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Rules of the Road: Obtaining DoS not always clear-cut for yachts

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Rules of the Road: by Capt. Jake DesVergers

Most tasks involving two or more parties are less difficult if each party understands what the others are going to do. Within the context of maritime security regulations, under both the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA), this is done by means of the Declaration of Security.

Declaration of Security (DoS) is defined as “an agreement reached between a ship and either a port facility or another ship with which it interfaces, specifying the security measures each will implement.” Under the ISPS Code, these security regulations affect all commercial yachts of 500 gross tons and greater.

Accomplishing this exchange of information is most easily done with a written form. Review of the form recommended in the ISPS Code reveals that, after identifying the ship and port facility involved, it dictates:

  • the period of validity;
  • the activities covered;
  • the security levels of the ship and port facility; and
  • the affixing of the initials of the ship security officer and the port facility security officer for a variety of specific activities, indicating that each agrees that the relevant activity will be done in accordance with its approved security plan.

Among the specific actions addressed on the DoS form are monitoring of restricted areas to ensure that only authorized personnel have access, handling of cargo, delivery of ship’s stores, handling of unaccompanied baggage, controlling the embarkation of persons and their effects, and ensuring that security communication is readily available between the ship and the port facility. Obviously, some of these items do not affect yachts.

The DoS is used by three distinct entities. These are the flag administration, the port where the yacht is located, or a direct request by the yacht to the port. Reasons that a yacht may request completion of a DoS include:

  • the yacht is operating at a higher security level than the port facility or another vessel with which it is interfacing (i.e. fuel barge, etc);
  • there has been a security threat or a security incident involving the yacht or the port facility; or
  • the yacht is at a port facility that is not required to have and implement an approved port facility security plan.

A change in security levels by either the yacht or the port facility, or both, may necessitate completion of a new or revised DoS.  

There is a potentially significant gap with regard to use of the recommended DoS form. It is especially prevalent in the yachting industry when interfacing with non-ISPS marinas. As described above, one of the functions of the DoS is for it to be used when a yacht calls at a location that is not required to have and implement an approved port facility security plan. There is no specific place on the DoS form to indicate this type of situation. In this scenario, the port facility/marina probably has no security officer, and no one at the marina is likely to be willing to sign or initial the DoS form, let alone know what the yacht’s ship security officer is talking about.

Flag inspectors recommend that the ship security officer fully document the situation, including the additional security measures implemented by the yacht to immunize itself from the lack of documented security at the port facility. It is strongly recommended that the ship security officer clearly document on the DoS form and in the yacht’s log the additional security measures implemented during the call at the non-ISPS compliant port facility.

A yacht calling at such a marina must not only institute additional security measures (as provided for in the ISPS Code and its ship security plan), but it must also be able to demonstrate to port state control officials at subsequent port calls that it took the appropriate steps.  

Welcome to a safer world through the use of paperwork.

Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (yachtbureau.org). Comments are welcome below.

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