Port State Control MoUs give guidance on enforcement during COVID-19 outbreak

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Image: ClassNk

The Tokyo and the Paris Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control have each given guidance to their member agencies on dealing with the impact of the coronavirus on ships’ abilities to meet a number of statutory obligations.

In a statement released earlier this month, the Tokyo MoU noted that the industry is facing challenges in meeting statutory requirements stipulated in the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (MLC 2006) and varous IMO conventions.

As a result, member authorities of the Tokyo MOU have agreed to adopt guidance for dealing with the circumstances (such as extending periods of service onboard of seafarers, delaying periods for surveys, inspections and audits, etc.) in a pragmatic and harmonized approach.

The guidance is prepared based on the general principle that requests/issues would be considered on a case-by-case basis by the relevant port State Authority. In accordance with the guidance, the port state authority should request the operator concerned to confirm that flag state and/or recognized organization [generally a classification society], relevant seafarers’ organizations (if appropriate) have been involved in the process.

For consideration of the request by the port state authority, operators/companies concerned should provide a plan or process containing equivalent solutions to address the COVID-19 situation and letters of dispensation or exemption by the flag State or RO, under which the period of grace for delaying surveys, inspections or audits should be no more than three months, in accordance with the relevant regulations of conventions.

The Tokyo MoU says ths guidance will be reviewed based on any future IMO/ILO initiatives, or developments of the situation.


The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control says it is working to help member authorities protect the health and safety of both Port State Control Officers and seafarers on the ships.

The Paris MoU says that it acknowledges that at this time it is essential to keep supply chains open and that it is proving very difficult for shipowners to arrange vessel surveys. It is also very difficult for seafarers to attend the required training courses and to revalidate their certificates.

In response, the Paris MoU has developed temporary guidance for its Member Authorities during the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance recognizes that there is a need to apply flexibility under these special circumstances. Forced by the current situation, member authorities have implemented national measures which are affecting the region’s port State control regime.

The temporary guidance sets out parameters for the adoption of a pragmatic approach to be taken in the region. The key to this approach is the recognition that measures are being taken by flag states recognizing the challenges the maritime industry is facing. Guidance for the port State control Authorities has been drafted regarding:

  • impact of delays for surveys, inspections and audits
  • extensions of validity of the ship’s certificates
  • extended periods of service on board
  • delaying periods for personnel certification (STCW’95 and MLC,2006)

The Paris MoU suggests that a pragmatic approach be taken on a case-by-case basis for periods up to maximum three months. In such cases it is expected that there is active involvement of the flag state, and, if appropriate, the recognized organization. This would include evidence that the ship has a plan that covers how it will be brought back in compliance with the requirements.

Whether an inspection takes place remains the decision of the port State. A vessel can be considered self-isolating only if there are no ship-shore interfaces.

The temporary guidance may be reviewed, as appropriate, to keep aligned with the development of the coronavirus outbreak and future initiatives by relevant stakeholders.

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