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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Maritime safety: port State control

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Maritime safety: port State control


Substandard ships are dangerous, cause pollution and have unhealthy on-board living and working conditions. Strict controls ensure all vessels in EU, Icelandic and Norwegian waters comply with existing safety standards.


It helps to drastically reduce substandard shipping in EU waters. It does so by making sure ships respect EU and international maritime safety and environmental rules and by establishing common criteria for ship inspections.


The legislation applies to any eligible ship and its crew calling at, or anchored in, a European port.

EU governments must ensure they have a sufficient number of qualified inspectors with the necessary resources to carry out the controls.

All eligible ships using an EU port are given a risk profile in the inspection database. This is based on criteria such as the type and age of a vessel and determines the thoroughness and frequency of the inspections.

Annual inspections are compulsory for ships with a high-risk profile and optional for others.

Priority is given to inspecting vessels that infrequently dock at EU ports.

Initial inspections check that certificates and documents are in order and assess a ship’s overall condition.

If deficiencies are discovered, the ship is subject to a more detailed inspection.

Expanded inspections are reserved for high-risk profile vessels, passenger ships and oil, gas, chemical and bulk carriers over 12 years of age.

Any deficiencies discovered must be rectified. If these are clearly a risk to safety, health or the environment, the vessel is detained until they are made good.

National authorities may refuse port access to ships which have been detained more than twice during the previous 2 to 3 years.

Ship owners or operators may appeal against any detention or refusal of access.

The European Commission maintains and updates the inspection database. It regularly publishes details of companies with low or very low compliance rates on a public website.

The legislation does not cover fishing or naval support vessels, warships, certain types of wooden ships or private yachts.


On 17 June 2009, although EU countries had until 1 January 2011 to adapt their legislative and administrative systems.

For more information, see:


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



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2009/16/EC



OJ L 131, 28.5.2009, pp. 57-100.

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2013/38/EU



OJ L 218, 14.8.2013, pp. 1-7.

Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013



OJ L 330, 10.12.2013, pp. 1-20

Regulation (EU) 2015/757



OJ L 123, 19.5.2015, pp. 55-76

Successive amendments and changes to Directive 2009/16/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 30.09.2015