The Port State acts like a maritime ‘police force’, they can actual stop a ship. This article will write the history of the port state and their task. If you want to see a police force as a friend of enemy depends on your position. In my county the saying about the police is:
This hat fits all of us
The Port State is organised via MoU’s (Memoranda of Understanding) and doesn’t have a long history.
The Paris MoU started after the disaster of the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz in 1978. A massive oil spill near the coast of France (Brittany). Because of the public opinion, the politic was more or less maneuvered into more stringent regulations about the safety of shipping. Resulting in the first Paris MoU (1982), the Tokyo MoU for example was established in 1994.
The MoU’s mission is to eliminate the operation of sub-standard ships in the territorial waters of the members of this MoU. A harmonized system of port State control via inspections is used
to ensure that these ships meet international safety, security and environmental standards, and that crew members have adequate living and working conditions.
Basic principle is that the prime responsibility for compliance with the requirements laid down in the international maritime conventions lies with the shipowner/operator. Responsibility for ensuring such compliance remains with the flag State.
The port States are worldwide organised in 9 MoU’s (Memorandum of Understanding) Like Europe (Paris), Mediterranean, Far East, Caribbean, West and Central Africa, Black Sea, Indian Ocean, Latin America, Riyadh.
Inspection by port State
For the sequence of visiting a specific vessel, the port States are working together in one MoU. To calculate the frequency the different MoUs use probably different formulas, but the following factors will play a role: type, gross tonnage, age, flag State, Recognized Organization, Classification Society
The port State will inspect according IMO’s most important technical conventions. An inspection of a ship exist of two main blocks:
- examine the present certificates. So, all convention certificates should be in place except for the conventions which the flag State did not ratify. Although this certificate of the not ratified convention can’t be on board, the ship still has to fulfill the main points of this convention.
- a visual round. During this round the inspection is most of the time foccussed on special subjects. These subjects are normally announced on their website.
Informing the Port State
Besides the regular inspections from the MoU, the port State will be informed by the:
- Flag State when a flag State certificate is withdrawn
- Recognized Organization when a flag State certificate is withdrawn.
- Classification Society when their certificate is withdrawn
- Master or the management of the ship if an accident occurred or if a defect is discovered.
Port Sate Control Officer
The IMO released a resolution A.1052(27) with guidelines for the behaviour of the port State control officer.
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 he / she will be focused on a few items. This is normally announced on the MoU’s websites (Memorandum of Understanding)
Although a Port State Officer has limited time, he can always cancel another vessel from his schedule when the first few impressions are below expectations. Most of us will have subconscious the same first impression list:
- General look of the ship from outside – Load Line – SOLAS – MARPOL
- Passing the gangway – Load Line
- Behavior of the man at the gangway – ISPS
- Walking over deck to the accommodation – SOLAS – Load Line – MARPOL
- Walking through the accommodation to the bridge, the office or to the master’s cabin.- MLC
- Behavior of the master and the organisation of the paper work- ISM
For tankers above 10 years there is a regulation that the master has to request also for an extensive Port State inspection.
Tankers in general have also more extensive inspections by Class Society and flag State. Besides this, the crew from tankers can expect the inspections by the vetting inspectors. Vetting inspectors follows the rules and regulations of the cargo owner.
Detention of a ship
The port State is empowered to detain the vessel, without having any economic concerns for the port. This is of course a concern for the port. Often is the arguments heard that the ship will be towed away, because another ship has to come alongside. The question is, under who’s responsibility?
When detaining a vessel, the port State officer has the authority to request the Flag State and/or the Recognized Organizations to carry out inspections according a specific Flag State certificate on the vessel. In this case the Flag State is authorized to visit the ship, only the Recognized Organization has to wait till the management of the ship also invites them to the ship. 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.
The reasons for detentions are given in the resolution A.1052(27). The most obvious ones is the invalidity of certificates according the IMO conventions.
Classification Societies are often the Recognized Organization and like to assist their clients with keeping track of the reasons of detentions and publishing these on their websites.
Difference between Port State and Flag State
The Flag State is the home country of the ship, the Port State is where the ship is. The certificates on a ship are from the Flag State, the Port State has no certificates
A flag State or an Recognized Organization can only withdraw one of his own Flag States certificates. The Flag State has, according to SOLAS to inform the Port State when a certain certificate is withdrawn. A not valid certificate is reason for detention for the Port State.
Classification Societies and Port States
The Classification Society has only one certificate. If this certificate is withdrawn, the requirements from SOLAS are not met because the ship is not any more under supervision by a Classification Society any more. The similar or actual reason is that the safety construction certificate from the flag will becomes invalid as soon as the Classification Society stops their supervision.