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Port State Control bodies on Covid-19 pandemic

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. Here they are:

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). Read complete bulletin here: 


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. Photo: K. Kliche/Pixabay

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