The 2022 U. S. Coast Guard Port State Control (PSC) Annual Report showed an increase in the number of international ships detained last year for safety concerns and said that fire safety violations outpaced the other types of deficiencies found on vessels.
PSC exams enforce the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which lays out minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships, and MARPOL, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollutionmarin from Ships, which covers pollution from operational or accidental causes. Deficiencies found by USCG reviewers during Port State Control exams include lapses in fire safety, safety management systems, and lifesaving equipment.
The Coast Guard examined 11,235 individual vessels from 78 different flag administrations making 80,280 port calls to the United States in 2022, with 8,706 SOLAS safety exams conducted. This resulted in 78 detentions (up from 63 in 2021) — a rate of 0.89 percent in 2022, which is an increase over the previous year’s low of 0.73 percent. The three-year rolling average detention ratio edged down from 0.87 percent to 0.80 percent.
A detention occurs when a ship’s “operational condition or crew do not substantially meet applicable international conventions to ensure the vessel will not proceed to sea without presenting a danger to the vessel, its crew, the port, or cause harm to the marine environment.” Twenty-three appeals to detention were submitted last year, with nine challenging the overall merits of the detention and two of those appeals granted. Fourteen appeals requesting the removal of a party’s association to a detention were received, with eight of those granted.
“These low detention rates are a testament to the professionalism, skill, and dedication of the mariners who sail and maintain these vessels, as well as the companies, administrations, and classification societies that provide the support and oversight to ensure an efficient and safe worldwide marine transportation system,” Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy Rear Adm. Wayne Arguin wrote at the outset of the report.
The QUALSHIP 21 — quality shipping for the 21st century — program was launched in 2001 to identify high-quality ships and offer incentives such as decreased exam frequency to reward quality operations. Arguin said the program “has made incredible gains” with “an impressive enrollment” of 4,431 vessels by the end of 2022 — “a staggering tribute to the hard work of flag surveyors, company management, and especially the hard working mariners who take pride in sailing these outstanding vessels.” The flag administrations of Belgium, Panama, Portugal, and Vanuatu became eligible for QUALSHIP 21 in 2022, while seven flag administrations lost their eligibility.
Arguin also noted a 39 percent year-over-year increase in the number of ships in the E-Zero program within QUALSHIP 21, which recognizes vessels that have consistently adhered to environmental compliance and demonstrated noteworthy commitment to environmental stewardship. By the end of the year, 306 ships were awarded the E-Zero designation.
The report notes that for the second straight year fire safety deficiencies led all deficiency categories and “remains a concern throughout our PSC program.” Thirty-two percent of ship detentions were related to fire safety issues.
“Oil accumulation in the engine room stood out once again with over seventy deficiencies noted. Oil soaked lagging, fuel leaks, excessive oil in the bilge, and open buckets filled with oily waste throughout the engine room were the most common deficiencies cited,” the report states. “On one ship the PSCO discovered excessive oil leaks throughout all machinery spaces with multiple areas of lagging soaked with oil. The lagging was found to be painted over to hide the leaks. The bulkheads and decks were slick from the oil and oil soaked mops along with trash bags full of oil soaked rags were present throughout the engine room. We recorded several deficiencies where the firefighting equipment was not readily available. On one ship the PSCO discovered water-mist nozzles covered with plastic and tape. There was also another ship where the fire-extinguishing main control panel was turned off. And a third where the CO2 storage room was secured with a padlock. The key to the pad lock could not be located preventing the system from being ready for immediate operation.”
Deficiencies related to lifeboats and other rescue equipment remained steady, with the report noting that “on one ship it took the crew over 1.5 hours to lower the rescue boat due to severe corrosion in the lowering boom actuator.”
The most deficiencies by type of ship — 1,380 — were found on 616 exams of 2,500 bulk carriers, but examinations of passenger ships yielded the highest percentage of deficiencies with 651 found on 180 examinations of 339 vessels.
“As national and international environmental regulations continue to evolve and mature, we look forward to close partnerships with other administrations to facilitate compliance and foster responsible expansion of the global MTS,” Arguin said. “As the keystone of the global economy, the MTS remains the most economical and environmentally friendly method for worldwide transportation of vital goods and commodities; and maintains a robust position that will be bolstered by growing commitments to carbon reduction, alternative fuels, and efficient vessel routing.”
Arguin added that the Coast Guard “continues to focus on the evolving nature of cyber risk management by updating policies, procedures, and guidance to strengthen the cyber security posture of maritime assets and mitigate risks within the global MTS.”
“We are relentlessly engaging with industry stakeholders to share information and coordinate preparedness and response efforts that will leave ports and vessels better equipped to handle threats, and will minimize disruptions to the MTS caused by cyber security incidents,” he said.