- Flag, Coastal and Port State Control -
Closing the Net on Unseaworthy Ships and their
Unscrupulous Owners published in "Sea
Changes" [Institute of Marine Law, University of
Cape Town] Vol 16, 1994 at p.57. Also on the UCT Marine
& Shipping Law Website at http://www.uctsshiplaw.com/portstat.htm
- See also generally the unpublished 1995
LLM dissertation of Grant Clark The Sub-Standard Ship
and Port State Control in South Africa available via
the UCT Marine & Shipping Law website supra.
- The international obligations applicable
to flag state jurisdiction, and the failure of the flag
state system generally was highlighted in my Sea
Changes article Id at page 61 et seq.
- Id. at page 65.
- McDougall & Burke The Public Order
of the Oceans, 1987 para 156, in which the authors
refer also to the US prohibition laws which were applied
to foreign vessels calling at US ports (see e.g. Cunard
SS Co v Mellon 262 US 119 (1922) and US v Bevans Three
- As early as 1916 South Africa followed the
lead of Australia in passing a act which prohibited the
discharge of oil into navigable waters. This lead was
followed by the UK in its 1922 Oil in Navigable Waters
Act. Apart from a draft convention prepared in 1926 in
Washington, there was no international oil pollution
control until the 1954 International Convention for the
Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil. This
Convention took up the proposals of the 1952 Faulkner
Committee and was in turn used to found the oil pollution
prevention provisions of the 1958 Law of the Sea
- The most recent being the loss of the
bulker Leros Strength which went down with all
hands in February this year, in circumstances which point
to the vessel being well past her safe working life. See
also the Institute of London Underwriters' Casualty
- See Clarke id at page 209.
- The International Labour Organisation, the
International Maritime Organisation and the International
Transport Workers' Federation respectively.
- See below.
- It is interesting to note that this
conference followed the loss of the Titanic on
her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in April 1912 - a
disaster which prompted the UK government to call a
conference to discuss safety issues.
- International Convention for the Safety of
Life at Sea.
- Adopted in 1929, 1948, 1960 and 1974.
- Then known as the International Maritime
- Comite Maritime International, the
international association of maritime law associations.
- The United National Convention on the Law
of the Sea, 1958. UNCLOS art 25 may be seen as the first
international legal basis for port state control. The
article empowered states to take necessary steps to
prevent any breach of conditions to which the call of any
vessels at its ports may be subject. Arts 216 and 218
enable a port state to enforce international anti-dumping
and anti-pollution measures, with art 219 giving states
power to take administrative measures to prevent errant
vessels from leaving port. To the extent that an
unseaworthy ship may, at least through her bunkers,
present an oil pollution threat, authority may be found
in these articles for the intervention of a port state
authority in most instances. The only limitation was that
steps taken be reasonable, public and not discriminatory.
- Resolution A787(19): Procedures for Port
State Control. The full text of this important document
is reproduced with the permission of the IMO on the UCT
Marine & Shipping Law website at http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/shiplaw/marconv.htm
- Resolution A742(18) adopted November 1993.
- The Paris MOU binds the maritime
authorities of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway,
Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK and Northern Ireland. The
Russian Federation became a member on 1st January 1996
and the MOU also admits `co-operating authorities' (e.g.
US Coast Guard of Croatia and Japan).
- The effectiveness of the Paris MoU
resulted in the IMO passing Resolution A.682(17) on
"Regional Co-operation in the Control of Ships and
Discharges", and inviting governments to form
regional initiatives for port state control in
co-operation with IMO.
- The relevant instruments are listed as
* International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (with 1988
* International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea,
1974 (with 1978 and 1988 Protocols).
* International Convention for the Prevention of
Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL) with its 1978
* International Convention on Standards of Training,
Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978
* Convention on the International Regulations for
Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972.
* International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of
* Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976
(ILO Convention No 147).
- Paris MoU para 3.4. "Clear
grounds" include notification by another authority
or complaint of the ship's master, crew or any person
"with a legitimate interest in the safe operation of
- See the US Coastguard prioritisation of
vessels referred to infra.
