PSC authorities issue guidelines on COVID-19 response

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 27 March 2020

ShipInsight


All three of the leading Port State Control bodies – The Paris MoU, Tokyo MoU and USCG have issued statements about dealing with the Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The text of the statements is detailed below:

Tokyo MoU

Recognizing that, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19, the industry is facing challenges in meeting statutory requirements stipulated in Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) and relevant IMO conventions, member Authorities of the Tokyo MOU have agreed to adopt guidance for dealing with the circumstances (such as extending periods of service onboard of seafarers, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits, etc.) in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.

The guidance is prepared based on the general principle that requests/issues would be considered on a case-by-case basis by the relevant port State Authority. In accordance with the guidance, the port State Authority should request the operator concerned to confirm that flag State and/or RO, relevant seafarers organizations (if appropriate) have been involved in the process. For consideration of the request by the port State Authority, operators/companies concerned should provide a plan or process containing equivalent solutions to address the COVID-19 situation and letters of dispensation or exemption by the flag State or RO, under which the period of grace for delaying surveys, inspections or audits should be no more than three months, in accordance with the relevant regulations of conventions.

The guidance will be reviewed upon any future initiatives IMO/ILO or developments of the situation.

USCG

The uninterrupted flow of commerce on our Marine Transportation System (MTS) is critical to both National Security and National economic well-being. During this National emergency for COVID-19 it is paramount that the Coast Guard safeguards the continued operation of the MTS to ensure our domestic supply chain continues uninterrupted. Commercial vessel compliance activities should, to the extent possible, continue so as to safeguard the MTS and prevent an undue backlog from causing future delays. To facilitate the safe flow of commerce, the Coast Guard will liberally use remote inspection techniques to verify vessel compliance and, if needed, defer inspections. The following is the Coast Guard’s current position on commercial vessel compliance activities:

Prior to boarding a vessel or immediately prior to conducting a pre-exam/inspection meeting, Marine Inspectors, Port State Control Officers (PSCOs), and Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiners will verify with the vessel representative that there are no ill persons onboard. Coast Guard personnel will practice the appropriate protective measures as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

U.S. Flagged Vessel and Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Inspections:

1. U.S. flagged vessels and OCS units due for Certificate of Inspection (COI) Renewals, Annual Inspections, Periodic Inspections, Dry Dock Exams, and Internal Structural Examinations (ISE) that are based on statutory or regulatory requirements should be addressed on a case-by-case basis by the local OCMI. Based on the OCMI’s evaluation of the history of the vessel and in consultation with the vessel owner or operator, the OCMI may:

  • Require Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to conduct a full or abbreviated inspection;
  • Accept objective evidence such as recent classification surveys, pictures, video, vessel logs, machinery alarm reports, etc., in lieu of Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to credit a required inspection or exam. (A dry dock, pressure vessel, or other non-annual exam may only be credited for a maximum of one year.);
  • Defer a required inspection or exam for up to 90 days; or
  • Issue a CG Form CG-835V to restrict the vessel movement as a worklist item.

2. Recognized Organizations (ROs) and Third Party Organizations (TPOs) that are conducting surveys and audits on behalf of the Coast Guard may request extensions on a case-by-case basis on behalf of the vessel owner or operator. This includes both internal and external surveys for those companies/vessels subject to Subchapter M requirements. Surveys and audits that require travel to or through high-risk affected areas will generally constitute sufficient reason for the Coast Guard to grant an extension. When evaluating if an extension will be granted, the OCMI or the Office of Commercial Vessel Compliance (CG-CVC) will evaluate the vessel’s history of compliance and may require objective evidence to verify if the vessel complies with the applicable laws and regulations. Any extension of a statutory or regulatory required survey or audit will be documented in writing by the RO/TPO and should generally not be more than 90 days. ROs/TPOs that seek to use remote survey in lieu of attendance on vessels that are both classed and certificated should contact the Flag State Control Division (CG-CVC-4) or the Towing Vessel National Center of Expertise (TVNCOE) to propose the methods and administrative procedures that will be used. Extension requested for vessels subject to Subchapter M requirements should be relayed by the TPO to the OCMI.

3. The same allowances should be considered for companies that are required to complete internal vessel and management audits as required by ISM or TSMS. These companies should work through their RO/TPO for extension requests; however, extensions granted for this work is not required to be reported to the CG, but rather documented by company and RO/TPO.

Port State Control (PSC) Exams:

1. The Coast Guard will continue to use a risk based program to determine which vessels will be required to undergo a Port State Control Exam. The Coast Guard will not issue deficiencies or detain vessels for expired certificates, documents or mariner credentials until October 1, 2020.

2. Certain Certificate of Compliance (COC) exams are a statutory and regulatory requirement. Based on the OCMI’s evaluation of the history of the vessel, the OCMI may:

  • Require Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to conduct a full or abbreviated exam;
  • Accept objective evidence such as vessel status within Qualship 21, previous port state or flag state exams, recent classification surveys, pictures, video, vessel logs, machinery alarm reports, etc. in ieu of Coast Guard attendance onboard the vessel to credit a required inspection or exam; or
  • Defer a required inspection or exam for up to 90 days

Paris MOU

The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU) acknowledges the crisis which the international shipping industry is facing. The Paris MoU is working to help Member Authorities protect the health and safety of our Port State Control Officers and also the seafarers on the ships. The Paris MoU acknowledges further that at this time it is essential to keep supply chains open and also that it is proving very difficult for shipowners to arrange vessel surveys. It is also very difficult for seafarers to attend the required training courses and to revalidate their certificates.

In this regard the Paris MoU has developed temporary guidance for its Member Authorities during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance recognises that there is a need to apply flexibility under these special circumstances. Forced by the current situation, Member Authorities have implemented national measures which are affecting the region’s port State control regime.

The temporary guidance sets out parameters for the adoption of a pragmatic approach to be taken in the region. The key to this approach is the recognition that measures are being taken by flag States recognising the challenges the maritime industry is facing. Guidance for the port State control Authorities has been drafted regarding:

  • impact of delays for surveys, inspections and audits
  • extensions of validity of the ship’s certificates
  • extended periods of service on board
  • delaying periods for personnel certification (STCW’95 and MLC,2006)

As a general principle, a pragmatic approach regarding the mentioned issues is suggested to be taken on a case-by-case basis for periods up to maximum three months. In such cases it is expected that there is active involvement of the flag State, and, if appropriate, the Recognised Organisation. This would include evidence that the ship has a plan that covers how the ship will be brought back in compliance with the requirements.

Whether an inspection takes place remains the decision of the port State. A vessel can be considered self-isolating only if there are no ship-shore interfaces.

The temporary guidance may be reviewed, as appropriate, to keep aligned with the rapidly successive developments of the COVID-19 virus and future initiatives by relevant stakeholders.

The Paris MoU wishes to express its solidarity with the international shipping sector and the seafarers at this difficult time.

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