As some crew may not be aware, there is a code of good practice for port state control officers conducting inspections. This is set within the framework of the regional memoranda of understanding and agreement on port state control and the IMO have published a document outlining the guidelines regarding the standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency that captains and crew should expect of all Port State Control officers (PSCOs) who are involved in or associated with Port State Control inspections.

The code of good practice encompasses three fundamental principles against which all actions of PSCOs are judged: integrity, professionalism and transparency. The document explains the meaning of these principles as integrity as “the state of moral soundness, honesty and freedom from corrupting influences or motives”; professionalism as “applying accepted professional standards of conduct and technical knowledge” and transparency as “implying openness and accountability.”

The document goes on to address the actions and behaviour expected of PSCOs. PSCOs should exercise respect and “remember that a ship is a home as well as a workplace for the ship’s personnel and not unduly disturb their rest or privacy; comply with any ship housekeeping rules such as removing dirty shoes or work clothes; not be prejudiced by the race, gender, religion or nationality of the crew when making decisions and treat all personnel on board with respect; respect the authority of the master or his deputy; be polite but professional and firm as required and never become threatening, abrasive or dictatorial or use language that may cause offence.” In the same breath the code specifies that they should also “expect to be treated with courtesy and respect.”

During the conduct of inspections, PSCOs are expected to: “comply with all health and safety requirements of the ship and their administration and not take any action or cause any action to be taken which could compromise the safety of the PSCO or the ship’s crew; comply with all security requirements of the ship and wait to be escorted around the ship by a responsible person; present their identity cards to the master or the representative of the owner at the start of the inspection and explain the reason for the inspection”

PSCOs must firmly refuse any attempts of bribery and report any blatant cases to the maritime authority and not misuse their authority for benefit, financial or otherwise.

Where the inspection is triggered by a report or complaint they must not reveal the identity of the person making the complaint. PSCOs must also  not try to mislead the crew, and the code gives the example of “asking them to do things that are contrary to the Conventions”. They must explain clearly to the master the findings of the inspection and the corrective action required to ensure that the report of inspection is clearly understood. At the end of the inspection, they are to issue the Master a legible and comprehensible report before leaving the ship.

In the event of a disagreement over the conduct or findings of the inspection, PSCOs are told to deal with it “calmly and patiently” and advise the Master of the complaints procedure in place if the disagreement cannot be resolved within reasonable time. They must also advise the master of the right of appeal and relevant procedures in he case of detention.

Finally, the PSCOs are reminded of their duty to practice integrity. They must “be free to make decisions based on the findings of their inspections and not on any commercial considerations of the port.” They must also firmly refuse any attempts of bribery and report any blatant cases to the maritime authority and not misuse their authority for benefit, financial or otherwise.

The document can be read in full here.

The topic of Port State Control was discussed in detail at the Port State Control & Security Management Meeting. To read the transcripts of the event, please click here.