Australian port state control ship detentions down but ship bans up

AMSA’s general manager of operations, Allan Schwartz, has warned that the authority will ban entire fleets if ‘systemic issues’ and non-compliance are detected. Credit: AMSA

Australia’s port state control detentions were at a record low in 2017, according to the annual report released in April. However, while detentions fell from 246 in 2016 to 165 in 2017, the number of repeat offender ships banned from Australian ports for up to a year rose, as did the number of detentions imposed as a result of poor safety management.

International Safety Management (ISM) Code breaches topped the list for the seventh year running, accounting for a 29.2% share of detainable deficiencies compared with 27.8% in 2016.

“While the significant improvement in the reduction in number of detainable deficiencies (a 37.8% drop compared with 2016) is a positive result, the continued prevalence of operational control and ISM-related detentions continues to be a concern,” the report noted. “Performance in these areas needs to be improved.”

Issues to do with passage planning and conduct of voyages remain a major concern, according to the report. In response, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, charged with port state control, issued two marine notices: the Official Nautical Charts and the Guidance on ECDIS (Electric Chart Display and Information System) for ships calling at Australian ports.

Also in the top five deficiencies leading to detentions were inadequate emergency systems (14.5%), life-saving appliances (11.9%), and fire safety (11.4%), water/weather tight compliance (9.2%), and labour conditions (8.7%).

Meanwhile, most breaches of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) related to wages (37) and food and catering (37). In total, 165 vessels found in breach of the MLC were detained, a figure slightly down on the previous year. However, all three ships barred from Australian ports as repeat offenders were found in breach of the MLC. The Papua New Guinea-flagged cargo vessel Kiunga Chief was refused access for three months as a result of safety maintenance and crew conditions. The Bahamas-flagged container ship Rena was barred for six months for both MLC and ISM breaches, and the Panama-flagged bulk carrier DL Carnation was banned from Australian shores for 12 months (until September this year) for unpaid crew wages.

“Shipping companies should be aware that AMSA [the Australian Maritime Safety Authority] has the power to ban entire fleets if we uncover systemic issues within an operation and will not hesitate to do so where deliberate non-compliance is uncovered,” said AMSA’s general manager of operations, Allan Schwartz.

Most MLC complaints in 2017 came directly from crew (44) for the first year, followed by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (42), welfare groups (32), and government agencies (10).

Ship management companies clocking up the greatest percentage of detentions in their fleets were the Croatian Register of Shipping (33.3%), the Paris-based Bureau Veritas (8.8%), the Genoa-based Rina Services Spa (7.7%), London’s Lloyds Register (5.6%), and Japan’s Nippon Kaii Kyokai (5%).

Denmark, the Philippines, and Malta topped the flag state detention percentage rate in Australia for 2017. However, it was the Panama flag register that made up the greatest number of detentions, with 44 ships held, followed by Liberia with 19, Malta with 18, the Marshall Islands with 16, and Singapore with 14.

Bulk carriers, which make up the half of the Australian trade, or 50.3% of ship arrivals, accounted for the greatest number of detentions (57), with a detention rate of 6.1% compared with the 5.3% average for all ships in 2017. Reefers (refrigerated cargo vessels) scored the highest detention rate in 2017, followed by tugboats, livestock carriers, general cargo vessels, and bulk carriers.

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