Koch: Ships not security-compliant by July 1 can expect port delays
Ships that have not complied with the International Ship and Port Facility Security code by July 1 can expect port delays or refusal of entry, Christopher Koch, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based ocean carrier group World Shipping Council, has warned. The carrier spokesman also expressed concerns over potential delays if a ship arrives at a security-compliant port after having called a non-compliant port facility during its voyage.
The effective date of the International Maritime Organization’s International Ship and Port Facility Security code and amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, requiring vessel operators to develop and implement compliant vessel security plans, is July 1.
“Compliance will require a significant effort,” Koch told the Panama Canal Authority’s Conference on Maritime Security on Monday (Dec. 1). “Vessels that are not compliant by the July 1 effective date will, at best, face serious delays at the world’s ports, and the U.S. Coast Guard has stated its intention to deny vessels without certificates entry to U.S. ports,” he warned.
The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code applies to about 50,000 vessels and more than 1,500 port facilities globally.
Koch stressed the code “is more than a set of procedural requirements and paper practices.” It requires vessel operators not only to develop and implement the required measures, but also to have adequate resources available and trained to do the job, he explained.
Koch cited the U.S. Maritime Transportation Security Act, passed by Congress and requiring all vessels calling at U.S. ports to have vessel security plans. This act is being effectively implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard “in a way that is entirely consistent with the new international rules and obligations successfully negotiated at the IMO,” the carrier spokesman said.
Koch said the U.S. Coast Guard’s approach to the implementation of the ISPS code and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea amendments “enhances maritime security through the use of a consistent, uniform international approach for our industry, which operates within the jurisdictions of all the maritime trading nations of the world.”
“We believe that the Coast Guard’s efforts in this regard can serve as a model for future American regulatory endeavors because its approach sought and achieves consistency and predictability amongst and between domestic and international requirements,” Koch said.
Meanwhile, flag states have the responsibility to ensure that vessels under their registry are compliant with the new requirements, while the U.S. Coast Guard has stated that the U.S. regulations “neither invite nor require foreign flag vessels to submit their vessel security plans to the Coast Guard for approval,” Koch noted.
According to the World Shipping Council, a proposed House of Representatives bill requiring non-U.S.-flag vessels to submit their vessel security plans to the Coast Guard for approval “would be inconsistent with the international approach.”
“It would establish the unfortunate precedent that every nation’s vessel security plans would be subject to review and approval by every port state government where the vessel calls,” Koch said.
Yet, the U.S. Coast Guard will use its port state authority to inspect incoming vessels calling at U.S. ports, to ensure that foreign flag vessels seeking entry to the United States have approved plans by July 1, and have implemented adequate security standards in accordance with the ISPS code and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea amendments.
“The Coast Guard’s port state control measures will also include tracking the performance of all owners, operators, flag state administrations, recognized security organizations, charterers and port facilities,” Koch said.
But it is expected that some port facilities used by international ships will not be compliant with the new security rules by July 1.
Koch raised the question of the consequences for a vessel with a compliant security plan when it arrives at a compliant port facility, “if it has previously called at a port facility that is not in compliance during its voyage.”
“This is not a theoretical question,” Koch stressed. “Vessel operators need to know in advance whether and to what extent delays and added operating procedures and costs can be expected, so that they can plan accordingly. This is especially important for vessels that operate on fixed schedules, such as liner and cruise ships.”