Ship Regulations

Ship Regulations

Shipping is a highly regulated business by governments. In shipping history, most governments regulations had arisen in the 19th and 20th centuries and especially after World War II.

Establishment of International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1948 by United Nations, provided an active forum and body for consideration of safety, environmental and other regulation of ships. After the establishment of International Maritime Organization (IMO), there are now numerous international conventions governing shipping business. International conventions co-exist and form the base of maritime nation’s regulations.

Flag State, the country which registers the ship, primarily regulate the ship. Besides, ships are also regulated by countries that ships call at their ports, known as Port States. International law places the primary responsibility for ship regulation on the flag state. Nevertheless, flag state’s jurisdiction is not exclusive.

Port states have a legitimate and recognized interest under international law in regulating certain aspects of ships which enter their territorial jurisdiction. Most maritime nations take ship pollution seriously. Maritime nations are active in putting in effect of laws to protect the environment. Maritime nations enforce laws and regulations by port states for ships entering into their waters. In United States, there are some limitations on United States Port State Regulations.

United States Supreme Court has long struggled with the interrelationship between flag-state primacy and United States port-state jurisdiction. United States labor laws does not always apply to the crews of foreign ships while they are in United States ports. Supreme Court enunciated a clear statement rule whereby United States laws would apply to the internal affairs of foreign ships only if there was a clear statement by Congress in the law that it was intended to apply in that way to foreign ships. United States government can regulate the foreign ship cruise industry serving United States market. Generally, United States does no more than inspect cruise ships against international standards rather than United States specific laws or standards. Furthermore, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is applicable to foreign cruise ships operating in United States waters. For example, in recent Supreme Court case: Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. in 2005. Supreme Court considered, among other things, the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)‘s requirements and international legal safety obligations otherwise applicable to cruise ships to ascertain whether there was a conflict between the two regulations. According to Supreme Court, the burden falls on the person claiming interference with a ship’s internal affairs before the clear statement rule will be invoked so as not to apply the United States law to the foreign ship. Ship safety, environmental and other regulations stem from international conventions. These regulations implemented and enforced through domestic law adopted by flag and port states. International conventions have the great advantage of bringing some uniformity to the regulation of shipping industry.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) which is a United Nations’ body that is headquartered in London, United Kingdom. International Maritime Organization (IMO) was formed at an international convention held in 1948. International Maritime Organization (IMO) has 170 full members and 3 associate members. United States Coast Guard represents the United States at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). International Maritime Organization (IMO) acts through general sessions and through committees. International Maritime Organization (IMO) Conventions that are adopted in general session are then open for ratification by the member countries. At International Maritime Organization (IMO) meetings, signed conventions do not become effective until a certain percentage of members ratify the convention to ensure that only conventions with broad consensus are implemented.

Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) is a principal international maritime convention. Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) was originally developed to set design, equipment, and manning standards for ships. Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) consists principally of technical regulations concerning ship construction, fire protection, life-saving equipment, drydocking, surveys, and similar matters. Recently, International Maritime Organization (IMO) has adopted additional conventions, as separate chapters, addressed to marine safety. Additional SOLAS Conventions are customarily identified specifically by reference to their individual names.

International Safety Management (ISM) Code was adopted to address gaps in safety management oversight and responsibility by ship owners. Under the ISM Code, a ship operating company must implement a company safety management program, and every ship must implement a Safety Management System (SMS). Safety Management System (SMS) includes maintenance and operational checklists, regular safety meetings, formal follow up on safety issues, and regular auditing. One notable legal effect of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code has been to require much greater supervision of ship operations by ship owners. Hence, International Safety Management (ISM) Code broaden the privity and knowledge of the ship owner for purposes of limitation of liability.

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). The STCW Code sets basic standards for manning requirements and seafarer certification. The STCW Code imposes limits on the hours that may be worked by watch-standing mariners and requires certain levels of rest. The STCW Code also imposes international standards on the qualifications required by seafarers. Besides, all seafarers must receive basic orientation and training before being allowed to assume a watch on board of ships.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). MARPOL was created by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in the wake of MT SS Torrey Canyon disaster in 1967. MT SS Torrey Canyon was a LR2 Suezmax class oil tanker with a cargo capacity of 120,000 tons of crude oil which ran aground in the English Channel and spilled her entire cargo into the sea, the largest oil spill up to that time. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was adopted by virtually all maritime nations and applies to all commercial ships that trade internationally. MARPOL convention imposes certain construction standards, record-keeping requirements and regulations concerning the discharge of pollutants into the ocean. MARPOL’s regulations govern the prevention of pollution by oil, noxious liquid substances, packaged harmful substances, sewage, garbage and air pollution.

