and rates/fees are set by the NBPA Commissioners. The NBPA assesses user charges for private contractors and dockage as well as sets unloading fees for vessels that use its facilities or public infrastructure. The revenues are used to operate and maintain properties. Refer to NBPA Rules and Regulations.

Docking Permits

No vessel is allowed to dock at a pier or wharf under NBPA control without first obtaining a Docking Application. Only active commercial fishing vessels that are seaworthy and possess adequate insurance are eligible to obtain docking permits. Docking permits only allow the permit holder to tie up at a pier under NBPA administration. Tie up space is not necessarily alongside the cap log (for example, the vessel may be second or third boat abreast). The permit does not convey any rights to the vessel or permit holder to park vehicles or store other equipment inside the cap log area. The NBPA and the Harbor Master officials reserve the right to designate particular docking locations for vessels. Application requirements and fees for Docking Permits are described below.

Dockage rates are established by the Commission. Effective January 1, 2018, the dockage rates are:


  • $65 Per Foot


Unloading Fees

Unloading fees apply to fishing vessels that do not have annual Docking Permits (but otherwise are eligible for Docking Permits) and that are unloading catch at fish houses whose piers and/or bulkheads are maintained by the NBPA. For example, fishing vessels that unload catch at piers and/or bulkheads under NBPA jurisdiction and then leave port or berth at private docks are subject to unloading fees. See below for fee rates. Docking Permits include unloading and berthing at piers, wharves, and bulkheads under NBPA jurisdiction.

Off-loading rate for vessels that homeport, but just use NBPA infrastructure to off-load product -$1500.00/year.

Transient rates for berthing and off-loading

  • Dockage  - $200.00/day with annual cap of $65 per foot


User Permits

Private contractors who conduct business on city piers under NBPA administration must obtain a User Permit (a User Compliance Assurance Form) . Examples are contractors include welders, electricians, crane operators, and supply/delivery companies. Additional permits are required for any additional mobile units. Fees for User Permits are described below.

User (Daily) - $50.00
User (Annual) - $300.00
User (Additional Annual Mobile, Welding, Painting Rafts) - .$75.00

Other Harbor Users

Yachts, tugs, barges, or other vessels not classified as active commercial fishing vessels will not be issued docking permits and cannot dock at piers under NBPA jurisdiction without the prior permission of the Harbor Master officials and the Executive Director. To support additional port services, the NBPA licenses exclusive and non-exclusive use of several berths on the Central Waterfront. Licenses and fees for this very limited berth space are individually negotiated. Currently, these docking spaces are licensed to Cuttyhunk Water Taxi (a passenger/cargo ferry service) and Whaling City Launch Service.

Sponsors of regattas and races must obtain permission from the NBPA to operate in city waters at least 30 days before the event. No fee is usually required. Organizations wishing to use city piers and other facilities for weekend or holiday activities, such as concerts and festivals, also must obtain the prior permission of the NBPA. Although no fee is usually required for special events, organizers must provide the NBPA with a valid certificate of insurance in an amount specified by the NBPA. The City of New Bedford has permit requirements for special events.

Parking Program on NBPA Piers and Wharves

The Parking Program on NBPA Piers and Wharves is overseen by Marine Superintendents. The NBPA has implemented a parking program for its facilities. Visitor parking is available for up to two hours in designated parking spaces. All other users are charged parking fees as voted by the Commission currently set at $1 dollar per space per day. Violators of NBPA parking rules are fined $50 and can be towed.

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