Port of New Bedford

America's #1 Fishing Port

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Policy Controls

Rules and Regulations

Under the direction of the Executive Director and consistent with rules and regulations promulgated by the NBPA Commission, the NBPA Superintendents, Harbor Masters officials, and Harbor Attendants serve to enforce and ensure compliance with NBPA policies. The NBPA Commission implements policies and promulgates regulations that support the defined role of the NBPA as identified in its enabling legislation. Governing documents include NBPA Rules and Regulations, and Mooring and Anchoring Regulations (refer to Attachments A and B, respectively for copies of the NBPA rules and regulations). These rules apply to the Harbor and waters within the City of New Bedford as well as maritime facilities operated on property under NBPA administration. The NBPA has also adopted contractual terms for the Marina. The NBPA publishes adopted rules and regulations in it's Rules and Regulations Booklet (Link Temporarily Disabled) and Official Mooring and Anchoring Regulations .

The following sections summarize permit requirements, fees, and conduct on City-owned piers and other facilities.


Prior to the issuance of a dockage or user permit, the applicant must provide the Executive Director with a certificate of insurance showing coverage at the levels required by the NBPA. The NBPA may adjust insurance coverage levels from time to time.

For docking permits, fishing vessels must maintain Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Insurance and Water Pollution Liability Insurance. The P&I policy form and limits of liability must be acceptable to the NBPA and must not contain any exclusion for wreck removal costs. All policies must have an A.M. Best rating of A- or better at levels set by the NBPA. Vessels that are unable to obtain insurance from the conventional insurance market may apply for a waiver to the requirement and request to provide adequate substitute security. No permit shall be issued until the NBPA has granted the waiver and is in possession of any security and/or security agreement between the waiver applicant and the NBPA.

As a condition of a user permit, an applicant must show proof of general liability, bodily injury, and property damage insurance coverage in the amount of $250,000.00 (combined limits). The Executive Director may waive this condition in writing.

Permit Requirements

Permitted vessels are required to adhere to all applicable state and federal laws and regulations. Permitted vessels also must be maintained in a seaworthy condition, tight fit, and staunch.

A vessel or individual that applies for a docking permit must possess a valid state or federally issued commercial fishing license. Vessels or individuals with commercial fishing licenses that are under suspension or revocation by the issuing authority are not eligible to receive docking permits. The Harbor Master officials, in conjunction with the Executive Director, will determine if a vessel is an active commercial fishing vessel, is seaworthy, and possesses the required insurance. To determine if a vessel is actively fishing, they will consider information such as fishing history of the vessel for the previous two years, trip landing records for the vessel during that time, and the number of days-at-sea that the vessel is authorized to use each year. If the Harbor Master officials and Executive Director determine that a vessel is not actively fishing, the vessel will be denied a docking permit or be subject to permit revocation (following notice and hearing). Determinations may be appealed, according to procedures described in the regulations.

Fueling operations conducted on piers require permits from the State Fire Marshal's Office and review by the New Bedford Fire Department. The NBPA will not issue a user permit without proof of a valid fueling permit.

Cutting and welding operations conducted in the city, including on piers, require permits from the New Bedford Fire Department. Welding permits for operations on piers require annual renewal. The NBPA will not issue a user permit without proof of a valid welding permit. The NBPA will not issue a user permit for any crane without proof of compliance with current state regulations and operation by a licensed individual. Additionally, the NBPA may refuse to issue or renew a dockage or user permit for any of the following reasons:

  • Making of any false statement as to a material matter in the application for a permit or permit renewal or in a hearing concerning the permit.
  • Failure to pay in full any outstanding balance for current or past permits or for assessed damages upon demand by the NBPA.
  • Failure to maintain insurance or other authorized substitute security on the permitted vessel.
  • If the Harbor Master officials determine that the vessel is unseaworthy or in a badly deteriorated condition.
  • If the vessel does not possess a state or federally issued commercial fishing license or if the vessel's license has been suspended by the issuing authority.

