The UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), which oversees the inspections of all ships operating from the UK, has announced its requirements for all passenger ships seeking to resume service.
In a Notice to all surveyors, ship operators, port authorities, Masters, officers and crew, the MCA set out the expectations for expanded inspections of cruise vessels operating out of UK ports with UK resident passengers on board.
Noting that the cruise industry had not been operating for a significant period of time, it is the MCA policy that all cruise vessels operating from UK ports with UK passengers on board will be subject to an ‘Expanded Inspection’ by MCA surveyors prior to the commencement of operations.
The Inspections will be conducted under the remit of the Paris MOU of Port State Control.
Where an inspection is conducted on a vessel which is not registered in the UK or a Red Ensign Group Category I Register (Bermuda, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands or Cayman Islands) then the inspection will be recorded and an expanded inspection within the Paris MOU regardless of the priority for inspection within that organisation, the MCA said.
The scope of the inspection conducted on UK registered vessels will be decided on a case-by-case basis dependent on the level of oversight maintained by the MCA during the pandemic. This oversight must reflect the condition of the vessel as it is intended to re-enter passenger service.
It added, the industry’s COVID-19 framework for cruise is designed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on board and provides a means to address risks to persons. The MCA does not hold the relevant competencies to assess the effectiveness of the specific protection measures put in place on board. Instead, cruise operators using the framework will be verified by a competent, independent third party to ensure their COVID-19 management plans meet the standards contained in the framework documents.
During the Expanded Inspections, the MCA will verify that the vessel holds a COVID-19 management plan and that the plan has been subject to an external verification in accordance with the framework, providing assurance on the management of risk.
A vessel not holding such a plan, or unable to demonstrate that it had been externally verified, will be considered against the requirements of the ISM Code and the general duties of the Merchant Shipping health and safety legislation, to determine the required action, which could result in a prohibition from the carriage of passengers if the relevant risks have not been assessed and mitigated.
The inspections will preferably be conducted by arrangement with the local MCA Marine Office and should be planned in advance to enable them to be appropriately resourced. Vessels must be presented for inspection alongside in a fully operational condition.
The notice expires on 31st December, 2021, the MCA said.