I have a bash script that runs ssh to create a port forward, using a command like this:

ssh -N -i keyfile -L 1000:localhost:22 *remote_ip*

There are occasions where the listen port may be busy, so this command gives the error:

channel_setup_fwd_listener: cannot listen to port: 1000
Could not request local forwarding.

However, the ssh connection remains up and the ssh command blocks. How can I make ssh actually fail when this occurs, so my script can handle it?

Unfortunately, I also need to support this on Solaris (Intel), and the ssh command there doesn't support the ExitOnForwardFailure option - any ideas in this case?

3 Answers 3


If you check the ssh man page, you'll find there is a config option called ExitOnForwardFailure and you can specify it on the command line by adding:

-o "ExitOnForwardFailure yes"

All the ssh config options are described in the ssh_config and sshd_config man pages. If you find the option is not supported, you may have to upgrade to a newer version of ssh.

Good Luck.

  • Thanks, that wasn't in the man page I googled, but is available to my ssh.
    – xorsyst
    Feb 24, 2014 at 10:38
  • Does this option really work? I still have a "warning: remote port forwarding failed" and an established connection...
    – greg
    Dec 6, 2016 at 7:04
  • 1
    It seems it doesn't fail it it can bind one port even if another port fails: securityfocus.com/archive/121/505298/30/480/threaded
    – greg
    Dec 6, 2016 at 7:11

You can also add ExitOnForwardFailure yes into your '~/.ssh/config' file.

Create one if you haven't got one.

Make sure the correct user owns the file.

Restart your ssh service sudo service ssh restart on unbuntu.

  • sudo service ssh restart is about restarting ssh daemon and has nothing to do with ssh client configuration which is stored in $HOME/.ssh/config. Nov 27, 2020 at 8:36

Only ExitOnForwardFailure may not enough.

Try use -o ExitOnForwardFailure=yes, -o ServerAliveInterval=10 and -o ServerAliveCountMax=3 to make a stable fail.

For example, to remote forward psql and ssh:

ssh -NC -o ExitOnForwardFailure=yes \
-o ServerAliveInterval=10 \
-o ServerAliveCountMax=3 \
-R remote_dev_ip:5432: \
-R remote_dev_ip:2222: \


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .