The U.S. Coast Guard issued an annual report finding that foreign-flagged vessel compliance with new international security requirements was better than expected in the first six months of implementation, although safety compliance declined in 2004. The report, known as the Annual Port State Control Report, examined the safety and security compliance of foreign vessels visiting the United States.
New international maritime security requirements went into effect July 1, 2004, just 18 months after 143 countries signed an agreement establishing basic security standards for ships and ports around the world.
In the weeks leading up to the July 1 deadline, observers and industry members worried that strict U.S. Coast Guard enforcement of the requirements would have negative impacts on global trade as it appeared much of the world’s merchant fleet was not in compliance with the new security requirements.
However, in the first month of enforcement, the Coast Guard found that only 2.5 percent of vessels arriving in U.S. ports were significantly non-compliant with the new security requirements, and were denied entry to port, detained in port or expelled from port as a result.
"With the usual dedicated professionalism, the vast majority of maritime stake holders rose to the occasion and exceeded all expectations," said Rear Adm. Thomas Gilmour, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for marine safety, security and environmental protection. "We all met a tough challenge. Shipping did not come to a standstill and now we have a baseline of security for ships and ports around the world."
By the end of December, the percent of vessels arriving in U.S. ports with major problems fell to 1.5 percent. Over the first six months of enforcement, the Coast Guard conducted over 6,000 security inspections but denied entry to, detained or expelled only 92 vessels.
The Coast Guard will target vessels for increased inspections if they are registered in a country whose vessels have below average compliance in either meeting safety or security requirements. Vessels registered in Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Malta, Panama and St. Vincent and the Grenadines had below average compliance in both areas.
Safety compliance declined slightly in 2004 with 2.43 percent of vessels detained because of poor compliance with safety standards, an increase from 1.99 percent in 2003, but still less than the 2.5 percent that were detained in 2002.
The Coast Guard began tracking safety compliance in 1995, when 6.55 percent of vessels were detained for poor compliance. This is the first time the report has included security compliance. A total of 7,241 individual vessels, registered in 81 different countries, made 72,178 U.S. port calls in 2004, and the Coast Guard conducted over 11,000 safety examinations.