What Is Port State Control?

Port State Control at Work

It is known that the responsibility for ensuring that ships comply with the provisions of the relevant instruments rests upon the owners, masters and the flag States. Some flag States fail to fulfil their commitments contained in agreed international legal instruments and subsequently some ships are sailing in an unsafe condition, threatening the lives as well as the marine environment. Port State control is a system of harmonized inspection procedures designed to target sub-standards ships with the main objective being their eventual elimination.

Co-operation between flag State and Port State

Having recognized that the main responsibility lies with the flag State on the one hand and the inability for a variety of reasons of some of flag States to meet, entirely, their obligations under the conventions resulting in the existence of substandard ships it is imperative to develop close co-operation between flag States and port States.
It is a fact that the most important largest Registries have become so due to the attraction of ships whose beneficial ownership belongs to traditional maritime countries which again, for a variety of reasons have chosen a particular port of regulation as oppose to others.  It is in the best interest of all to develop an effective flag State/port State interfaces for the sake of safe shipping.

International Maritime Organizations (IMO)

Several IMO conventions contain regulations that permit Governments to inspect foreign ships that visit their ports to ensure that they meet international (mainly IMO) requirements. This involves creating an administration ,a team of surveyors and  inspectors , consequently can be expensive. But, by combining with other countries to form regional Port State Control agreements these costs can be reduced and the effectiveness of the inspection programme increased. At the same time, the data collected can help to target flags, companies and individual ships that have a poor safety record. The first regional agreement was created in Western Europe in 1982 by means of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control.
Since then other regional agreements have been setup in Latin America, Asia and the Pacific, the wider Caribbean, the Mediterranean and, most recently west and Central Africa agreement. The present momentum on the establishment of Port State Control regimes in the various regions of the world stems from IMO initiatives at the beginning of this decade when, with a view to eradicating substandard ships the Assembly of the International Maritime Origination adopted resolution A.682 (17) “Regional Cooperation in the Control of Ships and Discharges “, as proposed by the Secretary General of IMO to promote the establishment of such regimes in the various regions of the world following the pattern adopted by  the European region through the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (MOU) in 1982. Having established the above referred to regional PSC capabilities, which of course are operating with various degrees of success, the next major initiative now is the establishing of Port State Control in the Indian Ocean region and at the moment IMO is also in consultations with the maritime Authorities of countries within the remaining regions not yet subject to specific Port state Control agreements. It is envisaged that during the period 1999- 2000 Preparatory Meeting aimed at the establishment of such agreements will take place when the above is completed full global coverage through independent, although cooperating, regional agreements in various regions of the world will be achieved

IMO Conventions
The international maritime conventions mentioned in the previous section, referred to as the relevant instruments, are as follows:

  • International Convention on Load Lines 1966, as amended, and its 1988 Protocol(LOADLINES 66/88);
  • International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, its Protocol of 1978, as amended, and the Protocol of 1988, (SOLAS 74/78/88);
  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978, as amended (MARPOL 73/78);
  • International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers 1978, as amended (STCW 78);
  • Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972, as amended (COLREG 72);
  • International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships 1969 (TONNAGE 1969);

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Inspections on board ships under the Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (ILO Convention No. 147) and MLC 2006 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).

All complaints regarding conditions on board will be investigated thoroughly and action will be taken as deemed necessary by the PSCO. If necessary, the ship will be detained until appropriate corrective action is taken.


  • The prime responsibility for compliance with the requirements laid down in the international maritime conventions lies with the shipowner/operator; responsibility for ensuring such compliance remains with the Flag State.
  • The member-countries in each MOU agreed to inspect a percentage of the estimated number of individual foreign merchant ships, which enter their ports.
  • IMO and ILO conventions provide the basis for inspections under the Mediterranean MOU.
  • In general ships will not be inspected within six months of a previous inspection in a MOU port, unless there are clear grounds for inspection.
  • All possible efforts are made to avoid unduly detaining or delaying a ship.
  • Inspections are generally unannounced, however detailed information on the inspection may be subject to publication or being shared with other partners.


During an inspection the PSCO will as a minimum and to the extent applicable examine the documents as listed in the List of Certificates


Sea Ports