Ship Inspection and Port State Control


The Coast Guard used different inspectors for the Port State Inspections than their COIs. Or at least they used to. When PSIs were first carried out, it caused quite a bit of confusion as they new inspectors were not completely familiar with SOLAS regulations. Also, in these days of global communication, the yelling from Limassol can be just as loud as it can be from Houston. . . even 30 years ago. . . . Shoo, boy. . . . Oh, and not all vessels that sail foreign are subject to ABS surveys, US flag or not.


I also feel that the licensed officers have a huge responsibility in maintaining the life saving equipment in good order, beyond what any inspection authorities have.


As I confessed to not knowing the material condition of the ship my previous post really should not have written. It was a hope of improved conditions but not one I have any evidence of.

Cmakin is correct in that it is the officers have a huge responsibility in maintaining items that directly impact their safety.


Sure, that’s true. But one major annoyance for me is the apparent inability of many Cass and other inspectors to maintain a professional attitude. A ship in poor condition is not necessary the fault of the crew. For most inspectors that idea is apparently beyond comprehension.

I once joined a ship as C/M in Diego Garcia in poor condition. IIRC it takes roughly two days to get there from the U.S. but I might have lost track.

The day after I joined ABS, CG and a port Engineer showed up for the annuals. I hadn’t even really had a walk round at that point.

They all were very happy to have a person to dump their moral outrage upon, me, the chief mate…

As the day went on at first I tried to explain that I’d just joined but I soon realized that they had such big hard ons for me they couldn’t think straight. So I just ate the shit they were determined to feed me

In general this is the one thing that gets old for me, it’s fundamental attribution error, the automatic assumption that the crew is at all time fully in control of the condition of the ship. That’s not always the case.


I, for one (when I was a Class Surveyor) operated without any outrage regarding condition, or at least kept it to myself. As far as the situation you mentioned, however, just joining the vessel before a Gang Bang is never fun. Wasn’t when I sailed, and I also took that into consideration when carrying out surveys, however rare is the time when the entire crew changes before these things. Probably the worst ship I ever saw was a Greek owned, Cypriot Flag Vessel. At the time I boarded, she was already 28 years old, and those were some very tough years. . . just some of the highlights were doublers on the main deck between the cargo hatches (big problem for a bulker of any size), rusted and frozen engine room vent closures, globules of fuel oil in the ballast double bottom tanks (which were supposed to be dry for survey), generator MISSING in engine room, water main on deck so rusted that my survey hammer got stuck in it. . . worst ship that I ever boarded. Wasn’t even for an Annual Survey, but to finish one up that was started elsewhere. I do believe that the owner was shopping the survey where he thought he could get the surveys/inspections passed and thought that Freeport, Texas would be a pushover. Superintendent was flown out the day after my first attendance and comments to the Master. . . I remember much from this one as it was so bad. I asked for the SOLAS and Class Certificates pending rectification of most of the issues I found and was refused. Officers and crew had been onboard for some time. Vessel changed to a different Class society before sailing. . . and wasn’t scrapped for another two years. . .


I don’t see why the inspectors need to have an opinion on why the ship is in the condition it is in at all.

I’ve had port engineers who very much would like to see me get fired because I’ve pushed hard on something I think is important.

And I’ve got to sit there while the ABS inspector literally points his finger at me explaining to me that as captain I’m responsible? Just write it up and spare me the lecture.


I never lectured anyone when I was a Class Surveyor. . . as I said, I kept my opinion to myself and tried to work out a solution. On another occasion, I remember a ship that was deficient regarding the bridge life ring (line and smoke canister. . hell, it is over 20 years ago now). When I left, it was in the chart room and the Master told me that he would install it before sailing. . . flash forward 6 months later and the vessel was boarded by US PSI folks at another US Gulf port, . . . the life ring and attachment were STILL in the chart room. . . . I left the Bureau not long after that… . on my own accord and not because of that particular incident.

Just for your information, and at least at ABS, anytime there was a Port State Inspection where deficiencies were found, a fax of the inspection report and questions were sent to the Surveyor that carried out the most recent applicable survey/inspection. I don’t know what happens to anyone why can’t show any reason for a deficiency. I pretty much documented everything.


I can certainly see why an inspector would want to avoid having stuff come back.

On second thought I think what I object to is the moral judgment. It’s certainly legit to ask why something is the way it is, sometimes things just slip through the cracks. Or sometimes our system for tracking that item is insufficient.

