‘No more favourable treatment’ – PSC inspections explained

Port State Control (PSC) is the inspection of foreign ships in national ports to verify that the condition of the ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of international regulations and that the ship is manned and operated in compliance with these rules.

Many of IMO’s most important technical conventions contain provisions for ships to be inspected when they visit foreign ports to ensure that they meet IMO requirements.

These inspections were originally intended to be a back up to flag State implementation, but experience has shown that they can be extremely effective, especially if organized on a regional basis. A ship going to a port in one country will normally visit other countries in the region before embarking on its return voyage and it is to everybody’s advantage if inspections can be closely co-ordinated.

PSC comes into the scene when ship owners, ship managers, classification societies and flag State administrations have failed to comply with the requirements of the international maritime conventions. Although it is well understood that the ultimate responsibility for implementing conventions is left to the flag States, port States are entitled to control foreign ships visiting their own ports to ensure that any deficiency, including that concerning living condition and safety of ship staff, found are rectified before they are allowed to sail. Port State control is regarded as measures complementary to the flag State control.

This ensures that as many ships as possible are inspected but at the same time prevents ships being delayed by unnecessary inspections. The primary responsibility for ships’ standards rests with the flag State – but port State control provides a “safety net” to catch substandard ships.

No more favourable treatment principle

In applying a relevant instrument (convention) for the purposes of port State control, the principle of “no more favourable treatment” is applied to ships which fly the flag of a State which is not a party to that convention. In such a case ships shall be subject to a more detailed inspection and the PSCO will follow the same guidelines as those provided for ships to which the relevant instruments are applicable.

Relevant Instruments

The international maritime conventions referred to as the relevant instruments, are:

  1. the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (LOAD LINES 66)
  2. the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (LL PROT 88)
  3. International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS)
  4. the Protocol of 1978 relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS PROT 78)
  5. the Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS PROT 88)
  6. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto, and as further amended by the Protocol of 1997 (MARPOL)
  7. the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 (STCW 78)
  8. the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREG 72)
  9. the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969 (TONNAGE 69)
  10. the Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (ILO Convention No. 147) (ILO 147)
  11. the Protocol of 1996 to the Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (ILO Convention No. 147) (ILO 147)
  12. the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969 (CLC1969)
  13. Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969 (CLC PROT 1992)
  14. International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 (AFS2001)
  15. the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001

ILO Convention no. 147

Inspections on board ships under the Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (ILO Convention No. 147) relate to:

  • Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)
  • Minimum Age (Sea) Convention (Revised),1936 (No. 58)
  • Minimum Age (Sea) Convention, 1920 (No. 7)
  • Medical Examination (Seafarers) Convention, 1946 (No. 73)
  • Prevention of Accidents (Seafarers) Convention, 1970 (No. 134) (Articles 4 and 7)
  • Accommodation of Crews Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 92)
  • Food and Catering (Ships’ Crews) Convention, 1946 (No. 68) (Article 5)
  • Officers’ Competency Certificates Convention, 1936 (No. 53) (Articles 3 and 4)

Detention Review from IOMoU


An initial inspection will consist of a visit on board the ship in order to:

check the certificates and documents listed in Annex 10 of the MoU text;
check that the overall condition and hygiene of the ship including:

1. navigation bridge
2. accommodation and galley
3. decks including forecastle
4. cargo holds/area
5. engine room

meets generally accepted international rules and standards;
verify, if it has not previously been done, whether any deficiencies found by an Authority at a previous inspection have been rectified in accordance with the time specified in the inspection report.

more detailed inspection will be carried out whenever there are clear grounds for believing, during an inspection, that the condition of the ship or of it’s equipment or crew does not substantially meet the relevant requirements of a relevant instrument. Clear grounds exist when a Port State Control Officer finds evidence, which in his/her profesiional judgement warrents a more detailed inspection of the ship, its equipement or its crew. The absence of valid certificates or documents is considered a clear ground.

