The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Handbook for Port Planners in Developing Countries lists the statutory powers of a national port authority as follows (on the assumption that operational decisions will be taken locally):
- Investment: Power to approve proposals for port investments in amounts above a certain figure. The criterion for approval would be that the proposal was broadly in accordance with a national plan, which the authority would maintain.
- Financial policy: Power to set common financial objectives for ports (for example, required return on investment defined on a common basis), with a common policy on what infrastructure will be funded centrally versus locally, and advising the government on loan applications.
- Tariff policy: Power to regulate rates and charges as required to protect the public interest.
- Labor policy: Power to set common recruitment standards, a common wage structure, and common qualifications for promotion; and the power to approve common labor union procedures.
- Licensing: When appropriate, power to establish principles for licensing of port employees or agents.
- Information and research: Power to collect, collate, analyze, and disseminate statistical information on port activity for general use, and to sponsor research into port matters as required.
- Legal: Power to act as legal advisor to local port authorities.