The clear example of failure of the flag states can be seen in the San
Marco case. This case is the illustration of the deficiencies in the
international safety net. The San Marco was a 1968 built panamax dry
bulk carrier. In May 1993, it was detained by the Canadian Coast Guard
(CCG) for serious structural, fire fighting and live savings defects.
Following this incident the vessels P&I club withdrew the cover. As
the owner would not do the immediate repairs its classification
society, Bureau Veritas (BV), withdrew class after an inspection.
In May 1993 the vessel had been inspected by a Hellenic Register
surveyor for a class transfer from BV and found to be in “good
condition and well-maintained”. The vessel was issued with clean class
certificates, without any repair recommendations. She had the BV
certificates valid until 1995 and no recommendations. At the
end of June, the same year, the CCG allowed the San Marco to depart
from Vancouver under tow at the request of the ship owner.
However, although the HRS issued a clean class
certificate and the vessel had BV certificates valid until 1995 the CCG
did only allow the vessel to be towed unmanned. The CCG had no legal
power to compel the owner to do repairs locally. Soon after leaving
Canadian waters, the tow to San Marco was cut and a crew was put on
board by helicopter. From then on, the vessel continued to trade
unrepaired with clean HRS certificates. Obviously, if the Canadian Coast
Guard had the legal power to demand repairs before departure, the
vessel would have been prevented from trading in a dangerous
unseaworthy condition. In November 1993, while she was 150-200 miles
off the South African coast on a voyage from Morocco to Indonesia, she
lost some 14x7 meters of shell plating from both sides of her No 1 hold
and all 5.000 tons of cargo in that hold.
She was put into Cape Town as a port of refuge and quickly detained by the
Department of Transport. As it was not possible to continue trading her
without spending substantial amount of money on repairs, the vessel was
sold for scrap at a public auction.
As illustrated in the San Marco case, ship owners,
classification societies, flag states administrations, insurers have
failed to do their job properly. If all parties concerned acted
responsibly and prudently, port state control would not be necessary.
The control mechansims applied by the falg states and classification socieities
have proven not to be sufficient in eliminating all substandard vessels
from the industry.