Tokyo MOU adopted the interim guidance relating to COVID-19 circumstances, in order to protect PSCOs and prevent spread of COVID-19 and for facilitating port State Authorities to apply pragmatic flexibility amid pandemic.
The move is in accordance with a decision made at the 31st meeting of its PSC Committee, conducted in January 2021 and follows consideration on “the significant impacts to the shipping industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing effects of the crisis“.
The guidance is developed with taking advantage of the one of the Paris MoU and making references to the relevant IMO Circular Letters and ILO’s “Information note on maritime labour issues and coronavirus (COVID-19)”.
The guidance is consisting of three parts:
1.Preventive measure to halt the spread of COVID-19: Section refers to personal protective equipment (PPE) for protecting both PSCOs and ship crew.
PSCOs should be guided by the preventive measures adopted by their own Authorities, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to protect themselves as well as the ship’s crew. Reference should be made to IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.15 “Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Personal protective equipment”.
When developing preventive measures, it is considered that the following common aspects may be taken into account:
- Health and hygiene instruction/recommendation (e.g. good hygiene including hand washing, good social distancing practices, etc.)
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. masks, face shield, gloves, protective suits, etc.)
When member Authorities deciding which ships are to be subject to PSC inspections, P1 ships and ships with overriding priority are expected to be selected as far as possible.
2. Ship certification issues and COVID-19: Section corresponds to application of pragmatic approach/relaxation for issues on interval of surveys and audits, duration of certificates and installation of BWM equipment.
In relation to the COVID-19 situation, it may occur that a ship cannot fulfill the requirements of the relevant Instruments or the follow-up on inspection results as would normally be required.
Although, as a basic principle, the primary responsibility regarding compliance with the relevant instruments remains with the shipowner and flag State, in the case where the shipowner and flag State have demonstrated to take that responsibility, but due to the current situation cannot carry out those duties that normally would be required, the Tokyo MOU members should adopt a pragmatic approach and also be flexible as this is a rapidly developing situation, while keeping in mind the principles of elimination of substandard shipping.
- Interval of surveys and audits required by Conventions
In the event that a ship has not complied with the requirements of the surveys, inspections and audits contained in the relevant convention requirements (e.g. SOLAS Chapter I Regulation 7-10 and 14, etc.), the ship must provide evidence to the port State that the flag State has agreed to an exceptional delay specific to COVID-19. Further guidance regarding the extension of the interval of surveys and audits can be found in IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.19 – “Guidance for flag States regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
- Duration of statutory certificates
Giving consideration that an exceptional extension of validity of certificates specific to COVID-19 would be inevitable for certain ships, the flag State or RO, acting on behalf of the flag State, may extend the validity of certificates to an appropriate and proportional grace period specific to COVID-19. Further guidance regarding the extension of validity of certificates can be found in IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.19.
- Installation of Ballast Water Management System
In the event that a ship cannot meet the requirements of Regulation B-3 of the Ballast Water Management Convention (ballast water management instead of ballast water exchange) due to delay of dry-docking caused by disruption from COVID-19, the port State Authority should seek confirmation that the flag State has agreed to an exceptional delay specific to COVID-19. There should also be evidence that the ship has a plan that covers how the ship will comply with the requirements of Regulation B3 of BWM.
3. Crew related issues and COVID-19: Section deals with the harmonized approach to the issues of crew change (MLC 2006) and STCW certification.
In view of the large number of seafarers long overdue for repatriation, port States are urged to apply an enhanced focus on MLC issues and in particular SEAs, irrelevant of the inspection type. If possible deviations are found, in particular regarding repatriation and/or crew rotations for any crew, port State control response will take into account the following general principles:
- Where contract extensions are necessary and fall within the eleven-month default maximum, they should be undertaken in accordance with the national law of the flag State.
- Contract extensions beyond the eleven-month default maximum should be avoided unless circumstances beyond the control of the ship owner or operator prevent repatriation. In such cases, the ship owner or operators should maintain evidence of actions taken to avoid extending the contracts and details of planned measures to repatriate the seafarers. This documentation should include evidence that the flag State has been advised of the repatriation plan.
- Port State control authorities should be aware of restrictions within their own jurisdiction that may prevent crew changes, and take this into account when considering port State control action.
- Port State control authorities should pay particular attention to situations where the eleven-month default maximum period of service has been or is likely to be exceeded. A pragmatic approach to port State control should be taken.
- Where there is objective evidence that the shipowner or operator has complied with the principles above, having done their best to repatriate seafarers and continue to work on achieving this aim, but circumstances beyond their control prevent this, port State control action should be aimed at assisting in resolving the situation in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article 1 of MLC, 2006.
- Where there is objective evidence that the shipowner or operator has made no, or inadequate, effort to repatriate the seafarers, then port State control action should be taken prior to departure to bring the vessel into compliance.
In addition, in such cases, the port State should notify the port State control authorities in upcoming ports of call of the agreed plan and consider entering an appropriate shiprelated message in APCIS.
Any crewmember who has already spent more than the default 11 months onboard should be prioritized for repatriation. A vessel should be treated in the normal manner where an SEA is expired.
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