What I don’t like is inspectors assuming every discrepancy is simply a matter of the crew not caring. Things have changed in the last 20 years. I hear about captains and chief spending days playing solitaire, different world now, we once called four ports in 24 hrs.


Yeah, very different world, for sure. There are things that I do miss about going to sea from time to time. . .but I rarely wax nostalgic about my Class days. . . .


When you give your word, you are staking your honor, trust, and reputation on your actions. Once lost it is very difficult to regain.


This was company not an outside auditor but for example the PCTC has, something like 700+ light fixtures in the cargo holds. They can only be changed when there is no cargo. Every trip something like 2+% or more go out.

Just before loading maybe one or two are out, after discharge about 15 or 20 or more are out, in a cycle, every trip. Each ballast voyage the ship gets “lamped-up”.

So the company guy comes on just after discharge and before lamp-up and writes us up for cargo lights out. We explain, next trip back he’s pissed because there are “still” three dozen or so lights out. Of course what he doesn’t understand is they are different lights.

You can see his eyes glaze over when this is explained. He can hardly believe we are too lazy to change out the lights.


Poor condition can be attributable to old age, company unwilling or unable to spend on necessary parts and repairs, poor shoreside or management, or crew lacking the time, skills, and ambition to perform maintenance. Usually, it’s more or less some combination of all of these factors. One factor leads to another.

If ships are too old, there is an incentive to “junk charter” and get a few more trips out of them without spending any money, before they are scrapped.

If ships are relatively new, in good condition, and profitable, there is an incentive to spend on keeping them up.

If a company has a fleet of boats that look well managed, supplied and maintained, in other words they have set a good standard, then even a relatively lazy and unskilled crew will keep it up.

If a company has a fleet of boats that look like hell, are poorly supplied and maintained, they have set a poor standard, then even the most skillful and ambitious crew will sink to that level.

The company, or its circumstances, sets the tune. The crew just plays along.


Oh, I certainly understand the logic of some of these vessels, but if I was the guy signing off on what I found, I had to be satisfied. I recall a vessel that was being converted into an FPSO that I had to deal with. The tanker that was originally planned to be used was withdrawn, and another, uh, “less suitable” candidate was obtained. When it got into the yard. . . I found wastage bad enough in the upper ballast tanks that there were holes rusted through in various brackets and webs; concrete boxes both on the top and in the bottom of other areas. This ship had just finished Special Survey only six months before by another Class society and was changing to ABS. I even got hold of the ultrasound thickness gauging report, and where I was severe wastage, I also saw that there were very thin readings. These readings were written over by the attending Surveyor as “visually examined and found satisfactory”. Lovely. Needless to say, the Owners were not very happy when i told them that we had to stage all of the upper areas of the ballast tanks for further examination and (what proved to be significant) steel replacements. . . . I was even less popular when it came to what we found on the collision bulkhead and bottom plating, although those repairs were deferred to drydocking. I can only assume that they were done properly.


That’s been my experience as well. The company sets a floor on the condition of the fleet.

It’s less appreciated that the company sets the ceiling as well. Implementing something as simple as keeping the deck equipment lubricated can be a struggle if the company doesn’t understand that it’s not something that happens automatically. Someone has to take active steps to make it happen,


I can’t remember if this happened during and ABS Inspection or a Vetting. So, as the Inspector is doing a walk around with the Captain, we get written up for a Non-Functioning Emergency Light in the Galley Area. Mu main problem was that I was installing a NEW Light in a NEW Location (that was requested by the Captain) and had not finished the installation yet. As a matter of fact I had stopped to deal with the Inspector. I tried to explain what had happened but nope he said he was writing it up. Before he departed the vessel I removed it and he then made a note of it in the the report.


My ship would be rust free and spotless if the company would open up overtime, increase the paint budget, and supply sailors who really want to work. The amount of times I’ve been told “can it wait until the shipyard?” Or “can it wait until the new year?” Is too much to count on two hands.

It all comes down to money and you really do get what you pay for.


How will life of a USCG Surveyor be in 2050??
I have no idea myself, but on LinkedIn Maritime Group there was a refr. to an article in the USCG Proceedings Magazine for May-Dec, 2017 about just that subject:

Maybe this should have been in the Future of Ships thread??


This years ICS list of flag state performance is out:

Why is USCG targeting flags that is cleared by all MOUs, while not targeting flags that is red flagged by all??


Paris MOU see increased banning while Tokyo MOU decreases:

What is the status for USCG’s PSC activity??


Helpful hints to PSC Inspection management: