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Getting a detention order (Code 30) downgraded to Code 17

If the vessel is detained by port state control, but the crew manage to rectify the issue prior sailing such that the detention order has no material impact on vessel’s schedule, then can the owners request PSC to downgrade the finding? In The MTM Shanghai [2021], such a situation arose where the vessel’s emergency generator could not automatically connect to the emergency switchboard and the vessel was detained by AMSA. Owners wanted the detention order (Code 30) to be withdrawn and replaced by an order to ‘rectify before departure’ (Code 17).

During the inspection the vessel failed the sequence test of the emergency generator and also the blackout simulation. She was then detained. The initial observation was ‘emergency generator does not automatically start up and power emergency switchboard in a black out situation’. Since there was no issue with the starting of the emergency generator, the observation was later changed to ‘Emergency generator not automatically powering the emergency switchboard’.

With the help of a shore technician the crew found that a relay had vibrated out of its socket. This was fixed and AMSA informed. Detention order was lifted and the vessel was able to sail out as per the schedule. Owners approached the Tribunal requesting that Code 17 was more appropriate here. They also said that the change in observation shows that the PSCO did not understand the nature of the deficiency. AMSA argued that the detention was appropriate since the consequences of a failure of the generator to connect to the switchboard in an emergency could be catastrophic and it was also a breach of SOLAS.

The Tribunal found that Australia's Navigation Act requires that the PSC Officer reasonably suspects that the vessel was unseaworthy or sub-standard and what mattered was how the equipment or machinery appeared at the time of inspection. They are not required to know how much time it will take to rectify the finding. The Tribunal also made reference to IMO Procedures for Port State Control wherein the Guidelines for the Detention of Ships lists ‘failure of the proper operation of emergency generator…’ as a serious finding that may warrant detention of the ship. Owners’ claim that the updated wording calls into question the decision to detain the vessel or indicates that the control officer misunderstood the nature of the deficiency was also rejected.


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