Wharf Rules

The Harbor Master officials, Executive Director, and other personnel designated by the NBPA enforce regulations on City facilities and in City waters. The Harbor Master officials and NBPA personnel inspect piers and other properties daily to determine if facilities are in clean and orderly condition and to enforce NBPA rules.

Repairs/Vessel Maintenance

Repairs to vessels or gear belonging to vessels are permitted only if they are minor in nature. When repairs are completed, all debris and rubbish must be removed from the area. Any violation of these rules may result in the denial of use of the piers for making repairs and/or revocation of the docking or user permit.

Sandblasting of vessels that are docked alongside piers under NBPA control or other vessels berthed at NBPA facilities is strictly prohibited.

No hauling or marking of trawl wires on piers is allowed, without prior approval of the Executive Director or Harbor Master officials.

Fishing gear must be stowed inside the rails of vessels to prevent chafing of piers and vessels berthed alongside. The storage of lobster pots and other fishing gear, materials, or supplies is not allowed on piers under NBPA jurisdiction, unless requested in writing and approved by the NBPA, its Executive Director, and/or the Harbor Master officials.

No equipment, materials, or debris may be left overnight on any areas maintained by the NBPA, without prior permission of the Harbor Master officials or the Executive Director.

Trash Disposal

Receptacles and containers for the placement and removal of rubbish and debris are provided on the piers for vessel debris only. Failure to appropriately utilize receptacles and containers is a violation of NBPA rules. In addition, disposal of trash, debris, or rubbish into the Harbor is not allowed. Leaving oil barrels or containers in or alongside piers, wharves, containers, or dumpsters under NBPA jurisdiction is prohibited. Violation of these rules will result in a fine for each violation and/or revocation of the permit.

Parking/Fire Lanes

Parking regulations are posted along the piers and must be followed. The NBPA, or the Harbor Master, has the right to remove any vehicles that are impeding traffic or preventing business alongside piers. Fire lanes are clearly marked and parking in or obstructing fire lanes is strictly prohibited.


Any damage to piers, wharves, or bulkheads under NBPA jurisdiction must be promptly reported to the Harbor Master officials or the NBPA office. Failure to make a prompt report of damage may result in permit revocation. The cost of repairs for damage will be assessed by the NBPA to those parties determined to be responsible. Payment for damages is due within five days of the presentation of an itemized invoice by the NBPA.


Trucks making deliveries on piers, such as oil and ice trucks, must not interfere with other permitted users of the facilities and must prevent oil and gasoline leaks. Ice shavings may not be dumped on piers and allowed to remain there. Oil delivery users must adhere to all applicable federal and state regulations and licensing requirements.

Safety Precautions

The captain or owner of any vessel moored or berthed within the waters or along piers or bulkheads under NBPA jurisdiction must ensure that the vessel is secured or anchored with proper care and equipment at all times to prevent breakaway and resulting damage. Vessels docked at any pier under NBPA jurisdiction must be manned during storm or hurricane warnings.

A vessel that is considered unseaworthy, badly deteriorated, likely to sink or damage docks, floats or other vessels, or to become a menace to navigation may not be moored or berthed in New Bedford Harbor or along piers under NBPA jurisdiction. The Harbor Master officials and Executive Director will make the determination of poor condition. Exceptions to this prohibition may be made in cases of distress or emergency, after reasonable precautions for the safety of persons and property of others have been taken.

Oil barrels and containers must be marked to reflect the oil's point of sale and to sufficiently identify the vendor.


Permitted users and owners of vessels are responsible for any loss, personal injury, death, and/or damage to property or persons that may be done to or suffered by third parties, the NBPA , or its personnel, pursuant to permitted activities on piers, wharves, and bulkheads under NBPA control. Permitted users and owners of vessels shall indemnify and save harmless the NBPA against claims for any loss, injury, death and/or damage. Permitted users and owners of vessels also must give the NBPA prompt notice of any claim or suit which, in any way, affects the NBPA or the City of New Bedford.