- Paris MoU para 3.7.
- Running a detention order, or failing to
comply with it, remains a real possibility: The Cypriot
panamax bulk carrier San Marco (35538 grt, built
in1968 ) was detained by Vancouver port authorities in
1993 after which BV withdrew her class. She was allowed
to proceed under tow, unmanned, for repairs in Mexico.
But no repairs were undertaken, the vessel slipped her
tow, took her crew back on board, and proceeded to load a
full cargo of fertiliser. During this voyage, she hit
heavy weather off Cape Town and lost shell plating 14x7m
in the way of number 1 cargo hold. That the vessel reach
the safety of Cape Town and did not sink with all hands,
was nothing short of a miracle. The San Marco
was as substandard a ship as one could find, yet the
Hellenic Register issued a full suite of classification
certificates after BV had withdrawn theirs.
- See the following websites for monthly
The UK at http://www.detr.gov.uk/msa/det97/det97.htm
Australia at http://www.amsa.gov.au/sp/shipdet/stat9612.htm
The USA Coastguard at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/psc/detained.htm
- This binds the maritime authorities of
Australia, Canada, People's Republic of China, Fiji, Hong
Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New
Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russian
Federation, Republic of Singapore, Solomon Islands,
Thailand, Republic of Vanuatu, Socialist Republic of
- Binding Argentina, Brazil, Chile,
Columbia, Equador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and
- Rocram, 1989.
- The Caribbean MOU binds Antigua and
Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica,
Netherlands and Belise, Surinam and Trinidad &
- The public face of USA port state control
may be viewed at its comprehensive website at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-m/psc.htm from which much of the material used in this
précis has been taken.
- Paragraph C13 of the US CG' s Instruction
Procedures defines the `Sub-standard Ship' as follows:
In general a vessel is regarded as sub-standard if
the hull, machinery, or equipment, such a life-saving,
fire fighting and pollution prevention, are substantially
below the standards required by US laws or international
conventions owing to: (a) the absence of required
principle equipment or arrangement; (b) gross
non-compliance of equipment or arrangement with required
specification; (c) substantial deterioration of the
vessel structure or its essential equipment; (d)
non-compliance with applicable operation and/or manning
standards; or (e) clear lack of appropriate certification
or demonstrated lack of competence on the part of the
crew. If these evident factors as a whole, or
individually endanger the vessel, persons on board, or
present an unreasonable risk to the marine environment,
the vessel should be regarded as a sub-standard ship.
- Oil Pollution Act, 1991
- Title 46, Chapter 33.
- There is a proposal under discussion at
present to reduce the tonnage to 300 GRT. 33 USC
- The Lloyds List publications do not
unfortunately give owners particulars - see for e.g. Lloyds
List April 29 1997 page 13. It would appear that
Lloyd's List is reluctant to put owners' and
classification societies' names to print?
- See the publication of the lists at the
- The May 1977 targeted flag state list is
headed by Honduras, followed by Belize, Morocco, Ukraine
- Honduras' detention ratio was 56% of all
flag vessels inspected.
- The May 1997 figures based upon 1996
inspections give the Romanian Registrar of Shipping first
place (39%), followed closely by the Hellenic Register
- The Report of the Enquiry into the
Prevention of Pollution from Merchant Shipping presented
by Lord Donaldson and published by HMSO as CM2560. This
report should be essential reading for any person
interested in maritime safety. For a follow-up by Lord
Donaldson, see his Wakeford Memorial Lecture
delivered at Southampton on February 26 1996, published
- Established in 1st April 1994 in
anticipation of the publication of the Donaldson report.
- The site is at http://www.open.gov.uk/dot/msa/msa.htm
- See for instance the Donaldson Commission
- These are passenger and ro-ro ships;
specialised carriers such as chemical or gas carriers;
ships known from Paris MOU data bases to have had recent
reported deficiencies; ships of specified flag states
that have a poor safety record as assessed by their
detention ratio within other Paris MOU members; bulk
- To be found at http://www.open.gov.uk/dot/msa/det96/det9612.htm
- The delinquent registers (with detentions)
are Cyprus (32) Russia (19) Malta (18), Panama (13)
- I am grateful to Capt Peter Murphy for
information given to me confirming the legislative
provisions of Australian port state control. At http://www.gov.au/sp/shipdet/stat9612.htm
- Sec 210: Detention of unseaworthy and
- See my previous article referred to in
footnote 1 above.
