Fourth Asia/Pacific Port State Control Committee Meeting

  • Maurice Williamson

Thank you John Milne ( Deputy Chairman of the Maritime Safety Authority)

It is a great pleasure to be with you today.

For you are dealing with a subject which is of vital interest to New Zealand
and for the vast region to which we all belong.

We have learned, particularly over the last decade, that if we are to prosper
we must work together.

Your participation in this meeting is one further strand in the network of
cooperation which now links our countries.

The importance placed on port state control today is something fairly new in
the development of international maritime law.

The problems that port state control is aimed at are, of course, as old as
shipping itself.

Unsafe ships and poorly trained crews did not materialise overnight.

Historically, however, international law, and the shipping community, relied
almost entirely on flag states to maintain safety and other forms of
jurisdiction over those ships flying their flags.

This reflected the firmly established concept that a ship is notionally an
extension of the territory of the state under whose flag it flies.

So, where a ship is registered under the law of a particular state, it
followed that the same state should be responsible for setting and maintaining
standards such as safety and the welfare of the crew.

The concept of flag state control is embodied in all of the 30-odd maritime
conventions and 700 or so related codes and resolutions that the International
Maritime Organisation has developed since its beginning in 1959.

These rules were all a response to the growing awareness of the need for
internationally accepted, effective and enforceable maritime safety and
environmental standards for shipping.

In theory, flag state control was the ideal mechanism to implement those
standards which were developed for the protection of seafarers, passengers,
cargo owners, the environment, and responsible ship owners.

If a state was prepared to adopt obligations under an IMO convention, it was
reasonable to expect it to implement those same obligations for ships flying its

All would have been well if all flag states had really enforced the safe
operation of the ships which flew their flags.

But, for a variety of reasons, they did not.

In many cases, these flag of convenience states do not have maritime
administrations with systems in place to enforce the IMO conventions they have

Other states simply lack the will to enforce the obligations they have signed
up to.

Either way, the end result has been the same: seafarer's lives endangered by
sub-standard ships, hull and cargo insurers exposed to higher risks, and coastal
states facing environmental disaster from unsafe or incompetently operated

Overtonnaging, competition, the fuel crises of the seventies and intense
pressure to reduce operating costs have all played their part in tempting owners
and operators to cut corners.

Risk to the marine environment was made much worse by the increasing size of
ships, especially oil tankers.

We soon learned they were capable of causing disastrous environmental damage.

The grounding of the Torrey Canyon showed us that way back in 1967.

Initially, and as a direct response to the Torrey Canyon disaster, the IMO
developed conventions relating to oil pollution.

One gave coastal states intervention powers on the high seas in oil pollution

Other conventions aimed at establishing a meaningful civil liability and
compensation regime for oil pollution damage.

Then, in 1973 came a significant breakthrough.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships,
commonly referred to as MARPOL, enshrined the concept of port state control in
international law.

This IMO Convention gave port States the right to inspect ships and report
their defects to the flag State.

It also gave them the power to detain the vessel until repairs were carried

Port State control provisions were subsequently included in the Safety of
Life at Sea Convention of 1974.

Most recently they were strengthened by the inclusion of operational
requirements which allow a port state to test a crew's ability to carry out
essential functions.

Paris Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Without widespread practical support, of course, port state control is not
likely to be any more effective than flag state control has been.

For that reason, the IMO initiatives have been bolstered by regional

The 1982 Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port State control between
European states now has 16 members.

Today, inspection and co-ordination between member States ensures that more
than 90% of ships visiting the region are regularly inspected.

A uniform standard of safety, manning and pollution prevention is enforced in
accordance with IMO Conventions.

This cooperative scheme has been extremely effective.

That is shown by the fact that by 1994 members of the Paris agreement had
inspected over 140,000 ships, detaining over 4,500 for convention breaches

Reports of these inspections are stored on a database accessible to all

Details of detentions are copied to the IMO.

Worldwide developments in Port State Control (PSC)

The European initiative has since been mirrored elsewhere in the world.

In 1992 a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between 10 Latin American
States; the "Acuerdo de Vina del Mar" (pronounced: Aquedo de Veenya del

In December 1993 18 maritime authorities in the Asia Pacific region,
including New Zealand, signed the Tokyo memorandum on port state control.

It is that agreement that brings you here today.

In February 1996 an agreement was signed between nine Caribbean maritime
authorities in Barbados.

Britain is expected to sign on behalf of a further six UK Dependent

Initiatives on further agreements are under way for West and Central Africa,
the Persian Gulf region and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region.

In 1991 the IMO adopted a Resolution on "Regional Co-operation in the Control
of Ships and Discharges" which recognises the important contribution that
regional cooperation makes to maritime safety and pollution prevention.

The recently concluded regional agreements I have mentioned are a response to
this resolution's invitation to governments to consider concluding port state
control measures in co-operation with the IMO

At the same time, the IMO has recognised that, because some flag States have
difficulty in making sure that their ships are fully maintained to international
standards, an increased burden is being shifted onto port States.

As part of IMO's more active approach to the safety of ships and their crews,
and the protection of the marine environment, the Sub Committee on Flag State
Implementation (FSI) was formed.

Its task is to help flag states carry out their responsibility as the primary
agents for implementing convention standards.

I would also note that the Chartered Institute of Transport has prepared a
paper on substandard ships.

This respected international transport body made a plea for concerted action
to address the problems of substandard shipping.

The Institute's report concluded that substandard ships and crew will
continue to ply the world's seaways until it is made uneconomic to operate them.

Owners and operators must appreciate that they bear the primary
responsibility for ensuring that their ships are safe.

Until such time as owners, operators and flag states accept their
responsibilities, the most viable alternative is an effective worldwide port
state control regime.

We should all agree with this.

