Coast Guard Conducts Port State Control Exam on Albany Sound

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Chief Warrant Officers Darrel Howells and Scott Stykel and Petty Officer Third Class Colleen Parker, from Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, conducted a port state control exam on the 552-foot cargo ship Albany Sound Monday at the Port of Anchorage. The Albany Sound names Hong Kong as its homeport and displays the Chinese flag. Their last port of call was in Korea. No major discrepancies were noted during the exam.

This exam is one of many conducted around the world in an effort to ensure foreign flagged vessels operating in U.S. waters are meeting the safety and security standards issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). If a ship is found to be substandard they are denied use of U.S. waterways until they comply with the requirements.

There are approximately 400 U.S. flagged vessels engaged in international trade. Over 8,000 foreign flagged vessels from more than 100 countries arrive in the U.S. each year carrying about 90 percent of the commercial freight that arrives or departs the U.S.

Not all flag states enforce the IMO requirements. As a result the Coast Guard began a concerted port state control effort in the early 1990s. Given the number of vessels it is not possible to board every ship. The Coast Guard uses a priority matrix to assign the highest priority to ships that pose the greatest risk. This matrix is based on a variety of information including the past performance of each ship’s flag state, classification society, operating company, ship type, and the ship’s prior enforcement history and last ports of call.

During a port state control exam the Coast Guard looks at the ship’s documentation, material condition, and crew ability. They confirm the vessel is meeting the IMO Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS).

Documentation must be valid and up-to-date. Things like certificate of registry, class certificate, international tonnage certificate, load-line certificate, international ship security certificate, document of compliance, minimum safe manning requirement, ship’s security plan, oil and drill logs, etc.

They then conduct a physical examination of the vessel to ensure it is good working order and meets the myriad of SOLAS and ISPS requirements.

Examinations of the visible areas of the hull, confined spaces, living quarters, sick bay, galley, food storage, garbage, engine room and emergency generators are just a portion of the overall exam.

The examiners take particular interest in the oily water separators, as these can be bypassed allowing oily water into the ocean when the ship pumps bilges and gray-water overboard. They also observe a test of the ship’s steering by manually running the rudder and confirming the ship’s direction with an examiner on the bridge.

The final step is to watch the crew run drills. This allows the examiners to gauge the crew’s performance and preparedness to deal with a casualty at sea. In the case of the Albany Sound the examiners conducted a fire drill simulating a fire in the emergency generator room and then went directly into an abandon ship drill. While no crewmen actually abandoned ship they did muster, don life vests and test the deployment system for the life boats.

“I was very happy with the crew’s performance,” said Howells “They hustled, everyone knew their place, they worked together and could explain their decisions to me”

The only notes the examiners made were that the battery banks in the emergency generator room should have a protective cover over them and a few bottles of medicine were a couple of months expired. The captain of the vessel explained that they had requisitioned more medical supplies but it had not caught up with their busy route yet.

The examiners provided the Albany Sound with a record of the exam and departed. The ship finished offloading dry cement at the port and departed for the open ocean.

Transparency is one of the program’s main objectives. When a substandard ship is detained, the Coast Guard makes details available on the internet to alert shippers to potential risks associated with shipping on the substandard vessel.

The Coast Guard’s port state control program is a world-class model that ensures substandard ships do not endanger U.S. waterways.

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