- The Spanish tanker Castillo de Bellver,
carrying 276 000 tons of light Arabian crude oil, in 1983
suffered a crack amidships, caught fire, broke in half
and sank 12 miles off the South African western seaboard.
The bulk of the oil was contained in the aft section
which was towed out 300 miles, there to sink in 3 000
meters with no significant coastal pollution.
- The policy report of the Committee chaired
by the author can be found on the UCT Marine &
Shipping Law website at http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/shiplaw/marpol.htm The government White Paper is at http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/shiplaw/witpaper.htm
- Act 2 of 1981 of which section 9 allows
the SA Department of Transport to require a shipmaster to
give details of his ship and cargo, produce all papers
and documents relative to the ship and allow authorised
persons on board the ship to inspect the ship, its
equipment and cargo.
- For the text of the Marine Traffic Act see
the UCT site Id. at http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/shiplaw/martraf2.htm
- The proposed legislation to give effect to
SAMSA can be found on the UCT Marine and Shipping Law
website at http://www.uct.ac.za/depts/shiplaw/marleg.htm
- On 18 April 1997 the MV Neamt,
5931 grt, was detained by the SA Department of Transport
under port state control measures. She had taken 48 days
to sail from West Africa with a cargo of cashew nuts. Lloyds
List Africa Weekly, May 9 reports: With no
radar, no navigation lights and a useless compass, the
crew found their way to Cape Town by asking passing
vessels on their VHF radios where they were. On the way,
the vessel's engines caught fire seven items, as the
pistons have no rings and blowbacks caused small fires
throughout the voyage. Of her three generators, only one
worked sporadically. The Chief Engineer reported that all
the carbon dioxide fire-fighting cylinders were empty and
the engine's cooling systems were completely broken down,
as water supply pipes had rusted through from the inside.
Inside the vessel is constantly dark because all the
light bulbs have blown, and there are no spares. The
vessel's crew have not been paid for four months, and
there is no food on board. The refrigerators are not
- I am grateful to Mr Tony Martin of the NZ
MSA for his useful input.
- Sec 55 of the Maritime Transport Act,
- Id. Sub-sec (d)
- See below.
- The authority must authorise
"properly qualified persons" for inspections,
but may be assisted by "any person with the required
expertise" provided they have no commercial interest
in the ship or in the port. See futher para 3.5 of the
- See for eg. The Paris MoU para 3.13.
- See for eg. New Zealand's Maritime
Transport Act, 1994 sec 55(7) which allows port state
control decisions to be taken on appeal to a District
- See for e.g. the South African Admiralty
Jurisdiction Regulation Act, 1983, sec 5(4) "Any
without reasonable and probable cause
obtains the arrest of property
shall be liable to
any person suffering loss or damage as a result thereof
for that loss or damage."
- Section 384(1).
- Maritime Transport Act, 1994 - sec 34.
- See for eg Paris MoU para. 3.12 which upon
revelation of deficiencies allows all inspection costs
(by implication the revealing inspection and all
subsequent measures) to be recovered from the deficient
vessel's owners. The ship need not be released from
detention until such costs are paid. A similar provision
is found in the New Zealand Maritime Transport Act, 1994,
- Published monthly by Lloyd's List
- see the 1996 cumulative returns in Lloyd's List April
19 at p. 9
- See Lloyd's List April 19 at p 8:
"The Leros Strength sank in heavy seas
about 30 miles west of Stavanger on February 8. Master
had reported leakage to the bow causing navigational
problems. 20 crew missing. Oil spillage occurred."
- Imposing improved standards of training
and watchkeeping and in effect from 1 February 1997.
- See above.
- Lloyd's List March 27 1977.
- See the ITF website at http://www.itf.org.uk for details of its campaign.
Updated 15 June 2000