the Current Regime for Ship Safety Inspections: Opportunities for Technology Research and Women Employment


The Tokyo MOU introduces the New Inspection Regime (NIR) for the selection of ships


The Directive 2009/16/EC on port state control is amended in order to add the MLC compliance


Paris MOU introduces the NIR on port state control. EU adopts the Directive 2009/16/EC on port state control


The Black Sea MOU is signed for the Black sea region. The inspection quota is 15 %


The Abuja MOU is signed for the West and Central Africa Region. The inspection quota is 15 %


The Indian Ocean MOU is signed for the Indian Ocean Region. The inspection quota is 10 %


The Mediterranean MOU is signed for the Mediterranean Region. The inspection quota is 15 %


The Caribbean MOU is signed for the Caribbean Region. The inspection quota is 15 %


IMO adopts Resolution A.787(19) on procedures for port state control


The US launches its own Port State Control Programme and develops a risk-based boarding matrix that establishes a history of poor performance based on the identification of ships, owners, flags and classification societies. Vessels that pose the higher risks are boarded with greater frequency and have greater operational controls imposed


OCIMF introduces a Ship Inspection Reporting (SIRE) scheme in an attempt to reduce the number of ship inspections carried out by its members.

The Tokyo MOU is signed for the Asia-Pacific Region (Tokyo MOU). The inspection quota is 75 %


The Acuerdo De Viña del Mar Agreement on port state control, also known as Latin American Agreement is signed. The inspection quota is 15 %.

IMO establishes the Flag State Implementation (FSI) Subcommittee to improve governments’ performance


The Paris MOU is adopted and signed by the maritime authorities of 14 states. For the first time, a regular and systematic control of ships is exercised by a regional group of port states which are parties to the relevant conventions.

The MOUs provide for a total number of inspections, expressed in terms of a percentage, that each of the State Party to the relevant MOU shall conduct. The Member States agree to inspect 25 % of the estimated number of individual foreign merchant ships which enter their ports during a 12 month period


The Hague Memorandum of Understanding is signed by eight North Sea countries

Table 2
New Inspection Regime—targeting scheme used by the Paris and Tokyo MOUs

Ship performance factors

Ship age

Ship type

The number of past ship deficiencies

The number of past ship detentions

Stakeholders performance factors

Performance of the flag of the ship

Performance of the recognised organisation (RO)

Performance of the company responsible for the ship safety management (ISM)

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) was the first regime that adopted risk-profile criteria (in 1994) to evaluate the performance of the ship and stakeholders. More than 15 years later, the Paris and Tokyo MOUs superseded the USCG criteria, with the adoption of the ‘New Inspection Regime’ in 2011 and 2014, respectively. Nonetheless, today, the three regimes are at the forefront of the other PSC regimes and maintain somewhat comparable data about ship, flag and class performance. The detention rate is the key indicator, so far applied, to evaluate the safety culture of ships, flag states and classification societies.

Following the Erika and Prestige accidents, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) was established in 2003. Currently, EMSA is tasked with the auditing of Recognised Organisations (ROs) which carry out the inspection, survey and certification of ships on behalf of Member States. EMSA also operates THETIS,5 a centralised database that maintains the results of the PSC inspection of foreign ships calling at EU ports. Relevant European Commission (EC) Directives, in the context of the PSC regime, adopted since EMSA’s inception, are the following:

  • Directive 2009/16/EC on port state control.

  • Directive 2013/38/EU amending Directive 2009/16/EC.

  • Directive 213/54/EU concerning certain flag State responsibilities for compliance with and enforcement of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006.

Most statistics suggest that the risk-based criteria mentioned above, work well and have encouraged stakeholders to increase their feeling of responsibility. Studies demonstrate that the number of deficiencies for the same ship, generally reduces each time it is inspected (Cariou et al. 2008). Furthermore, the cost of insurance claims for ships inspected can be significantly reduced (Knapp and Frances 2010). However, there is some criticism too, namely, on the part of the oil majors, on how effective PSC inspections are, given the stringent requirements to which they are already subject, such as the Tanker Management Self-Assessment set up by Oil Companies International Marine Forum. Consequently, inspections for the tanker sector have been recognised as being excessive and ‘overlapping by the various stakeholders’ (Knapp and Frances 2010).6

Another constraint, is the human subjectivity attributed to PSC inspectors. In other words, the decision to detain a ship or not relies heavily on their professional judgement. On many occasions, PSC inspectors have been criticised for limiting their role to documentary inspection. In fact, the analysis conducted by Knapp and van de Velden (2009), suggested that treatment of vessels across ports varies. Therefore, efforts are needed towards the harmonisation of inspections procedures, training of inspectors and integration of datasets across MOU regions.