The NBPA is not responsible for any liability, theft, fire, or damage to persons or vessels using piers, bulkheads, or wharves under its control.


Any violation of NBPA regulations may result in the loss of a permit or the imposition of penalties, at the discretion of the NBPA. Permit revocation may occur only after notice and hearing. Any violation of an order of the NBPA is a violation of the rules.

Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate offense. Furthermore, any violation of these rules is considered a nuisance, which allows the NBPA and/or the City of New Bedford to apply to a court for an injunction - including a temporary restraining order and/or a permanent injunction - to prohibit the continuation of the violation. The following violations shall cause penalties:

  • Failure to remove a docked vessel after revocation of a permit or after order of the Harbor Master officials;
  • Failure to obtain a current dockage permit;
  • Depositing waste oil or solvents in the waters of New Bedford or on NBPA piers, wharves, or bulkheads;
  • Conducting business on piers and wharves without obtaining a current user permit;
  • Violation of an order of the Harbor Master officials;
  • Failure to adhere to posted parking regulations;
  • Mooring of a vessel without permission of the Harbor Master officials;
  • Creation or maintenance of obstruction to navigation; and
  • Failure to obtain a special permit for floating rafts and other activities requiring temporary use of waterways under NBPA jurisdiction or failure to comply with a condition imposed under a special permit.

Safety and Security

As the designated governing authority of the Port by the Massachusetts General Court under Chapter 762 of the Acts of 1957, the NBPA interacts with outside agencies to secure our port. The New Bedford Harbor Master officials act as an agent of the NBPA who are responsible for maintenance of all NBPA facilities and enforces local laws relating to marine environmental protection, negligent boat operation and general use of the watersheet. The Harbor Master officials also operate the boat waste pump-out facilities (at no cost, in accordance with state environmental regulations), conduct emergency pumping of boats when sinking at the dock or out on the Harbor, and are responsible for clear access (snow removal) to all NBPA landside facilities. The Harbor Master officials also reserve the right to issue parking violations within NBPA facilities.

The U.S. Coast Guard, State Environmental Police, New Bedford Port Security Unit all have a strong presence in the Port and aim to protect the interests of maritime commerce. 

Environmental Management

The NBPA works together with local agencies and environmental groups to protect the City's greatest natural resource - the Harbor. The NBPA supports local maritime businesses and encourages responsible waste management through the operation and maintenance of port waste facilities. Also, the NBPA monitors the waterfront for oil spills and floating debris daily, and ensures that operational activities do not interfere with natural resources. The NBPA is also responsible for containing spills. If a vessel is damaged, sinks, or otherwise spills oil in New Bedford Harbor, the NBPA will use a 110 foot oil boom to isolate and contain persistent and non-persistent substances.

Green Port Program

The NBPA continues to pursue grant funding to assist in developing the New Bedford “Green Port” Program. The City is in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and private industry to pursue measures to earn a “Green Port” designation. Proposed measures include: shore-side power; waste oil collection; Fishing for Energy Program (described below); bilge water storage; treatment and transfer services; development of recycling stations; installation of solar trash cans; use of lower content sulfur and alternative fuels; implementation of conservation practices and stormwater management. Specifically, the NBPA’s “Green Port” Program includes continued maintenance of a ‘No Discharge Area’, and construction of bilge water treatment storage and sewage transfer for the commercial fishing fleet; thereby, preventing discharge of deleterious materials into the Harbor.

Fishing for Energy Program

Sponsored by the City of New Bedford, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Corporation, and the NOAA and administered by the NBPA’s Assistant Harbor Masters, the Fishing for Energy program collects derelict fishing nets and burns them for fuel. The program encourages fishermen to properly remove from the ocean and dispose of retired/derelict fishing gear (a minimum of one ton) in exchange for one year of free dockage. Hazardous waste (i.e., waste oil) is not accepted. 


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