For a ship owner or operator, Port State Control does not rate as one of their favourite topics of conversation. When a ship is detained by PSC due to a deficiency of one sort or another, it can be a costly affair. Not only will there be additional port dues and a possible off-hire situation, such delays also have a negative impact on the profitability of a vessel.
Every country with a seaport has the right to make independent inspections of all ships calling into their ports and a PSC inspector has the power detain a vessel if he deems it to have a deficiency, and to detain it in port until such deficiencies have been rectified. PSC is seen as another way in which the IMO can attempt to raise standards within the shipping industry, and many of the most important IMO conventions contain provisions for Governments to inspect foreign ships that visit their ports, and to ensure that they meet IMO standards.
However, while the IMO promotes the global harmonisation of PSC activities, PSC standards vary from country to country and also by region, and it is acknowledged that the UK, USA and most European countries are far stricter than their Latin American and African counterparts.
To further encourage uniformity of standards of PSC, the IMO has promoted regionalisation of countries so that countries in the same region form a PSC regime, and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) / agreements have been signed covering:
- Europe and the North Atlantic (Paris MoU)
- Asia and the Pacific (Tokyo MoU)
- Latin America (Acuerdo de Viña del Mar)
- Caribbean (Caribbean MoU)
- West and Central Africa (Abuja MoU)
- Black Sea region (Black Sea MoU)
- Mediterranean (Mediterranean MoU)
- Indian Ocean (Indian Ocean MoU)
- Persian Gulf (Riyadh MoU)
Inspection campaigns are often published by PSC’s in advance and tend to concentrate on new regulations which have recently come into force. However, a ship operator should not simply concentrate on meeting the requirements of any new regulations, or just concentrating on what a PSC has advertised in a campaign.
The majority of detentions arising through PSC inspections can be put down to a general lack of maintenance. This means that the vessels are found not to be operating under a Safety Management System in accordance with the ISM Code which includes the relevant procedures for ship and equipment maintenance. The following are just some of the many areas which are frequently found to be more deficient and cause for detention:
- Oil leaks and the improper storage of combustible materials – such as paint stored in machinery spaces, oily bilges or oil accumulated in drip trays
- Charts and nautical publications – found to be absent or in poor condition, outdated or considered to be inadequate
- Engines, generators, auxiliaries – various types of leaks are the most common problem
- Oily water separator – failure to discharge oily mixtures through the oil filtering installed equipment
- Safe manning certificate – inadequate manning of crew and officers
- Fire detectors – found to be faulty
- Emergency fire pump arrangements – firewater leaking through seals and glands and the lack of pressure or loss of suction in vessel’s ballast condition
- Fire dampers – seized or corroded ventilators
- Fire doors – missing or broken latches, and being lashed open
- Lifeboats – deficiencies such as inoperable batteries and search lights
If the crew and operators were to strictly implement and follow a proper Safety Management System, the occurrence of the most common deficiencies causing detention should be vastly reduced, thus leaving the vessel less likely to be detained by PSC.