New Zealand most assuredly actively supports this initiative.

The Asia Pacific region

As you will all know, the Tokyo MOU provides that each maritime authority is
to establish and maintain an effective system of port state control.

The aim is to attain a regional target annual inspection rate of 50% of the
total ships operating in the region by the year 2000.

In the first two full years of operation, 1994 and 1995, almost 17,000
inspections were carried out on ships registered in 92 countries.

The inspection rate for the region increased from 32% in 1994 to 39% in 1995.

That is well on the way to the target set for the turn of the century.

New Zealand carried out over 2200 of these inspections.

As an island nation, New Zealand is heavily dependent on sea-borne trade,
some 95 percent of which is carried by foreign ships.

Our remoteness from major markets and the need to sell at competitive prices
on world markets means that we must have competitive, cost effective and
efficient shipping services.

This has of necessity dictated an open shipping policy, without those
barriers to entry that some countries with significant fleets have erected.

Price, of course, is not everything.

New Zealand is not prepared to be a dumping ground at the far end of the
world's shipping routes for old, badly maintained and poorly crewed and operated

It is therefore not surprising that we take a very close interest in the
quality of the ships that we are so reliant on.

As major exporter of fish, agricultural products and fruit, New Zealand has
an enormous stake in maintaining the clean green image so closely associated
with these exports.

That image is tarnished at our peril. New Zealand cannot afford to trade it
away for short term cost savings.

Nor can we afford to leave the protection of our marine environment to the
whim of other maritime administrations if they are not prepared to pull their

New Zealand therefore views port state control is an essential weapon in the
armoury available to protect our interests.

Let there be no doubt we are prepared to take a robust stance on this

Our goal is to dissuade sub-standard ships from entering our trade.

We will crack down on any vessels whose owners don't respond to this

To meet our obligations under the Tokyo MOU the Maritime Safety Authority
employs a total of 18 Maritime Safety Inspectors.

They cover every major port in the country.

Foreign flag vessels are inspected at their first port of arrival in New
Zealand if they have not been to this country previously, or if they have not
been inspected here within the previous six months.

Out of an average annual total of 2,200 "ship visits" to New Zealand about
50% are eligible for inspection.

Every one of these ships is inspected.

Vessels which have had deficiencies discovered at an overseas port are
inspected here to ensure that those deficiencies have been or are to be

Information on all inspections is fed into a common database in Canada,
accessible to all Tokyo MOU member States.

I understand that one of the items on your agenda for this meeting is the
linking of this database with that of the Paris MOU.

New Zealand has joined Australia and members of the Paris MOU in publishing
details of ships detained.

Despite our strong support of port state control we cannot maintain this
position in relative isolation.

I urge all Asia Pacific MOU members to take up the challenge and ensure that
the performance targets set under the memorandum are achieved, and preferably
ahead of the target dates.

At the same time I do recognise that some members face considerable
difficulties. I know that not all signatories have fully developed port state
control systems in place, and that there is a shortage of properly qualified and
trained port state control officers.

But I also know that the Tokyo MOU places considerable emphasis on assisting
with training and in setting up effective systems and databases in developing

Given this strong emphasis on mutual cooperation under the memorandum I urge
those signatories that have not yet become full members to take advantage of the
assistance available to them so they can become full members as quickly as

Looking further ahead, you will be aware that Canada has offered to host an
inter-regional Ministerial Conference on Port State Control in Victoria BC in
March 1998.

I see that proposed conference as a significant landmark in the evolution of
port state control.

Inter-regional harmonisation and cooperation seem to me to be the most
obvious next steps in the evolutionary process.

For that reason I noted with interest the database managers' meeting held
last week.

To my mind, this aspect of port state control systems is every bit as
important as having trained port state personnel to carry out inspections.

Good data is vital for timely, efficient and cost effective access to

Full exploitation of the opportunities for world wide data transfer and
access will greatly enhance the feasibility and effectiveness of interregional

It will provide instant access to a ship's records anywhere in the world.

That will make it even harder for any ship to slip through the port state

I will watch with interest how this aspect of the port state control system

Coastal Shipping

Most of my speech today has concentrated on safe shipping.

It is a subject that I had to pick up quickly when I was made Minister of
Transport because the Government was at that stage progressing coastal shipping
deregulation through Parliament.

This took the form of allowing foreign ships that were in New Zealand as part
of their normal international voyage to carry coastal cargo.

The groups that were opposed to this sensible and rational use of surplus
cargo capacity tried to wind up opposition to the policy by claiming that it
would result in a fleet of rust buckets trading on the New Zealand coast,
polluting our water and posing a real safety threat.

At the time the Government said that these claims had no substance.

Of course time has shown that the opponents of coastal shipping reform were

The reforms have been a success.

More shipping companies are able to carry coastal cargo.

Cargo shippers have more choice and cheaper freight rates.

New Zealand shipping companies have not shrivelled up and disappeared - they
have responded to competition and two of them have added to their fleets.

And what of this supposed wave of unsafe ships - it has not happened.

This is because of two things - first, the ships that carry coastal cargo are
not new visitors - they are here anyway and are sailing the same water whether
or not they carry coastal cargo.

There has been no additional risk as a result of the policy.

Second, and coming back to the port state control theme of this conference,
the legislation that introduced coastal deregulation also gave the Maritime
Safety Authority modern law to work with and clear and firm powers to inspect
and detain unsafe ships.

Through the Authority's high inspection rates, and the invaluable assistance
to all port state control authorities provided by the Asia-Pacific MOU, New
Zealand has sent a very clear message that unsafe ships will not be tolerated in
our ports and on our coast.

Finally, I want to congratulate the members of the Asia Pacific memorandum of
understanding on their constructive approach to the task in hand.

I wish you well for a stimulating and productive meeting.