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Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Rear Admiral Peter Brady.
Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson

Story Highlights

  • Port State Control will have an important role to play in ensuring compliance by ships to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations for the 2020 Global Sulphur Limit, which came into effect on January 1.
  • Under the new regulations, the IMO has set a limit of 0.5 per cent for sulphur in fuel used on board ships, down from 3.5 five per cent.
  • This is expected to significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from vessels and provide major health and environmental benefits, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.

Port State Control will have an important role to play in ensuring compliance by ships to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations for the 2020 Global Sulphur Limit, which came into effect on January 1.

Under the new regulations, the IMO has set a limit of 0.5 per cent for sulphur in fuel used on board ships, down from 3.5 five per cent.

This is expected to significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from vessels and provide major health and environmental benefits, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.

Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Peter Brady, tells JIS News that Port State Control determines whether ships are in compliance by using a series of checks and balances.

“Maritime authorities in the IMO member states are required to ensure that ships use fuel that is compliant with the sulphur cap. When these ships call at a port, Port State Control Officers, through a series of guidelines and measures that the IMO has promulgated, will be able to determine if the vessel has compliant fuel on board,” he explains.

The inspection routine of Port State Control officers is guided by IMO conventions, such as the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention; the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL); and the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs).

Some Port State Control regimes also examine compliance with the relevant International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions.

“What we require is that all foreign ships visiting Jamaica’s ports are in compliance with the international rules for safety, pollution prevention and maritime security. We do this through our Port State Control machinery where our officers board foreign ships that visit our waters and ensure that these ships are in compliance with international standards,” Mr. Brady states.

He adds that if ships are found to be in breach of the regulations, they may be detained until the deficiencies are rectified and are brought into compliance.

In maritime states, the Port State Control authority is a member of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) within a region. Caribbean countries are members of the Caribbean MOU on Port State Control.

Admiral Brady explains that the MOU provides for a level of cooperation among member states to ensure the compliance of vessels as they sail through each country’s territorial waters.

“If, for instance, a vessel leaves one Caribbean country and might not have been checked and there is a suspicion that there is something wrong, that information is passed through the system to the next port of call in the region,” he states.

“The authorities would, therefore, be aware that a tag has been placed on that ship and would carry out an inspection, because of detailed information and intelligence that they would have had on the ship,” he adds.

Admiral Brady states that if officers in a particular port suspect that a ship is burning non-compliant fuel, they may start the process by carrying out tests. He, however, notes that in rare circumstances, the ship may have the opportunity to sail to the next port, which will continue the investigations.

“This is where the MOU comes in. If they are not 100 per cent certain of an irregularity and they feel that the ship can proceed to the next port, they may allow it to go because it may take a little time for the lab results to come out and they will now pass on the information, to the next port of call within that MOU, that this ship is suspect,” he explains.

He notes that the results are provided in a timely manner, and if they are negative when the information is passed, the ship will be detained and this information is passed to all members of the Caribbean MOU and the regional MOUs around the world.

Admiral Brady says it is important to note that a ship that has been detained is unable to earn.

For her part, Secretary General of the Caribbean MOU on Port State Control, Jodi Munn-Barrow, points out that a major threat to compliance is how the legislation is handled at the local level.

Secretary General of the Caribbean Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control, Jodi Munn-Barrow addresses the 2019 Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association Conference.

 

“Port State Control Officials can face serious barriers to their ability to enforce the new MARPOL Annex VI 2020 Guidelines because many countries have not yet enacted the relevant guidelines into local legislation and, currently, just 12 of 19 member states of the Caribbean MOU are signatories to the MARPOL Annex VI and less than half of those actually have the legislation enacted in the local laws,” she points out.

“It’s a concern to us… because IMO guidelines clearly state that you cannot enforce Port State Control compliance on another party if you do not have it,” she continues.

Admiral Brady concurs by adding that it is necessary for each state to ensure that it has the wherewithal to do Port State Control effectively.

He notes, that every country that is an IMO member is required to amend its domestic legislation to reflect what it agree to when signing international conventions that relate to areas such as safety and marine environmental pollution.

He explains, further, that Port State Control came about after a series of shipping accidents and suspicions that poorly operated ships were escaping the net of the established regulatory bodies. This necessitated discussion on inspecting ships in port under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention.

It was determined that the best results would come if countries worked together. The Paris MOU on Port State Control was formed, thereafter, in 1982 with 14 European countries and other MOUs were subsequently established in regions across the world.

The US Coast Guard also inspects ships under Port State Regulations.

While Port State Control was intended to benefit port states, it has also worked to the advantage of ship crews and honest ship operators, based on the areas that are inspected.

The Director General informs that each state has a responsibility to ensure the welfare of the ships’ crews.

“They ensure that the crews that are working on board those ships are being looked after, that they are treated fairly, get their wages and so on,” he says.

He explains that Port State Control Officers are highly trained persons, many of whom are former players in the industry, such as ex-ship’s captains and chief engineers.

“The minute they set foot on board the ship and start interacting with the crews, looking at the condition of the ship, they can tell just from their own experience working at sea, whether the ship may [or may] not be in compliance” he says, adding that they also want to make sure that the ship is not only safe but that it is not substandard.

“A substandard ship can be very dangerous because it can break up at sea, in bad weather for instance, and spill a lot of oil and impact your beaches negatively,” he argues.

All countries that have signed on to an MOU on Port State Control meet annually at the IMO’s headquarters in London and also attend each other’s MOU annual meetings.

This, the Director General says, fosters good relationship and is particularly useful in ensuring the uniform application of regulations.

The Maritime Authority of Jamaica (MAJ) was institutionalised by the Shipping Act of 1998. It is the implementing body for the conventions of the United Nation’s Specialized Agency for International Shipping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), of which Jamaica is a member state.

The Secretariat for the Caribbean MOU on Port State Control is hosted in Jamaica at the MAJ under the Host State Agreement.

The MOU on Port State Control in the Caribbean was signed in Barbados on February 9, 1996 by nine states.

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