Port State Control in New Zealand

This page provides an overview of Port State Control – from its international background and the organisations/conventions that underpin it to how we apply PSC in New Zealand and the results it has achieved.


The Port State Control (PSC) system exists to ensure foreign ships coming to New Zealand ports comply with requirements set down in international conventions and law. PSC is a key element in protecting New Zealand waters by ensuring foreign flagged vessels meet standards in the following areas:

  • Safety
  • Security
  • Environmental protection
  • Crew welfare

The safety and operation of a vessel is the responsibility of the ship’s owner and Flag State (the country where the ship is registered). The PSC system supplements this responsibility.

Globally, Port State Control has the following aims:

  • Reducing the number of substandard vessels travelling around the world
  • Facilitating trade in a way that ensures safety, security, environmental protection and crew welfare are maintained

The implementation of PSC coordinated by the Tokyo MOU has seen a steady decrease in the number of substandard vessels operating in the Asia-Pacific region.

PSC inspection activity is undertaken using a risk based, intelligence led approach – efforts are focused on vessels that pose the highest risk.

This page provides an overview of Port State Control – from its international background and the organisations/conventions that underpin it to how we apply PSC in New Zealand and the results it has achieved.


The IMO/ILO conventions and Port State Control

The IMO (International Maritime Organization) – the United Nations' specialised agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from vessels – has international convention requirements and resolutions that guide how Port State Control is conducted.

IMO plays a central role in PSC around the world as it is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented, as it the case for PSC.

Conventions from the ILO (International Labour Organization) - the UN specialised agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognised human and labour rights – also apply to PSC in regards to crew welfare and living conditions.

Maritime NZ contributes strongly to the development of conventions that support the Port State Control system, with a view to ensuring that New Zealand’s interests are met as well as possible by these conventions.

Conventions that New Zealand applies for Port State Control
International Convention on Load Lines, 1966;
Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966;
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 as amended;
Protocol of 1978 relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974;
Protocol of 1988 relating to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974;
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978;
International Convention on Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended;
Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (ColRegs), 1972;
International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969;
Merchant Shipping (minimum Standards) Convention, 1976 (ILO Convention 147);
Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC,2006);
International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, 2001; and
Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969 (CLC PROT 1992)

Visit the IMO and ILO websites:

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

International Labour Organization (ILO)


Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding (Tokyo MOU)

Coordinating Port State Control in the Asia Pacific region

Port State Control around the world is regional. Several countries that share common waters agree how PSC is conducted under a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure consistent standards for vessels operating in that region. There are nine PSC MOUs globally, including Abuja, Black Sea, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Paris, Riyadh, Tokyo and Vina del Mar.

New Zealand is a signatory and active member of the Asia Pacific Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Tokyo MOU) – the most active regional port State control organisations in the world. In 2016, the Tokyo MOU signatories carried out 31,678 inspections, involving 17,503 vessels registered under 101 flags.

The organisation consists of 20 member Authorities in the Asia-Pacific region. New Zealand was a founding member in 1993. The other member countries are: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The Tokyo MOU’s main objective is to establish an effective PSC regime in the Asia-Pacific region through co-operation of its members and harmonisation of their activities, to eliminate substandard vessels so as to promote maritime safety, to protect the marine environment and to safe-guard working and living conditions on board vessels.

Visit the Tokyo MOU website:

Tokyo MOU

New Zealand’s contribution to the Tokyo MOU

New Zealand has contributed the following:

  • Chairing the Technical Working Group – a key group that ensures the memorandum is relevant and current and recommends and makes amendments.
  • Training other countries on Port State Control – New Zealand’s PSC training programme has been adopted by over seven countries. We also provide trainers to help develop this capability.
  • Expert Missions – As a member of the Tokyo MOU, New Zealand has provided technical expertise to assist other countries to improve their PSC practices, including Oman, South Africa, Bahrain, Kuala Lumpur, Papua New Guinea and India.
  • Port State Control Committee – New Zealand actively participates in the main Tokyo MOU committee meetings, which set the strategic direction for the MOU and monitor and control operations.
  • Concentrated Inspection Campaigns – working with other MOU members to identify common issues on convention vessels and implement campaigns to eliminate them. In 2015, New Zealand was the leader of the CIC on increasing crew familiarisation on enclosed space entry.
  • Intersessional working groups – providing our technical expertise to key Tokyo MOU groups, including the Standing Working Group, Ballast Water Management Group, CIC Group, Advisory Group – Technical Cooperation, Statistics Group and Manual Group.
  • Bringing Panama on board – New Zealand is one of a three country team that is reviewing Panama’s application for full membership of the Tokyo MOU.
  • 3rd joint Ministerial conference – New Zealand attended the conference in Vancouver in May 2017.
  • Peer support review – New Zealand is a member of the tri-State panel to assist other Authorities, on request, to identify ways to improve their systems.


Port State Control inspections

As well as contributing to the PSC system as described above, New Zealand undertakes PSC inspections on foreign vessels as a Tokyo MOU member.

three ship crew members working around a table
Maritime NZ
Maritime NZ Maritime Officer undertaking a Port State Control inspection.

How vessels are selected

  • From 1 January 2014, New Zealand began implementing the New Inspection Regime (NIR) for PSC set by the Tokyo MOU. Under the NIR, higher risk ships are targeted for inspection. This new approach helps avoid unnecessarily frequent inspection of low-risk vessels, which have already been inspected and found to be well run.
  • The Tokyo MOU members share a database, which records every inspection and monitors the risk. Ships are targeted based on their risk category and time since their last inspection by a Tokyo MOU member.
  • All vessels have a risk-based profile based on various factors such as type of vessel, age, flag and history of the vessel and owner. This fact sheet on the Tokyo MOU website provides the criteria used to identify high risk ships. There are three risk categories: high risk ship (HRS), standard risk ship (SRS) and low risk ship (LRS).
  • Under the Tokyo MOU, high risk ships are inspected every 2-4 months. Ships with priority I must be inspected and vessels with priority II may be inspected.
  • Vessels are assigned priority according to the length of time since their last inspection. For example, high risk ships inspected four months ago are priority I and must be inspected, while high risk ships inspected 3 months ago are priority II and may be inspected.

How inspections are conducted

  • Foreign ships visit New Zealand ports between 2,500 to 3,000 times every year. Maritime NZ Maritime Officers inspect vessels in New Zealand that are due, or overdue, for inspection – as flagged by the Tokyo MOU database.
  • Maritime Officers are guided in their inspection by a checklist based on international convention requirements and resolutions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – an approach agreed by the Tokyo MOU members.
  • Over-riding priority for inspection can happen, irrespective of the NIR assessment. This will occur if we receive notification from another Authority, a complaint from a Master or crew, or notification from a pilot or agent.
  • In cases where there are clear grounds, a Maritime Officer may conduct a more detailed inspection, such as if an issue is identified with a particular aspect of the ship or equipment.
  • In addition to the Tokyo MOU Port State Control inspections, inspection of foreign ships by Maritime NZ is provided under Section 54 and 396 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994. If a ship is substandard, Maritime NZ 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 on its operation.



Decrease in substandard ships

The implementation of Port State Control under the Tokyo MOU has seen a decrease in substandard ships operating in the Asia Pacific region, increasing the protection of New Zealand waters, security and vessel crews’ safety and welfare.

The chart below shows the decrease in the number of incidents involving underperforming ships operating in the region covered by the Tokyo MOU between 2011 and 2016.

TABLE 2: Total incidents involving under-performing ships in Tokyo MOU region – 2011-2016

Total incidents involving under-performing ships in Tokyo MOU region – 2011-2016


Closer collaboration and intelligence sharing

Port State Control under the Tokyo MOU has resulted in great collaboration and intelligence sharing between the 20 member countries. This information allows New Zealand to be able to alert the other Tokyo MOU members to potential issues that may be coming to their ports. New Zealand also receives information regarding ships with potential problems which are heading our way. We can use this to alert a local pilot, agent or harbourmaster to an issue.

Related information:

International Engagement

We engage with a wide range of international maritime organisations.

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