Sovereign and other self-governing nations have the right to control any activities within their borders, including those of visiting yachts. Authority and control over foreign-flagged ships in a country’s ports, used for verifying compliance with the requirements of the applicable maritime conventions, is called Port State Control (PSC).
PSC comes into the scene when ship owners, ship managers, classification societies, and flag state administrations fail to comply with the requirements of international and national maritime conventions. It is well understood that the ultimate responsibility for enforcing conventions is left to the flag state, also known as the Administration.
Port states are entitled to control foreign ships visiting their own ports to ensure that any deficiencies found, including those concerning living conditions and safety of shipboard personnel, are rectified before they are allowed to sail. In the inspection regime, Port State Control is regarded as complementary to the inspections performed by the flag state; each of them working together toward a common goal and purpose.
During the past two summers, yachts have been introduced to this inspection regime in Europe through the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Records available to the public illustrate that yachts are being held to the same standard as their merchant ship cousins. In two specific cases, yachts were detained for noncompliance.
As part of a three-month-long Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) on fire safety, Yacht A was detained when the PSC inspector attending the yacht discovered a defect in the closing arrangements for fire dampers in the engine room. Fire damper deficiencies are a constant issue for both ships and yachts. It is among the most frequent fire-safety defects and considered a serious non-compliance.
Needless to say, inoperable fire flaps and dampers seriously deter a yacht’s ability to fight fires on board, especially engine-room fires. Defects of this type are always potential detention cases. Attention is drawn to the fact that the ventilation arrangements on board a yacht always have components that are exposed to corrosion and, in most cases, its design does not allow easy inspection and maintenance.
However, this is a critical part of a yacht’s fire-safety arrangements. Considering the risks involved, it is the responsibility of the owner (through the captain) to stipulate an effective inspection routine and maintenance intervals to ensure that the ventilation arrangement closes properly. This routine can be documented in either an ISM-certified safety management system for yachts over 500 gross tons or a mini-ISM system for yachts less than 500 GT.
Grill or louver-type devices in particular have a number of joints that are exposed to sea air and spray. These have a tendency to seize during operation. The following inspections and checks are recommended to ensure compliance:
Ventilation flaps and dampers are moving freely and have no damaged or missing parts;
The crew is familiar with the operation of fire dampers and can demonstrate this;
Dampers/ducts, preferably marked, clearly indicate which space the damper serves;
Operating devices, handles and stoppers are in working condition;
A responsible officer has been assigned to maintain and inspect the ventilation flaps;
Periodic maintenance work and required tests of local and remote operation have been carried out;
The dampers are effectively shut and, where required, seal the ventilation openings; and
The open/close positions of the flaps/dampers are properly marked.
Yacht B was detained when the PSC inspector found that the record of rest hours had not been filled in correctly. He could not determine whether officers of the watch received sufficient rest prior to assuming their navigation watch duties.
A thorough investigation conducted by the management company and the recalculation of the rest-hour basis in the yacht’s logbooks showed that the balance of work and rest hours did meet the requirements. The inconsistency in records had occurred due to the yacht implementing a new, software-based hour-registration system earlier in the year. The implementation of a new system, which was unfamiliar to the yacht’s staff, caused delays in keeping the records. Mistakes were made when entering the data.
The appeal against detention stressed that the rest hours provided to watch personnel were sufficient and that the watch keepers were fit for duty. The supporting records of recalculated hours were forwarded to the PSC office with the detention appeal.
However, after reviewing the case, the PSC Inspectorate rejected the appeal. PSC determined that the errors and delays in keeping the register of rest hours indicated that the captain was not in a position to effectively control the rest hours and fitness for duty on a regular basis. The detention was therefore justified.
An increase in certain incidents, such as groundings, have heightened concerns about the causal effect that fatigue may have on accidents and incidents, particularly where human error is identified as a possible factor. As a result, worldwide PSCs have increased their focus on compliance with the STCW Code’s watchkeeping requirements. With the upcoming August deadline for implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), this focus on human element issues will certainly increase.
PSC inspectors check the records of work and rest as well as other documents to validate those records. PSC inspectors will take action when deficiencies are found. Such failings fall into the following categories:
Hours of rest not being complied with in port, resulting in the watchkeeping personnel on duty for departures and first sea watches not being adequately rested;
Records of hours of work/rest not being maintained;
Records of hours of work/rest not reflecting actual working arrangements; and
Deficiencies in the yacht’s safety management system that hinder compliance.
When inspectors suspect a possible noncompliance with rest hours, they will frequently focus more heavily on examining other evidence, such as the deck logbook, engine logbook, and other operational records/checklists. Interviews with watchkeepers and the captain during the inspection may also be requested.
Preparation is the key element in preventing problems with PSC. It will help avoid unnecessary delays, added operational costs, or in a worst-case scenario, cancellation of a charter.
Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (IYB), an organization that provides flag-state inspection services to yachts on behalf of several administrations. A deck officer graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he previously sailed as master on merchant ships, acted as designated person for a shipping company, and served as regional manager for an international classification society. Contact him at +1 954-596-2728 or www.yachtbureau.org. Comments on this column are welcome at email@example.com.