Gard informs that ships continue to experience instances of port state control interventions, and sometimes fines, allegedly because the validity of their electronic statutory and class certificates cannot be verified during onboard inspections.
amely, recognising that paper certificates are subject to loss or damage and can be impractical to send to globally-trading ships, most major flag administrations, and classification societies, now facilitate the use of electronic certificates.
The process has also been formalized through IMO documents, and port state control officers (PSCOs) are requested to note that where the ship relies upon electronic certificates:
- The certificates and website used to access them should conform with the Guidelines for the use of electronic certificates (FAL.5/Circ.39/Rev.2 and Corr.1);
- Specific verification instructions are to be available on the ship;
- Viewing such certificates on a computer is considered as meeting the requirement that certificates be “on board”.
However, from time to time Gard informs of instances of port state control (PSC) interventions where the validity of electronic certificates, as well as other official documents, are questioned by the attending PSCO.
In fact, in the last two months of 2021 alone, four ships operators were penalised during port calls in Gabon because the attending PSCOs claimed they were not able to verify the authenticity of the ships’ certificates during their inspections.
The accompanying inspection reports stated that some of the certificates requested did not contain a Quick Response (QR) code, nor a Unique Tracking Number (UTN), to facilitate the onboard verification process.
While Gabon is particularly known for its strict PSC inspection regime, we take this opportunity to remind all ship operators and masters to always carry valid, nonexpired, ship certificates and permissions onboard
Now, most flag administrations and classification societies provide the following two ways of verifying electronic documents and certificates:
- Website verification: Commonly a verification portal URL is provided, and the certificate can be verified by entering the certificate’s UTN, normally in combination with the ship’s IMO number or document issued date.
- QR Code: A QR code on each certificate will have a URL unique to the certificate comprising the parameters required for the verification portal to return the search result. This also eliminates the potential for any typing errors in entering data manually on the verification portal webpage.