Inspection of foreign ships

Find out about what happens to foreign ships that arrive at the ports of New Zealand.

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The inspection and control of foreign ships in New Zealand is known as port state control (PSC). It is one of the ways that our Government ensures the protection of life and property at sea and the preservation of New Zealand’s marine environment.

New Zealand is a ‘Port State’ for the foreign ships that arrive here. Various international conventions require New Zealand to conduct port state control (PSC) inspections of foreign ships.

Tokyo MOU

In 1993 New Zealand was a founding member of the Asia Pacific Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control, known as the Tokyo MOU, which is one of a number of regional memoranda with a common goal of eradicating substandard shipping.

While the maintenance of standards on international ships is the prime responsibility of the flag state, PSC plays a vital part in supporting the flag state in ensuring the vessels are built, equipped, maintained, managed and operated to the required standard.

The Tokyo MOU consists of a number of authorities, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Tokyo MOU ©2017
Countries party to the Tokyo MOU (in black).

Tokyo MOU

Foreign ships visit New Zealand ports 2,500 to 3,000 times each year. When in port, these ships may be inspected by Maritime New Zealand’s Maritime Officers (MOs). The MOs check that the ship, its equipment, and the safety and health of those on board, meet international safety and environmental protection standards. The safety and operation of the vessel is however the responsibility of the ship’s owner and Flag State (the country where the ship is registered).

Read more about Maritime Officers (MOs)

Selection of a ship for inspection depends on a number of factors, including:

  • the Tokyo MOU targeting scheme
  • any risk the ship may pose to the safety of the crew or to the maritime environment
  • as a result of specific complaints.

Maritime New Zealand inspects 90 percent of all eligible foreign ships during their time spent in New Zealand ports.

Powers of inspection and detention of a ship

Inspection of foreign ships by Maritime New Zealand is provided under Section 54 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994. If a ship is substandard, Maritime New Zealand inspectors have the power, under Sections 55/397 of the Act, to detain it until it is brought up to standard, or to impose conditions upon its operation.

Maritime Transport Act 1994

Conduct of port state control inspections

Maritime Safety Inspectors conduct port state control (PSC) inspections in accordance with international guidelines and within the constraints of their authority. Inspectors are guided by a checklist, which is based on resolutions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

During a PSC inspection, an Inspector first conducts an initial inspection. This comprises of a visit on board to verify that the ship carries the necessary valid certificates and documentation. The Inspector also inspects areas critical to the safe operation of the ship. If certification is invalid, or if there are clear grounds to suspect that the ship and/or its equipment or crew may not be in substantial compliance with the relevant convention requirements, a more detailed inspection is undertaken.

On completion of a satisfactory inspection a ‘Form A’ is completed to indicate that an inspection has been carried out. This is left with the Ship’s Master for the information of PSC officers in subsequent ports as well as being posted on the Tokyo MOU database. When deficiencies are noted, a similar process is followed however a ‘Form B’ is used.

Detention/release of unseaworthy/substandard ships

Detention of a ship is part of a process that ensures critical deficiencies are rectified before the ship can depart.

When a ship is detained Maritime New Zealand notifies the Flag State and the relevant classification society, of the detainment. (All vessels must be classed by a classification society.) The same notifications occur when a detained ship is released.

Related information:
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