AMSA bans another Indonesian flag vessel from Australian waters: time for Indonesia’s shipowners to wake up?

Blog Post 5 PicThe Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA) has a well known reputation for operating one of the world’s toughest PSC (Port State Control) regimes. Stories include an elderly bulk carrier that was detained and was only allowed to leave Australia at the end of a tow line, en route to an Asian scrapyard. So Australia is not a place to send your ship to unless you are confident that its structure, equipment, operation and crew are 100% compliant with the governing IMO Conventions.

For some strange reason, many Indonesian ship owners and managers seem to think that they are immune from the internationally imposed PSC regime, of which Indonesia is in fact a signatory. The latest result of their apparent ignorance has resulted in the MV “Noah Satu” (IMO9313620) being issued with an AMSA direction not to enter or use any port in Australia for three months as a consequence of being formally detained by AMSA no less than four times since August 2013. The ban will remain in place until 16 December 2015. It should be noted that this was the fourth banning of an Indonesian flag vessel from Australia since August 2014.

The aforementioned detention occurred on 14 September 2015 at Port Alma, Queensland. “Noah Satu” is owned by PT Anugerah Samudra Indomakur and operated by PT Andaya. Both companies are domiciled in Indonesia. SeaPower believes that both companies deserved a ‘kick up the ass’ for their stupid and dangerous management practices – inclusive of ignoring AMSA’s previous three warnings – and they got one.

Other maritime nations enforce similar ship banning practices and the procedures are clearly advertised and fairly implemented. Such nations include the USA (as enforced by the USCG) as well as the European Union countries (as enforced by EMSA). It is a process which is entitled under the terms of the now eight PSC Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) which are in force globally. But how did the PSC system come into being anyway? It’s an interesting question because PSC effectively overrides the jurisdiction of Flag State Control and, arguably and to some extent, even a ship’s entitlement to ‘freedom of the seas’ as set down in the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS).

The brief history of PSC is that it was created by the European Community (as it then was) as a reactive response to the “Amoco Cadiz” incident, a major tanker grounding and oil spill which took place off the coast of France in 1978. The “Amoco Cadiz” flew the Liberian flag. The spill damage was horrific. The public outcry was for better control of shipping with a focus on ‘Flag of Convenience’ vessels whose flag state administrations were not doing a proper job. However, the IMO (as a UN organization) had no authority to enforce its own conventions (only Flag States can do this).

The pragmatic solution was the creation of PSC so as to allow Port States the entitlement to board foreign flag vessels in their ports and enforce IMO conventions under their own national law. The formulation of PSC and its enforcement was provided under the terms of what has become known as the Paris Memorandum of Understanding (Paris MOU). As such, the Paris MOU was not a binding contract. Further, it was not intended be an IMO Convention so as to by-pass the long delays usually experienced in bringing an IMO convention into force. Nevertheless, the Paris MOU and its ‘offspring’ have worked extremely well and the evidence is that the condition of vessels has improved and oil spills have greatly diminished.

The Paris MOU has been extended over the years to now encompass a total of eight regional MOU’s, as mentioned above and as shown in the below  illustration. It is interesting to note that the USA has not joined the process, although it does co-operate with the global PSC system and has its own very thorough PSC system in place. With reference to AMSA’s banning of the “Noah Satu”, AMSA is a part of the Tokyo MOU which provides regional control and information sharing throughout Asia and includes Indonesia as well. Detailed reports of all vessels inspected globally can accessed on the Equasis website.

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Returning now to the ‘Indonesia problem’, it seems that Indonesian shipowners do not properly understand their IMO and flag state obligations. It would also seem that the Indonesian maritime authorities, including Class BKI which acts as the Indonesian flag state’s Recognized Organization (RO) and conducts flag state inspections and the issue of flag state certificates, have serious knowledge problems as well. Is SeaPower being unfair? No. SeaPower has seen numerous photos and reports on Indonesian flag vessels that produced valid ‘Certificates of Seaworthiness’ for insurance inspection purposes but were clearly unseaworthy and unsafe.

What then is the solution? AMSA are in fact working with the Indonesian authorities to help them obtain the knowledge they need to make Indonesian ships safer. This is being accomplished through hands on training and knowledge which is all being donated by the Australian government to help an emerging nation, with huge potential, to get up to speed and meet it’s international and national obligations.

SeaPower believes that “Knowledge is Power”. However, knowledge must be applied properly and consistently with a clear, objective and honourable goal in view. AMSA can and is providing the training. Indonesia’s President ‘Jokowi’ and his government’s maritime authority must now do their part on providing an unobstructed and corruption free path to the ‘safe ship’ goal that Indonesia’s people and other cooperating PSC countries deserve. If they do not, then Indonesia’s much touted ‘maritime highways’ project will ultimately not succeed.

Has SeaPower got it right? Whether you agree or disagree, please send us your comments and suggestions with a view to sharing ideas and opinions.

2 thoughts on “AMSA bans another Indonesian flag vessel from Australian waters: time for Indonesia’s shipowners to wake up?

  • I would like to congratulate AMSA for the great job they do. Under the law of the sea convention freedom of navigation is granted and flag states are obligated to ensure their ships are safe.
    However, safety issues and enforcement have mainly been left to Coastal or port states. I hope more regional Countries will join the AMSA is doing a better job.

    • Thanks for your positive comment. The AMSA people have been involved in regional PSC training for many years in Papua New Guinea and are now helping Indonesia’s SeaCom to get its act together. Some of this training will hopefully rub off on to Indonesia’s flag state inspectors/ Class BKI as well. We can all dream about a world which all aspires to the standards of AMSA, EMSA and the USCG. The primary stumbling block is the IMO’s inability to control the bad behaviour of PSC blacklisted flag states, who are currently only subject to ‘voluntary audits’.

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