International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The ISPS Code was created by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) promptly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The ISPS Code applies to both ships and port facilities, and requires them to develop security plans and implement security measures to protect ships, terminals, and other waterfront facilities from terrorist attacks.

International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgagee. Usually, this convention is known as 1993 Geneva Convention. It sets a number of international standards on the recognition and enforcement of maritime liens and the enforcement of ship mortgages around the world.

In the United States, international maritime conventions like other international conventions, generally only become law in the United States and become applicable to ships visiting the United States or to U.S. registered ships if they are enacted as a domestic law by Congress and signed by the President. United States Coast Guard issues regulations and other guidance on the implementation of the law. All countries are free to enact requirements applicable within its jurisdiction either in advance of the adoption of an International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention or even inconsistent with such conventions. In the United States, individual states often enact environmental or other requirements that apply to ships visiting state waters that may or may not be consistent with then generally accepted international requirements. In practice, most maritime nations require foreign ships to comply with generally effective International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions as a condition to entering national waters. Compliance with International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions is initially evidenced by certificates issued by the flag state or a classification society under authority of the flag state. Port states always have the right to inspect ships to confirm acceptance with conventions as well as for compliance with domestic law and other requirements. Port states may also detain a ship in port and forbid the ship to depart unless non-compliance issues are resolved to its satisfaction.

In the United States, these agencies may inspect ships:

  • The United States Coast Guard
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • The United States Customs and Border Protection Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • The Immigration and Naturalization Service
  • The United States Department of Agriculture

The United States Coast Guard is the primary agency responsible for inspecting:

  • U.S.-flag ships
  • Foreign-flag ships

in United States waters under the United States Port State control regime.

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for:

  • regulates discharges from ships into the navigable waters of the United States
  • regulates emissions from engines on ships on the United States waters

The United States Customs and Border Protection Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is responsible for:

  • enforcement of the Customs Laws
  • regulates the arrival and departure of ships
  • loading and unloading of ships.
  • administers the Jones Act coast-wise trade regulations
  • regulates duties on S.-flag ship repairs

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is responsible for:

  • clearing crew members into and out of the United States
  • enforce immigration laws
  • issuing visas (landing permits) to non-residents arriving on ships.
  • inspect ships for stowaways
  • require ships to post security officers to prevent persons from entering the United States illegally.

The United States Department of Agriculture is responsible for:

  • inspections of the cargo holds of ships used to carry grain cargoes
  • inspections of provisions brought by ships into the United States waters
  • prevent the introduction of dangerous pests


Ship Regulations for Bulk Carriers

Bulk carriers are a vital component of the global maritime trade, responsible for the transportation of large quantities of dry cargo such as coal, grain, and iron ore. To ensure the safe and efficient operation of these vessels, various international regulations and guidelines have been established. Here, we will provide an overview of some key ship regulations for bulk carriers:

