Port state inspection, however, has been very necessary to deal with the worrying sub-standard minority of ships, and although it might have been introduced almost as a temporary measure, because of the reluctance of some flag states to deal with this, it is now a permanent feature. But might it be more discriminatory? Why cannot the best practitioners be rewarded and attention focused upon those ships which apparently do not come up to scratch?
These questions have been asked for long enough, it seemed, although administrations have appeared reluctant to put in place systems that offered carrots, rather than sticks, to the best practitioners. A meaningful method of establishing the risk represented by individual ships was, it was suggested by regulators, insufficiently robust to relax the level of inspection and reduce the burden on top quality ships.
So it is a welcome development that the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control is to implement a new and more “proactive” control regime at the beginning of next year. Under the New Inspection Regime, ships entering and operating within the Paris MoU waters will be identified in one of three risk categories – high, standard or low, with the level and frequency of inspections and its targeting mechanism subject to the category in which the ship is placed.
The “reward” of operating a low risk vessel will be a substantial increase of the inspection interval to between two and three years of the previous inspection. This will be a real help to those aboard these high quality vessels, who will be relieved of the obligation to provide inspection facilities in Paris MoU ports during these extended intervals. It will be a positive encouragement to ensure that quality remains high. Standard Risk Ships will enjoy a more modest reward, with the interval between inspections of between 10 and 12 months, while those vessels judged to represent a High Risk, will be subject to a six monthly inspection regime.
The Paris MoU believes it is able to offer a rather more generous regime that discriminates in favour of the best quality ships because of the better data provided by its new Thetis database, which provides a more accurate tracking of ships and inspections, with port state control staff being able to establish the exact inspection status of ships in a more efficient fashion.
The Ship Risk Profile will be established a by a variety of criteria, which will include ship age, type, flag state, and, very importantly, the details of previous inspections. It could be argued that the new regime will distribute its advantages widely between the operators of the Low Risk Ships, who will be rewarded for their quality, through the incentives given to those in higher risk categories to improve, and the ability of the port state inspection services to employ their resources in a more efficient, structured and discriminatory fashion. Hopefully, next year, the advantages of this system might become apparent and other MoUs might, in time, nofollow this example.