For the purposes of control on compliance with on-board operational requirements,specific “clear grounds” are the following:

1. Evidence of operational short comings revealed during port State control procedures inaccordance with SOLAS 74, MARPOL 73/78 and STCW 1978;
2. Evidence of cargo and other operations not being conducted safely or in accordance with IMO guidelines;
3. Involvement of the ship in incidents due to failure to comply with operational requirements;
4. Evidence, from the witnessing of a fire and abandon ship drill, that the crew are not familiar with essential procedures;
5. Absence of an up-to-date muster list;
6. Indications that the relevant crew members are unable to communicate appropriately with each other, or with other persons on board, or that the ship is unable to communicate with the shore-based authorities either in a common language or in the language of those authorities.

A more detailed inspection will include an in-depth examination in:

  • the area(s) where clear grounds were established
  • the areas relevant to any overriding or unexpected factors
  • other areas at random from the following risk areas:
    1. Documentation
    2. Structural condition
    3. Water/Weathertight condition
    4. Emergency systems
    5. Radio communication
    6. Cargo operations
    7. Fire safety
    8. Alarms
    9. Living and working condition
    10. Navigation equipment
    11. Life saving appliances
    12. Dangerous Goods
    13. Propulsion and auxiliary machinery
    14. Pollution prevention

The more detailed inspection will take account of the human elements covered by ILO, ISM and STCW and include operational controls as appropriate.

An expanded inspection shall include a check of the overall condition, including human element where relevant, in the following risk areas:

1. Documentation
2. Structural condition
3. Water/Weathertight condition
4. Emergency systems
5. Radio communication
6. Cargo operations
7. Fire safety
8. Alarms
9. Living and working conditions
10. Navigation equipment
11. Life saving appliances
12. Dangerous Goods
13. Propulsion and auxiliary machinery
14. Pollution prevention

and subject to their practical feasibility or any constraints relating to the safety of persons, the ship or the port, verification of the specific items in these risk areas listed for each ship type must be part of an expanded inspection.

The inspector must use professional judgement to determine the appropriate depth of examination or testing of each specific item.

Inspectors must be aware that the safe execution of certain on-board operations, e.g. cargo handling, could be jeopardised by tests carried out during such operation.

The expanded inspection will take account of the human elements covered by ILO, ISM and STCW and include operational controls as appropriate.

Targeting and ship risk profile


Every day a number of ships will be selected for a port State control inspection throughout the region. To facilitate such selection, the central computer database, known as ‘THETIS’ is consulted by PSCO’s This information system, hosted by the European Maritime Safety Agency, informs national PSC authorities which ships are due for an inspection. Data on ships particulars and reports of previous inspections carried out within the Paris MoU region are provided by the information system as well

Ship risk profile

Each ship in the information system will be attributed a ship risk profile (SRP), in accordance with Annex 7 of the Paris MoU text. This SRP will determine the ships priority for inspection, the interval between its inspections and the scope of the inspection.
Ships are assigned high, standard or low risk. This is based on generic and historic parameters. Table 1 of annex 7 shows the criteria within each parameter for each ship risk profile.

A ship’s risk profile is recalculated daily taking into account changes in the more dynamic parameters such as age, the 36 month history and company performance. Recalculation also occurs after every inspection and when the applicable performance tables for flag and R.O.s are changed.


What this means for the superyacht industry

“What this means for the superyacht industry is choosing to register a vessel with a flag that is more leniently applying the regulations is not going to be of benefit when the Paris MOU is inspecting yachts against the regulations to their full extent,” says Jo Assael, lead surveyor at Cayman Registry. “This will lead to an increase in detentions and fines when choosing to operate in this way.”

Trusted Flag States will have developed robust industry recognised standards, or written interpretations, in the form of the Large Yacht Code and the Passenger Yacht Code, which are lodged with the IMO. This ensures that all interpretations are within the scope of the original conventions and correctly documented and approved with the IMO where necessary.

“Vessels and operators should be cautious of the easy fix and being told ‘yes’ by their flag with little or no documentation to back it up,” advises Assael. “Managers and crew should ensure that non-compliances to international conventions are properly documented and insist on them including evidence of the powers under which the flag has issued the dispensation.”

Without these, the flag may be making ‘unilateral interpretations of regulations’, which, although often met with gratitude by the owners, will not be so when the vessel is detained and or fined under ‘no more favourable treatment’.

(sources: The Crew Network MMDQuestions & ParisMOU.Org)

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