The US Coast Guard (USCG) has been particularly successful in detecting wrong practices during the issuing of safety equipment certificates, and for the first time in history, has sued an inspector that issued an International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) Certificate, even though he knew the Oil Water Separator was not operable, as required by MARPOL (Norris 2011). However, much more is required. For instance, risk profiling in the future should not only focus on the ship, but also on the shipping companies and their efforts in developing integrated systems for recording and analysing data about incidents, including near misses. For instance, it would be interesting to calculate the accident rate of the company, as proposed by some authors (Heij and Knapp 2011). Thus, newer indicators for safe ship operation can be developed.

3 The SAFEPEC Project

It is in the context described above, that the European Commission, under its Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Development, invited the shipping community, including stakeholders from Recognised Organisations, Maritime Administrations, Shipyards and Research Centres, to carry out projects that can contribute to optimising the current regime for ship-safety inspection. The SAFEPEC project—Innovative risk-based tools for ship safety inspection—has been granted funding and it is due to start after the summer of 2014. This section provides an overview of the project.

3.1 Aims and Approach

The overall objective of the SAFEPEC project is to provide stakeholders with a more rationalised and harmonised approach to performing inspections; thus proper and timely measures are adopted in order to reduce the risk of ship’s structure and equipment failure. This approach will be based in risk-based methods, specially developed for the project, with the definitive aim of facilitating not only the inspection regime implemented by maritime safety authorities, but also to support the maintenance programs scheduled by ship owners and repair yards.

The product(s) developed within SAFEPEC will be tested and demonstrated in the following types of ships:

  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) ships

  • Cruise ships

  • Roll-on/Roll-off vessels

  • General cargo ships

  • High speed vessels

SAFEPEC will examine current best practices for risk-based inspection, carried out in other high-risk industries such as aviation, nuclear and refinery, in order to determine those practices that could be easily adapted and applied in the shipping sector, and mainly in those ship types selected above.

SAFEPEC will conduct a cross-analysis of the existing data sources from the maritime industry, in order to link the causes of incidents (casualties and near miss cases) with the reports available from past inspections conducted by the different stakeholders.

Such an approach surely will require the definition of new parameters; in other words, an interoperable information architecture for data exchange between the existing databases. This will contribute towards the development of a more harmonised risk-based approach for ship inspection and maintenance. A major benefit of the approach would be the reduction of ship lifecycle costs; this because inspection and repair intervals would be based upon the early detection of failures in critical areas of the ship. In other words, by combining failure occurrence probability and consequences, rather than on arbitrary inspection periods.

Additionally, the project will address the health and safety issues related to conducting inspections, by introducing instrumentation-based e-inspection. In this way, the proposed risk-based approach will reduce the number of required inspections and inspection locations, without jeopardising the reliability of the results. Hence, the work load on surveyors can decrease significantly.

3.2 Stakeholder Involvement

Port authorities, classification societies, flag states, ship owners and insurance companies, are just a few of the stakeholders with particular interest in this topic. As presented before, the new risk-based, port state control regime is already implemented. The SAFEPEC project can provide the stakeholders with means to reduce the costs of inspections without compromising the safety levels, and meanwhile improve their own Port State Control profile or flag state profile. SAFEPEC offers the opportunity to go from the past major accident-driven legislation, to proactive security. Within SAFEPEC, the project’s innovative developments will be performed in close partnership with key stakeholders, through workshops, consultation forums and other initiatives, with the aim of bringing together diverse views and opinions about the usefulness of the products developed.

3.3 Research Development

It is necessary to understand the research challenges that the SAPEPEC project brings. The crucial one is, “How to move from raw data to wisdom?”. In order to understand this, two main research aspects are explained below.

3.3.1 A Framework for Information Architecture

The lack of data is still today, one of the presented reasons for model simplification, use of expert opinion, or simply for not updating the existing data. In the present technological era, it is difficult to understand these limitations, since every organization collects huge amounts of data on a daily basis. However, data, per se, does not constitute knowledge.

