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Maritime safety: port State control

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Maritime safety: port State control

This directive aims at making maritime transport safer by considerably reducing the number of ships circulating in the territorial waters of the European Union which do not comply with existing safety standards.


Directive 2009/16/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on port State control.


This directive aims at obtaining better compliance with international and Community rules in the field of maritime transport, in particular through the establishment of common rules on port State control of ships.


This Directive shall apply to any ship and its crew calling at a port or anchorage of a Member State to engage in a ship/port interface . Fishing vessels, warships, naval auxiliaries, wooden ships of a primitive build, government ships used for non-commercial purposes and pleasure yachts not engaged in trade shall be excluded from the scope of this Directive.

Inspection procedure

Member States shall take all necessary measures to carry out the inspection of ships in particular by making qualified inspectors available to the competent authorities.

Member States shall have annual inspection commitments for ships. Inspections are classified according to two categories of priority (Priority I ships for which inspection is mandatory and Priority II ships for which inspection is optional).

All Member States shall inspect:

  • all priority I ships;
  • a given percentage of the total number of ships visiting Community ports (the fair share principle).

Ships which very rarely call at Community ports and anchorages shall be considered as a priority for inspection.

To align the Directive with the requirements of the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006), Directive 2013/38/EU, EU countries when inspecting a ship flying the flag of a State which is not a party to a Convention, must ensure that the treatment of that ship and its crew is not more favourable than that of a ship flying the flag of a State party to the Convention.

Ships must also provide inspectors with copies of the maritime labour certificate and the declaration of maritime labour compliance.

Postponement of inspections

The inspection of a Priority I ship may be postponed if it can be carried out at the next port of call in the same Member State or at another port of call in the Community within 15 days. Exceptional circumstances such as risks to the safety of inspectors, ships and their crew may justify an inspection not being carried out.

Allocating a risk profile to a ship

The risk profile allocated to a ship calling at a port or anchorage is determined by parameters such as the type and age of the ship, the flag State, compliance with standards by the company (company performance) or the number of deficiencies or recent detentions.

Selection of ships and types of inspection

The competent authority shall decide, on the basis of the ship’s risk profile, whether it should be inspected or not.

The Directive provides for three types of inspection:

  • an initial inspection during which the competent authority shall verify the presence of the required certificates and documents on board, the general condition of the ship, as well as compliance following deficiencies detected during a previous inspection;
  • a detailed inspection if the results of the initial inspection show that the condition of the ship, its equipment or crew do not comply with a convention in this field;
  • an expanded inspection for ships having a high risk profile or passenger ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers or chemical tankers older than 12 years of age.

Inspectors shall comply with the procedures and guidelines laid down in the Directive with regard to safety and security. The inspector shall submit a detailed report on the inspection to the master of the ship.

Access refusal measures concerning certain ships

Member States shall refuse access to their ports for ships flying flags included on black or grey lists adopted pursuant to the Paris Memorandum which have been detained or whose operation has been prohibited under directive 1999/35/EC more than twice during the preceding 36 months (for ships flying a flag on the black list) and more than twice during the preceding 24 months (for ships flying a flag on the grey list) in a port or anchorage of a Member State or of a State signatory of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding.


Directive 2013/38/EU ensures the confidentiality of seafarers who make complaints alleging breaches to MLC 2006 reported to inspectors. Their identity must not be divulged to the ship's master or shipowner.

Rectification and detention

The competent authorities shall ensure that deficiencies which have been confirmed or revealed during an inspection are rectified in accordance with the conventions in this field. If deficiencies are hazardous to safety, health or the environment, the competent authority of the port State shall ensure that the ship is detained or that its operation is stopped. If there is a serious or repeated breach of MLC 2006, the detention order must not be lifted until these have been remedied or if the competent authority accepts a plan of action to rectify the deficiencies.

Right of appeal

A right of appeal against the decision of the competent authority is granted to the owner or operator of the vessel or their representative in the Member State. An appeal shall not cause the detention or refusal of access to be suspended. Refusal of access to ports or anchorages in a Member State shall only be lifted if the shipowner or operator is able to prove to the competent authority that the ship complies with the conventions.

Profile of inspectors

The Directive lays down the qualification criteria that inspectors must meet in order to be approved by the competent authority. Directive 96/40/EC establishes a common model for an identity card which inspectors shall carry when undertaking port State control. The Commission works jointly with Member States on harmonising the training and assessment of inspectors’ competences.

Information on inspections

The Commission publishes and updates an inspection database and a list of companies whose compliance with standards is low or very low. The inspection database shall contain all the information required for the implementation of the inspection system set up by this Directive.


The many serious accidents and incidences of sea pollution occurring as a result of the non-compliance of certain ships with safety norms have led the European Union to adopt rules on the inspection of ships by the port State. Directive 2009/16/EC is a recast of Directive 95/21/EC.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2009/16/EC



OJ L 131 of 28.5.2009

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2013/38/EU



OJ L 218 of 14.8.2013

Last updated: 19.04.2014