  1. International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS): SOLAS is an international maritime treaty that establishes minimum safety standards for the construction, equipment, and operation of merchant ships. Key provisions for bulk carriers include requirements for watertight and weathertight integrity, stability, fire protection, and navigational safety.
  2. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL): MARPOL aims to minimize pollution of the marine environment by ships. For bulk carriers, this includes regulations on oil and noxious liquid substances, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, garbage, and air pollution.
  3. International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code): This code sets guidelines for the safe stowage and shipment of solid bulk cargoes. It includes detailed information on the properties and potential hazards of various bulk cargoes, as well as procedures for cargo handling, cleaning, and emergency response.
  4. International Convention on Load Lines (ICLL): The ICLL establishes minimum requirements for the load line markings on ships, ensuring that they are not overloaded and maintain adequate reserve buoyancy. This is especially important for bulk carriers, as overloading can lead to reduced stability and increased risk of structural failure.
  5. Classification Societies: Bulk carriers must be classed by a recognized classification society, which sets technical standards for the design, construction, and maintenance of ships. These societies also perform surveys and inspections to ensure that ships remain in compliance with their rules and applicable regulations.
  6. International Safety Management (ISM) Code: This code establishes a framework for the safe management and operation of ships and pollution prevention. Shipowners and operators must develop and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS) that covers key aspects such as ship operations, emergency preparedness, and crew training.
  7. International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code: This code aims to enhance maritime security by establishing minimum security requirements for ships and port facilities. Bulk carriers must have a Ship Security Plan (SSP) that outlines measures to prevent unauthorized access, weapons, and contraband on board.
  8. Ballast Water Management Convention: This convention aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens through the control and management of ships’ ballast water. Bulk carriers must have a Ballast Water Management Plan (BWMP) and meet specific treatment and discharge standards.
  1. International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW): This convention establishes minimum training, certification, and watchkeeping standards for seafarers on merchant ships, including bulk carriers. Crew members must hold valid certificates and undergo periodic refresher training to maintain their qualifications.
  2. Maritime Labor Convention (MLC): The MLC sets out the rights and working conditions for seafarers on board ships, including bulk carriers. It covers aspects such as minimum age, employment contracts, hours of work and rest, wages, accommodation, medical care, and social security protection.
  3. Code of Safe Practice for Ships Carrying Timber Deck Cargoes: This code provides guidance on the safe stowage, securing, and handling of timber deck cargoes on ships, including bulk carriers. It includes recommendations on cargo securing, stability, and precautions to minimize the risk of fire, as well as procedures for handling timber cargoes during loading and unloading operations.
  4. Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code): This code provides guidance on the safe handling, storage, and transport of solid bulk cargoes, supplementing the IMSBC Code. It covers aspects such as the proper use of cargo handling equipment, precautions during loading and unloading operations, and measures to minimize the risk of cargo shifting and structural damage.
  5. International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunker Convention): This convention aims to ensure adequate compensation for those affected by pollution damage from bunker oil spills. Shipowners and operators of bulk carriers must maintain insurance coverage for potential pollution damage and carry a certificate proving that they have the necessary financial security.
  6. International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS Convention): This convention establishes a liability and compensation regime for damage caused by hazardous and noxious substances carried by ships, including bulk carriers. Shipowners must maintain insurance or other financial security to cover potential claims.
  7. International Maritime Organization (IMO) Instruments Implementation Code (III Code): This code establishes a framework for the consistent and effective implementation of IMO instruments, including conventions and codes applicable to bulk carriers. Flag States, port States, and recognized organizations (such as classification societies) must ensure that ships comply with relevant requirements and undergo regular audits.

These additional regulations and guidelines further emphasize the commitment of the international maritime community to the safety, security, and environmental protection of bulk carrier operations. By adhering to these standards, shipowners, operators, and crew members can contribute to a more sustainable and responsible shipping industry.

Rules and Regulations for the Classification of Bulk Carriers

The classification of bulk carriers is governed by various rules and regulations set by recognized classification societies. These societies are responsible for establishing technical standards and guidelines for the design, construction, and maintenance of bulk carriers to ensure their safety, efficiency, and environmental responsibility. Here are some key aspects of the rules and regulations for the classification of bulk carriers:

