China Steps Up Vessel Inspections After Serious Shipping Accidents

Authorities are looking hard at ships with a record of deficiencies or electrical problems

Traffic at Shanghai, 2010 (Werner Mayer / public domain)
Traffic at Shanghai, 2010 (Werner Mayer / public domain)

Published May 29, 2024 9:16 PM by The Maritime Executive


China is stepping up its port state control inspections, according to class society DNV. The China Maritime Safety Administration is now looking much more closely at ships that have a history of multiple detentions or serious deficiencies.

The MSA's initiative is targeted at repeat offenders. Triggers for a close inspection include two detentions at any port(s) within the past 12 months, or multiple serious deficiencies. This includes vessels with a PSC record of intentional MARPOL violations, false certificates, unapproved vessel modifications, manning issues, or malicious disabling of AIS - a common sanctions-evasion strategy. 

All inspections on board these vessels are likely to be performed "in a detailed manner," DNV advises, and vessels on the target list may be subject to scrutiny at every port call in China. To get removed from the list, the owner can contact the MSA and appeal for relief. 

In the wake of the Lixinsha Bridge strike and Francis Scott Key Bridge allision earlier this year, China's MSA has also announced a "special campaign" aimed at the safety of mechanical and electrical equipment. The objective is to prevent loss of power/propulsion, and inspectors at every Chinese port will put a special emphasis on electrical system problems through the end of October. 

The campaign extends beyond port state control. Class societies will be required to "strengthen the inspection and testing" of mechanical and electrical equipment, both for newbuilds and existing tonnage. In the event of any mechanical or electrical failures, crewmembers must report the incident to the local maritime authorities and accept "special safety inspections"; if they fail to make a report, they will be "severely punished," DNV warned. 

If a ship has two or more mechanical or electrical failures in 12 months, it will have to file a failure analysis and corrective action plan, and undergo joint inspections. 

The China MSA's prearrival checklist for this campaign includes ensuring the function of all systems connected to the main engine, including alarms, fuel supply, cooling and lube oil systems; checking the boiler system; ensuring that auxiliary power is in order, and that standby and emergency generators are ready; checking switchboards and controls; and testing the steering gear and its emergency backup systems. 

DNV recommends testing the emergency generator and the standby generator thoroughly before arriving in China, and keeping accurate preventive maintenance logs.