There are some States who racket shipping in order to patch up their leaking budgets, most notorious are the States of Venezuela and North Korea. There are PSC inspectors, who racket shipping for their own benefit, there is almost no country whose PSC inspectors, here and there, detain vessels either demanding a direct bribe, or demanding the deficiencies they find to be fixed with the help of companies they “recommend”. The latter racket is especially wide-spread in European countries, it’s a well-known fact to all shipping, excluding of course, industry media and maritime organizations, being virginally ignorant of the unpleasant reality.
Still, racket on a governmental level of a country considered to be developed and civilized, acceptance and pursuance of a vile practice of extorting money from shipowners, is some kind of singularity, even in our crazy world. What’s the difference between piracy acts as they’re understood and accepted generally, acts committed by criminals, and government-approved acts of extorting money in form of groundless and unlawful fines? Pirates use AKs and risk their lives, States use all their might and risk nothing. While pirates may be credited with boldness, States may be credited only with despise.
SKULD P&I Spain warn letter to Club members
Due to the current financial situation in Spain, and due to the fact that the Spanish Government urgently needs income, they have instructed the Treasury office inspectors to increase their surveys/inspections in all companies in order to get an extra income of EUR 4 billion. Other taxes will be also increased shortly.
Treasury inspectors have denounced this tactic in the newspapers therefore everyone knows of the Government’s intentions. In our opinion, the Spanish Government has also instructed the Head Office of PSC in Madrid to trace, arrest and fine vessels in order to get extra income. We reported this increase in arrests and fines in May 2007 to two Clubs, which we are representing as Correspondents.
The amount of the fines is based on a case-by-case basis, although our experience shows that it is always within EUR 60.000-90.000 and normally EUR 60.000 which is the minimum amount which has to be guaranteed in order to release the vessel.
The procedure is that after the PSC inspector goes on board and deficiencies are found based on detention, the Harbour Master decides to arrest the vessel and requests a deposit or Bank Guarantee (no LOUs are accepted). Therefore, after the PSC completes its inspection if applicable, the vessel is detained as a precautionary measure in a sanctioning procedure against Owners to guarantee the payment of a possible sanction – where a guarantee will have to be provided to release the vessel.
Normally, the fines imposed are alleged to be for an offence according to Spanish law Art. 115.3 Law 27/92, de 24th November (Offences against the ordination of maritime traffic) especially Rule Ñ which states that if a captain fails to inform correctly or fails to provide any information of something wrong on board regarding equipment, safety, propulsion etc. will be considered an offense. That means that they would have sufficient excuses for arresting any vessel which they consider has not informed them of, let’s say, that any part of the vessel could be damaged or under repair before entering a Spanish port.
When Master reports something is wrong on board, Port State Control will proceed onboard and the vessel will go through an inspection and most probably get arrested. If Master does not report any anomaly on board and the Harbour Master finds out, the vessel will be arrested as per above article. Even a small failure or lack of an official stamp in the normal books can be a reason to arrest and to fine a vessel. As everyone knows, anyone who wishes to find amiss on board, can find them without any problems, as even new ships are not perfect ships.
We recently had a detention and fine of a vessel, which was only 6 months old. Normally the search for violations is against normal vessels, tankers and bulk cargoes, but never against Spanish Flag vessels, passenger vessels (due to its implications), or major shipowners. The focus is on non-ECC flags, and medium to small tonnage.
Once the vessel is arrested and a Notification of Arrest is delivered on board, (which is written in Spanish even if the Master does not speak Spanish), the Harbour Master assigns an instructor from his connections to deal with future developments. It is always recommended that a Lawyer is instructed to make allegations and defend the vessel’s position or to try to reduce the fine.
After approximately one month, depending on each port and workload they have, the final fine is imposed, and then this new amount must be placed before the first guarantee is returned. As a matter of curiosity, the first payment is made to the Treasury office, but the second one after the final resolution is made to the Merchant Navy Head office in Madrid.
The vessel is released and allowed to sail only after the amount requested by the PSC has been transferred. Another problem which has to be taken into consideration is that in order to release the vessel, it is not as simple as paying the amount which PSC requests. No matter if the Owners agree or not with the deficiencies traced, the ONLY WAY TO RELEASE THE VESSEL IS TO PLACE THE AMOUNT without any arguments. There are two ways to place the fine at the PSC office:
1. To pay the amount in cash (deposit)
2. To pay the amount in a Bank guarantee
In our opinion, the best solution is to pay the guarantee in cash as a bank guarantee can take up to two or three days to be made and accepted by the PSC and Treasury office.
Presently the situation is so drastic that any silly excuse is used to detain vessels following all laws and regulations, including article 105.3 lay 27/92 which states that the Master must advise of any deficiency on board. The article considers this a minor offence, but the fine imposed is EUR 60.000.
As per our experience, and after being involved in numerous cases, we suggest to Masters that if the PSC comes on board, to treat them fairly, but not to be too cooperative as his cooperation could go against them. Only after the vessel has left the port, we have 15 days (which can be extended up to 22 days) to provide to the PSC our allegations. And then the matter can take up to one to three years until the matter is finally solved. Therefore, Members should be extra vigilant when calling Spanish Ports.
From the SMCM (Somali Marine and Coastal Monitor): (and with a view on news of events with an impact on Somalia)
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Articles below were vetted and basically found to report correctly – or otherwise are commented.
NO TO UN-TRUSTEESHIP OVER SOMALIA AND NO TO AU AND IGAD MILITARIZATION
NO foreign or local military governance on land or foreign naval governance on the Somali seas.
NO to any threat infringing on the sovereignty of Somalia, especially concerning the 200nm territorial waters, given since 1972, and the 200nm EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone / UNCLOS) already in place since 1989 as well as the 350nm continental shelf zone.
NO to any Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in relief food or Genetically Engineered (GE) seed supplies.
Peace cannot be kept by force.
It can only be achieved by understanding.
– Albert Einstein