  1. Hull Structure and Strength: Classification societies have specific rules for the design and construction of the hull structure to ensure the ship’s strength, durability, and resistance to the stresses and loads experienced during operations. These rules include requirements for materials, welding, fabrication, and structural analysis.
  2. Stability and Load Line Requirements: Bulk carriers must meet stability criteria and load line requirements to ensure they have sufficient reserve buoyancy and can safely withstand various loading conditions. These rules include limits on the ship’s draft, freeboard, and load line markings, as well as guidelines for the development of loading and stability manuals.
  3. Machinery and Electrical Systems: Classification societies set standards for the design, installation, and maintenance of machinery and electrical systems on bulk carriers. This includes requirements for propulsion systems, auxiliary machinery, control systems, and electrical distribution.
  4. Cargo Handling Equipment: Rules are in place to ensure the safe design, operation, and maintenance of cargo handling equipment, such as cranes, grabs, and conveyor systems. These rules address load capacity, structural integrity, and operational safety, as well as guidelines for regular inspections and maintenance.
  5. Fire Safety and Protection: Classification societies have regulations for the design and installation of fire protection systems on bulk carriers, including requirements for fire detection and alarm systems, fire-extinguishing equipment, fire-resistant bulkheads, and emergency escape routes.
  6. Navigation and Communication Systems: Bulk carriers must be equipped with appropriate navigation and communication systems to ensure safe operations at sea. Classification society rules cover the design, installation, and maintenance of these systems, including requirements for radar, GPS, AIS, VHF radio, and GMDSS equipment.
  7. Environmental Protection: Rules and regulations are in place to minimize the environmental impact of bulk carriers. These include requirements for ballast water management, emissions control, waste management, and the prevention of pollution from oil, noxious liquid substances, and harmful substances in packaged form.
  8. Safety Management and Crew Training: Classification societies require that bulk carriers comply with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, which establishes a framework for the safe management and operation of ships and pollution prevention. This includes requirements for the development and maintenance of a Safety Management System (SMS) and crew training.
  9. Periodic Surveys and Inspections: To maintain their classification, bulk carriers must undergo regular surveys and inspections to ensure ongoing compliance with relevant rules and regulations. These inspections cover the ship’s structure, machinery, electrical systems, safety equipment, and cargo handling systems.
  10. Compliance with International Conventions and Regulations: In addition to classification society rules, bulk carriers must comply with various international conventions and regulations, such as SOLAS, MARPOL, IMSBC Code, ICLL, STCW, and MLC, among others.

By adhering to these rules and regulations, shipowners, operators, and crew members can ensure that their bulk carriers are built and operated to the highest standards of safety, efficiency, and environmental responsibility.


Regulations on Safety Management for Bulk Carriers

Safety management for bulk carriers is governed by various international regulations and guidelines to ensure the safe and efficient operation of these vessels. The International Safety Management (ISM) Code, developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), is a key regulation that establishes a framework for the safe management and operation of ships, including bulk carriers. Here are some key aspects of the ISM Code and related safety management regulations for bulk carriers:

  1. Safety Management System (SMS): Shipowners and operators must develop, implement, and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS) for their bulk carriers. The SMS should be a comprehensive system that covers all aspects of ship operations, safety, environmental protection, and emergency preparedness.
  2. Safety and Environmental Policy: The SMS must include a safety and environmental policy that sets out the company’s commitment to safety, environmental protection, and pollution prevention. The policy should be communicated to all employees and should guide the development of safety management procedures and practices.
  3. Designated Person Ashore (DPA): Shipowners and operators must designate a person ashore who is responsible for monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the ship’s operations. The DPA should have direct access to the highest level of management and be responsible for ensuring the effective implementation of the SMS.
  4. Responsibilities and Authority: The SMS must clearly define the responsibilities and authority of all personnel involved in the management, operation, and maintenance of the bulk carrier. This includes the ship’s Master, officers, and crew, as well as shore-based personnel.
  5. Procedures for Reporting Accidents and Non-Conformities: The SMS should include procedures for reporting accidents, hazardous occurrences, and non-conformities that may affect the safety or environmental performance of the bulk carrier. These procedures should facilitate the identification of trends and the implementation of corrective and preventive actions.
  6. Procedures for Emergency Preparedness: The SMS must include procedures for emergency preparedness, including the development of ship-specific emergency plans and regular drills and exercises to ensure crew readiness.
  7. Training and Competency: The SMS should ensure that all personnel, both on board and ashore, receive appropriate training and have the necessary competencies to perform their duties safely and efficiently. This includes compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
  8. Maintenance of Ship and Equipment: The SMS should include procedures for the regular inspection, maintenance, and repair of the ship and its equipment, ensuring that the bulk carrier remains in a safe and seaworthy condition.
  9. Documentation and Record-Keeping: The SMS should include procedures for the proper documentation and record-keeping of all aspects of the ship’s operations, maintenance, and safety management. This includes maintaining a shipboard safety management manual and keeping records of inspections, drills, training, and maintenance activities.
  10. Internal and External Audits: The SMS must be subject to periodic internal and external audits to ensure its ongoing effectiveness and compliance with the ISM Code. Shipowners and operators should use the results of these audits to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary corrective actions.

By adhering to these safety management regulations and guidelines, shipowners, operators, and crew members can ensure that their bulk carriers are operated in a manner that minimizes the risk of accidents, injuries, and environmental damage.