Port State Control ensuring local compliance with international sulphur standards

Maritime Authority of Jamaica Director-General Rear Admiral (Ret’d) Peter Brady (Photo contributed)

Port State Control will have an important role to play in ensuring compliance by ships to the International Maritime Organisation (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 onboard ships, down from 3.5 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, told 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 explained.

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,” Brady stated.

He added 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 further indicated 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 said.

“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,” Admiral Brady added.

Brady further argued 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, noted 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 explained.

He noted 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 said it is important to note that a ship that has been detained is unable to earn.