If the PSC regime wishes to improve the industry further, it needs to win the hearts and minds of the seafarers and the shipowners, argues Captain Pradeep Chawla from Anglo-Eastern Ship Management.
Most people in the maritime industry will agree that, in general, the port state control regime has nearly succeeded in eliminating sub-standard ships.
A recent analysis of the latest annual reports, clearly indicates that only about 5% of the 80,599 inspections that were carried out worldwide had led to a detention.
The average number of deficiencies per inspection are below four deficiencies. Given the complexity of ships and considering that the ships are manned by barely 20 people onboard, the shipping community should certainly be proud of it.
This brings up the question as to what should be the role of PSC going into the future?
It is evident to most people in the industry, that to a large extent, PSC has now taken up the role of ‘quality assurance’ and aims to highlight even the minor deficiencies onboard the ships.
The goal is zero detention and zero deficiency!
However, the PSC regime has one drawback – a common seafarer still considers them as a police force. Due to the commercial impact of PSC detentions or deficiencies; especially in the tanker and bulk carrier industry, PSC inspections are looked upon as a punishment. Unfortunately, punishment drives a behaviour of hiding.
If the PSC regime wishes to improve the industry further, it needs to win the hearts and minds of the seafarers and the shipowners.
For driving transparency, it is essential that the PSC regime shows empathy and encouragement.
The PSC regime needs to be a ‘caring’ regime in order to become a positive force driving the change with all stakeholders including IMO, IACS, shipyards, charterers.
It is like policing by working together with the local community.
A natural question to follow would be on how this can be achieved? Here are a few ideas to start the discussions.
Target only the bad ships. A single worldwide PSC database can be made. The USCG Qualship 21 program should be replicated worldwide.
With the garbage regulations in place, ships often arrive in port with large amounts of garbage on deck- and food waste in freezers! Why not ensure that all ports have adequate reception facilities and make it mandatory to land garbage in every port? Similarly, why not make it mandatory for no ship to have more than 20% capacity of bilge holding tank at the time of departure?
Rest hours implementation is like the proverbial elephant in the room. Are seafarers really at fault? Or is it the minimum safe manning regulation? Is it difficult for each coastal state to identify the areas where the seafarers find it difficult to get sufficient rest? Instead of detaining the vessel, shouldn’t the PSC be giving a ‘restraint’ order to allow the ships’ crew in achieving their rest before sailing? I am sure the seafarers will appreciate that, rather than a detention, where they have to answer to the shipowner as to why they were unable to plan their activities better.
In a similar breath, there are a large number of deficiencies related to design of a ship, for example, distance between railings is incorrect; or distance of heat detector to the bulkhead inside crew pantry room less than 0.5 m; or horizontal bar of handrails on main deck not of proper height. Should these deficiencies be given to the ship or should they be sent to the class / IACS as the seafarer expects to be sailing on ship approved by the authorities?
We want to win the hearts and minds of the seafarers and not punish them!
There are many deficiencies related to ship operation that need to be treated with empathy such as deficiencies for drills, because most ports do not give permission to lower boats or deficiencies for unpainted draft marks, because most ports do not allow painting.
PSC could also help the seafarers in some area for example by informing the ship 48 hours before boarding so that master can plan other activities in port and can devote time to the PSC inspector, getting the port authorities to send the passage plan and berthing plan 48 hours before the ship arrives, so that the bridge team has studied the plan before arrival.
The master should be allowed to give his reasons for the deficiencies and if the reasons are genuine and correct, PSC should empathise and consider the deficiency giving more time to rectify it. Everything does not have to be a code 17!
Finally, an appeal process should not be considered as a challenge to the PSC. It should be considered as a tool for an improved relationship with the stakeholders.
We need to engage in such forums more often. Informal exchanges should be encouraged. The seafarers and shipowners want to work in cooperation with PSC to jointly achieve continuous improvement in the industry.