Although, there are certain situations were data is unavailable, due to confidentiality reasons, reality shows that more than the problem of missing data, there is also an absence of standards and definition of best practices for the structured collection and recording of information. This is something that seriously impacts the ability of analysis/prediction of given phenomena and contains technological development. The shipping industry is not immune to these issues. Different stakeholders use different information formats, taxonomies and standards.

Within SAFEPEC, this problem will be tackled by developing new standards and taxonomies for interoperability. This will allow different stakeholders to exchange information with higher quality and fewer problems than what is achievable today.

Furthermore, a data model will be developed which will harmonize data structures from the e-navigation field with registered requirements from the ship inspection area. This will thereby enable transfer of ship inspection data between the parties involved in the process and linking this data to other uses, e.g., in ship operation or maintenance.

Thus, this project constitutes a golden opportunity to combine different data sources, ranging from inspection, accident/incident/near misses, flag state, ISM companies shipyards, etc., and standardize and integrate these data sources into a single information architecture.

3.3.2 An Improved Framework for Risk-Based Inspection

The translation of the data to shipping inspection information, requires the development of an integrated risk-based inspection framework. Therefore, several models will be developed within the project. In the casualty model, the different underlying causes of an accident (human error, mechanical failure, weather related, etc.) will be identified and a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN)7 model will be developed in order to establish the hierarchy of the causes (Mascaro et al. 2010). Based on the relation between accidental events and underlying causes, a vulnerability model will be developed, taking also into account influence parameters like safety culture, compliance culture, training, and inspection techniques. For the consequence, it will develop a generic model for the identification and assignment of consequences, taking into account characteristics such as ship type, cargo volume, number of crew, etc. Finally, for the inspection, a model will be developed describing a probabilistic relationship between the inspection observation and the actual state of the ship, and by taking into account factors influencing inspection quality.

The inspection model will be integrated with sensor technologies, for near-real-time ship condition (particularly in critical equipment and hull areas subjected to high stress or bending moments). The abovementioned models will be combined, to rank a given ship according to its risk and using BBN models, the risk can be computed, conditional on inspection outcomes.

The application of a new risk-based model for improving the current inspections procedures can greatly facilitate the process of assigning risks during the ship maintenance planning process. Ship yards, in particular, can benefit from such a model, because it allows for computing probabilities for a ship structure or equipment to fail, in the future. These inputs are likely to change the routine of ship operators and shipyards in relation to how often repairs are required at a respective cost. In sum, such models will contribute to preventive maintenance actions to be adopted by operators, yards and classification societies.

3.4 Technological Development

SAFEPEC will not only adopt a risk-based inspection approach, but also make use of technology to facilitate remote inspection. Technological improvements will be demonstrated in situ to the stakeholders (in ship and ashore), thus providing to the maritime industry the opportunity to evaluate its operational benefits.

Furthermore, based on these technological improvements, it will be possible to provide legislative recommendations, grounded in cost-benefit analysis. This will be performed by following the Formal Safety Assessment steps. For the developed scenarios, the variation of risk, before and after the implementation of the developed technologies, will be quantified. Based on the results obtained throughout the different workshop demonstrations with the different stakeholders, it will be possible to estimate the individual benefits of the project outcomes per stakeholder.

So how can this new approach of shipping inspection help create other job opportunities, especially also for the now still much absent females in this line of work. To understand, it must first be investigated what the main reasons today are for females to avoid this area. The next paragraph provides some discussion on that topic, based on a small literature review and a survey amongst both males and females working in the area.

4 Exploring the Role of Women in Ship Safety Inspection

4.1 Women in Technical Courses

It is interesting to see that while the human sex ratio at birth is approximately 107 boys to 100 girls, only 1–2 % of the global workforce of seafarers are women (Tansey 2000). It has nothing to do with the intelligence of women. When looking at the amount of university graduates in six European countries (Poulsen 2003), it is seen that women form approximately 42–61 % of all university graduates. Although the percentage of women completing a Doctorate (PhD) is slightly lower, somewhere between 32 and 42 %, this is still considerable. But these are the figures for all tertiary education, while the employment in the maritime world is mainly technical. Looking at the figures for technical studies, the participation of women is much lower. Poulsen (2003

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