Maritime inspectors come in different roles, names and they work for different organizations.
Depending on their title, the role can more or less be distinguished. In short the maritime inspector works normally as third party, as vetting or for an insurance company.
The Flag State inspector and the Port State inspector are obvious. The Surveyor works for a Class Society.
After all these technical inspectors we have the Auditors. Auditors can be from any organization and they invest if a system is working. This can be a quality system like ISO 9001, a safety system like ISM or a security system like ISPS.
The flag State of the ship is the highest authority of this ship. As the master or captain of the ship is the first representative of the Flag State which makes him the first maritime inspector and auditor. To assist the master in his role several different kind of inspectors will visit the ship each year.
Every visiting inspector will explain in the opening meeting with the master what his role is.
Below I will give a summary of the different roles
Flag State Maritime Inspectors
The Flag State Inspectors inspect according the Flag State legislation. This means if something is written in MARPOL VI and the administration did not ratify this nor put anything in their legislation , the flag state inspector will not inspect according this Annex VI. The port State inspector of the same administration however will inspect this, but mostly the Port State officer
will not inspect vessels from its own flag state.
The certificates from the Flag State are :
- Safety Equipment
- Safety Construction
- Safety Radio
- MARPOL (annex I till VI)
- Load Line
If the ship is not fit to sail meaning it doesn’t fulfill the requirements of the certificate, the Flag State can in the extreme case withdraw one of her own certificates. The Flag State has to inform the Port State if the ship is not in a port of their own Administration.
Nowadays more and more administrations outsource the inspection to recognized classification societies. The surveyors of the class society has the same rights and obligations as the Flag State inspector only when the surveyor finds deficiencies, the class has also to inform the Flag State. In case a certificate is withdrawn both the Port State as the Flag State has to be informed.
This outsourcing process from the Flag State to the recognized class society is controlled by auditors from the flag state and is described by SOLAS.
Another possibility is that the Flag State will only inspect one of more certificates and leave the rest to the recognized classification society. In this case the Flag State still got a first-hand impression on the vessel while some technical inspections are done by the class.
ISM and ISPS Auditors
The auditor evaluate a system by taken sample points. In this case the ISM and ISPS audits on board of a ship and in the office. This topics belongs to SOLAS and therefore to the administration, but like other inspections this is often outsourced to any recognized classification society. This means that the class surveyor and the auditors can be from different recognized organizations.
This will bring us to the auditors from the administration and region. As soon as you outsource specific products you need to establish an control on these products. In this case
the products are inspections and audits. This means that the quality system of the recognized classification society has to be evaluated by the Flag State auditors or region auditors.
The qualification system of a recognized classification society can be from IACS or an ISO 9001. This means that IACS auditor, the 9001 auditor, the flag state auditor and the region auditor like
EU auditor will visit the headquarters of the class society and some satellite offices. The advantages is that with more auditors from different kind of samples will be taken and evaluated.
Although this looks like a painful process, the result is that the quality system of the recognized classification society becomes better and better.
The MLC inspector is new in the field. The convention belongs to the ILO and is organised by the IMO, so the certificate belongs to the administration. Most of the times
MLC inspector will be a surveyor and/or auditor from any recognized class society. So the owner is free in his choice if the Flag outsource this part to a recognized organization.
The surveyor of a classification society represents the classification society. The class has only one certificate which nowadays can be compared with the safety construction
certificate from the Flag State. If the classification society is recognized by the Flag State of that ship, the surveyor may also inspect the regulations from the Flag State. But only if the Flag State has requested this and the surveyor is authorized to do so. This depends on the agreement of that Class Society and that administration.
The class society can withdraw the class certificate of the ship. As a valid class certificate is mandatory by SOLAS, the class has inform the Flag State and Port State as soon as the class
certificate is withdrawn. If the class certificate is withdrawn, then the Safety Construction Certificate become invalid as well. SOLAS declares the Class Society as mandatory.
Although the classification societies started in 1760 with captains who will examine a ship, more specialization came and now there are in principle there three kind of surveyors, ex-navigational, ex-mechanical / electrical and naval architects. In most cases you will find the navigational inspectors as the flag state inspectors and auditors.
The classification society uses the mechanical / electrical inspectors. They will start in the engine room and will learn the hull part in their inspection career. The hull surveyors are in a perfect world only naval architects. The auditors in the classification society can have navigational background but normally the surveyor with experience will become auditor. Although you will think that every class surveyor is entitled to inspect everything, this is however not the case.
Port Sate Control Office
The IMO released a resolution A.1052(27) with guidelines for the behavior of the port state control officer. Also the reasons for detentions are given In this resolution. In general the port state officer will have limited time to inspect a vessel. So if they have several ships in one day, the inspection will be focused on the certificates with a small round.
During the round they will be focused on a few items. Normally this is normally announced on the MoU’s websites (memorandum of understanding).
Class societies like to help their clients with keeping track of the reasons of detentions and publishing these on their websites. Although a port state officer has limited time, he can always cancel another vessel from his schedule when the first few impressions are below standard. First impression is the general look of the ship from outside, second impression is the gangway, third impression is the behavior of the man at the gangway, fourth impressions is the walk over deck to the accommodation, fifth impression is the walk through the accommodation to the bridge, the office or to the master’s cabin. Here the impressions will continue with the behavior of the master and the organisation of the paper work. So the first 5 impressions will tell the port state officer a lot about his time schedule.
The port state officer can detain a vessel and has the authority to request a flag state and/or the recognized class society to carry out inspections according a specific certificate on the vessel. In this case the flag state is authorized to visit the ship, only the class society has to wait till the management of the ship also invites them to the ship, as they are the class society’s client. After the inspection of the flag the port state will visit the ship again for a re-inspection before the port state will release the ship.
For tankers above 10 years there is a rule that they have to request also for an extensive port state inspection. Tankers in general have also more extensive inspections by class and flag state. Besides this they can expect the inspections by the vetting inspectors of the owners of the cargo. Vetting inspectors follows the rules and regulations of the cargo owner.
Other Maritime Inspectors
Other maritime inspectors are working for a underwriter or for a oil/chemical or gas company. So in general other inspectors work for a company and the don’t deal with the certification but with the money. The underwriter works for a small company and will only be seen if damage repair is expensive enough. The owner will invite him and the surveyor will be tracking the finance of the repairs and is trying to find the cause of the damage.
The vetting inspector can work directly for an oil company or can be hired by an oil company. Vetting is looking at the background before giving a contract. For the management of the tankers which are not owned by the oil companies, this vetting is important as it means that they will get the charter or not. So in this case even more money is at stake.
Third Party Maritime Inspectors can be ordered by the ships management when a technical report is needed. This can be at the beginning of a charter, but often during the sale of a ship a third party is invited.
Other inspectors can be seen at the end of beginning of a charter. For example the amount of fuel has to be determined. So with normal book keeping of fuel and lubricating oil consumption, much money will be on stake.
Still other inspectors, like quarantine, police and customs will visit the ship but these belongs to the daily business of any kind of travelling.