November: CIRCULAR 8A / 2004


Following the MV “PRESTIGE” incidence, the concern of accidental pollution by oil and the damage to the environment and economy of the region concerned has grown.

At European Union level, two Directives were adopted in 2001 taking into account the changes made to the International Maritime Organisation Conventions, Protocols, Codes and Resolutions and the developments in the framework of the Paris Memorandum of Underestanding (MOU).

These Directives are:

  • Directive 2001/105/ EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December 2001 amending Council directive 94/57 on common rules and standards for ship inspection and survey organisations and for the relevant activities of maritime administrations.
  • Directive 2001/106/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 December 2001 amending Council directive 95/21/EC concerning the enforcement, in respect of shipping using Community ports and sailing in the waters under the jurisdiction of the Member states, of international standards for ship safety, pollution prevention and shipboard living and working conditions (port State control)

These directives were implemented in Spain through the enactment of two Royal Decrees:

  • Royal Decree 90/2003 of 24 January, about rules and common standards regarding inspection and control of vessels and regarding the activities of the Spanish Administration.
  • Royal Decree 91/2003 of 24 January, ruling the inspections of foreign flag vessels calling to Spanish ports, and which tighten the controls on considerable old vessels.

By means of this RD 91/2003 the Oil Product Tankers with more than 15 years old have to pass an extended MOU Inspection every 6 months.

The Extended Inspections imply checking Operational controls such as Abandon Ship, Emergency Fire Pump, Communication eq., Fire drill, Emergency Generator, etc.

In this type of inspections some Spanish PSC Inspectors such as in La Coruña, sensitive area following the MV PRESTIGE grounding, require to perform a complete black out of the vessel to test remote emergency stop (eg boilers, ventilation and fuel pumps), which inspection can delay vessel’s departure.

The problem rises when for security and safety reasons this test is forbidden by the Port Terminal whenever the vessel is berthed at the petrol jetty.

Indeed, the Master of any vessel operating at the jetty terminal has to sign a written agreement to follow all the requirements set on the “Ship / Shore Safety Check List”, which are based on safe practices widely accepted by the oil and tanker industries.



3.3. Readinesse to move:

During the vessel’s stay alongside the Terminal Jetty, her boilers, main engine, steering gear and other equipment essential for manoeuvring shall be maintained in condition to permit the ship to move away from berth at short notice.


A.4 While berthed at the Terminal, the ship ‘s boilers, main engines, steering machinery and other equipment essential for manoeuvring should be maintained in a condition to permit the ship to move away from berth at short notice 

Repairs and / or other work which may immobilize the ship should not be undertaken unless permission has been granted by Port Authority and the Terminal Manager.

At all times, a sufficient number of crew members should be present on board, able to work the ship in case of emergency

The vessel must always have sufficient crew (deck and engineroom personnel) on board to be able, in case of emergency, to manoeuvre and to attend to the operations safety.

According to domestic RD 91/2003, the refusal of the Captain to authorize the performance of an extended inspection can be sanctioned on the basis of art.118.2.b and 120.2.b-d of Law 27/92 of 24 November 1992 of State Ports and Merchant Marine.

Recently, the Harbour Master Office of La Coruña started a special summary procedure for detention of a vessel at that port alleging the refusal of the Captain to authorize the performance of an extended inspection, and requested Owners a guarantee of Euros 60,000. The vessel was retained for three days. We believe there was a problem of misunderstanding between the Master and MOU Inspectors as he only requested to check first with the Terminal Security Responsible.

The extended MOU was finally performed while vessel was on ballast and after the Harbour Master officers signed a liability letter in case of accident while the vessel was in black out.

The Sanctioning Proceeding against the Master and Owners of the vessel is still being handled.

This problem does not however affect all Spanish ports as some Mou Inspectors (Barcelona, Tarragona and Cartagena) perform a “simulacrum” of black out of the vessel to test remote emergency stop at the same terminal where the vessel is due to load / unload and thus it is not necessary a complete black out, which avoids not only safety problems at the terminal but also delays. In other ports such as Valencia, despite the Mou Inspectors perform a complete black out, they are ready to be flexible and if the Master / Terminal argue safety problems, then they would suggest to make the compete black out in the following Spanish port where the vessel is calling or to shift the vessel to a safe berth at that port and perform the black if the vessel is not calling to another Spanish port.

This is a legislative problem affecting Terminals and Harbour Master offices in Spain, where the approach at the different ports may be different. This problem should be discussed and solved at National level between the Merchant Marine General Director and the various Terminals General Directors. 

In the meantime, if Owners carrying oil products find themselves in this situation, we would suggest full cooperation of the Master with the MOU Inspectors from the very start, bearing in mind that the inspections should take place before loading operations or after unloading operations.

We would also strongly recommend that when a vessel is bound to call to La Coruña, Owners to ensure that the ship agent specifies in the “Berth Application” box if the vessel has performed or not an Extended MOU inspection during the last year. It would appear that MOU Inspectors at La Coruña are unhappy for not receiving the information on time and their reaction may be therefore negative. In other ports such as Barcelona and Tarragona shipagents do specify in the appropriate box if the vessel has performed an Extended MOU inspection.

Should any shipowner or operator require our assistance, they should not hesitate to contact us.