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European inspectors focus on yacht safety

by Jake DesVergers, The Triton/Sail-World on 28 Dec 2011
Cruising yachts smaller than superyachts can hope to avoid inspection, but it’s possible .. .
If you are thinking of cruising Europe any time soon, take note. One year ago Europe revised its marine inspection regime for visiting vessels to include, for the first time, yachts. While it is likely that superyachts would make more of a target for an inspector, normal cruising yachts can also be inspected.

Yachts, no matter what size, have traditionally enjoyed a 'low profile' with Port State Control authorities around the world and have generally been considered a low priority for inspection. However, under THETIS, any vessel which does not have an inspection history in the Paris MOU region (Europe) is automatically assigned as 'Priority 1: (Unknown Ship)' requiring a 'more detailed inspection' at the earliest opportunity. The assignment of 'Priority 1: (Unknown Ship)' will be assigned to every vessel entering the Paris MOU region without an inspection history regardless of the ship type, Flag, Classification Society or management company.

Here Jake DesVergers, chief surveyor for the International Yacht Bureau (www.yachtbureau.org!IYB), reports for http://thetriton.com!The_Triton on what the first year has taught.


It has been a full year since the European Union revised its rules for the inspection of vessels calling into its ports. The New Inspection Regime (NIR) for port state control and the associated THEMIS database are in full swing.

For the first time, we saw yachts, both private and commercial, included in the inspection process. Understandably, the majority of yachts were examined during the summer and fall seasons, but be prepared for a busy winter season, too.

Upon review of the inspection reports, we are able to determine specific areas that port state control inspectors focused upon.

Safety Equipment:

Inspectors concentrated their efforts on a number of lifesaving, firefighting, and general safety items. The majority of deficiencies addressed the expiration of equipment such as flares, line throwing appliances, and life jacket lights.

Other areas of concern focused on the actual location of safety equipment. Because inspectors are familiarizing themselves with yachts and the associated equivalencies allowed, many issues were cleared, but still reported. In one instance, port state control questioned the color of a life buoy, which had too much white paint and not enough orange.



Charts, Publications, Voyage Plans:

It is surprising to see this topic so high on the list, but upon further investigation it becomes apparent as to why so many yachts fell short. As we know, the majority of yachts use electronic charts as the primary means of navigation.

In a very few instances, it was noted that the CDs and memory cards for a yacht’s Transas, Nobeltec, or similar program were not current.

Where the large majority of yachts ran into trouble dealt with the validity of their paper charts. It is common for busy yachts to have their chart catalog corrected at the beginning of each season. This leaves the captain and mates available for more pressing issues.

However, this practice is not acceptable with international regulation. Safety of navigation rules require that a vessel maintains charts for the voyage area onboard and corrected with the latest published corrections.

Also, frequently absent was the proper recording of voyage plans. IMO Resolution A.892(21) requires the documentation of a vessel’s movement from berth to berth.

Now this gets tricky for yachts in some instances, especially when a yacht wants to move from one anchorage to another one just 200 meters away. Even this small movement must be documented. Does it need to be a full blown four-page passage plan? Not necessarily, but port state control inspectors are looking for something. And something is better than nothing.

Licensing and Certification of Crew:

This was a significant area that nearly every commercial yacht inspected had questions on. Under the STCW Code and then further legislated by various flag-state regulations, the captain, officers and crew must be certified. These certificates must be issued by the flag in which the yacht is registered.

For example, a first officer possesses an MCA Officer of the Watch license from the United Kingdom, but is working on a Marshall Islands-flagged yacht. To legally serve as a first officer on that yacht, s/he must be in possession of a Marshall Islands-issued certificate of endorsement for the license and a Marshall Islands-issued seaman’s identification and record book.

Port state control inspectors are well-aware of this requirement, as it has been in place on merchant ships for years and actively enforced since the late 1990s.

Oily Water Separator:
(This is one that would hardly apply to cruising yachts, but included for completeness)

When noting the types and numbers of deficiencies identified on merchant ships, this is an all-time favorite of port state control inspectors. While it is still near the top of our list, it is good to see that yachts are not having the same types of problems.

With merchant ships, many of the deficiencies deal with illegal modifications to the equipment or false entries in the oil record book. For yachts, it appears to be a lack of use of the oily water separator.

Many inspectors comment in their reports that when asking the engineer to operate the equipment, there was a certain level of uncertainty. The main reason? Most yachts had not operated their oily water separator since the last annual survey.

'We just don’t use it,' was the common mantra.

And for the oil record book, there were no false entries or missing pages, but incorrect coding. While simply a paperwork issue, the oil record book is a legal document that must be accurately maintained.

The above top four deficiencies can be seen as minor when reviewed individually, but it is the cumulative effect that is detrimental to a yacht’s operations.

Each deficiency on its own is not a major cause for concern, but if a port state control inspector sees a series of these items, it can warrant an expanded boarding. If that does not go well, it is quite feasible that the yacht can be detained.

And please do not assume that yachts do not get stopped. There were more than 12 yachts officially detained this past year for failing to maintain the minimum requirements for safety and environmental protection.

Overall, inspectors appear to have been understanding toward yachts and their newness to the process.

Not to be a bearer of solely bad news, the Paris MOU did make some positive changes to its inspection procedures. For yachts to qualify in the preferred Low Risk Ship (LRS) category, several new flags were added to the list. They are, in alphabetical order:

Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Liberia, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Poland, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

With this new list of approved flag administrations, there remain several major yachting registries absent, but hopefully that will also change over time as everyone becomes more familiar with the process.

For more information about the European Inspection Regime, go to www.parismou.org
For more articles concerning superyachts and their crews, go to http://thetriton.com!The_Triton.

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About Jake DesVergers:
Capt. Jake DesVergers is chief surveyor for International Yacht Bureau (IYB), an organization that provides inspection services to private and commercial yachts on behalf of several flag administrations, including the Marshall Islands. A deck officer graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, he previously sailed as master on merchant ships, acted as designated person for a shipping company, and served as regional manager for an international classification society. Contact him at www.yachtbureau.org.
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