A Student Perspective: The four pillars of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping and the Greek paradigm

Quality shipping means promoting the highest standards of health, safety and environment protection, with these requirements covered under the ‘International Convention for the Safety Of Life At Sea’ (SOLAS), the 1978 International Convention on ‘Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping’ (STCW), the ‘International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships’ (MARPOL) and the ‘Maritime Labour Convention’ (MLC). To this end, these Conventions are characterized as the four ‘pillars of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping’.

– The SOLAS constitutes the first pillar of it, while under it, ships flagged by signatory-States comply with the minimum safety standards concerning construction, equipment and operation, with Greece having ratified the Convention in 1980. At this point, it is remarkable to mention that the first SOLAS Convention was adopted on 20 January 1914 and entered into force in July 1915. The sinking of the Titanic, on 14 April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg was the catalyst for its adoption.

– The STCW for seafarers, which entered into force in 1984, sets qualification standards for masters, officers and watch personnel, on seagoing merchant ships. It is the second pillar of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping. Greece ratified the above Convention, without delay in the same year 1984.

– The MARPOL was adopted in 1973 at IMO, covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes, is characterized the third pillar of it. At this point is has to be stated that in Greece the Convention was ratified by law No 1269 in 1982.

– In 2006, ‘the 94th International Labour Conference’ adopted the MLC, with the aim to provide international standards for the world’s first genuinely global industry, ensuring decent work for seafarers around the world. Being a convention of great importance, the ‘MLC 2006’ is expected to become ‘the fourth pillar’ of the international regulatory regime for quality shipping. It has to be mentioned that Greece had deposited with the ‘International Labour Office’ the instrument of ratification of the MLC, in January 2013, thus becoming the 32nd ILO member-State and the 10th EU member-State to have ratified this Convention.

The Greek State is among those States which have ratified all four Conventions, as already described above, while due to its compliance with their regulations, it is classified among the registers with the highest quality indices. To this end, Greece is assessed by the IMO as properly implementing the STCW Convention, thus included in the so-called ‘White List’. It has to be mentioned that a State-Party that is on this list may, as a matter of policy not to accept seafarers with certificates issued by non ‘White List-countries’ for service on its ships. In addition, Greece is included in the ‘US Coast Guard’ list of ‘Fully Qualified Flag Administrations that participate in the ‘Qualship 21program’, an initiative which introduced a system of quality valuation and incentive provision for foreign-flagged ships sailing to ports in the United States. Due to this inclusion, Greek-flagged ships enjoy a series of privileges, such as a reduced number of ‘Port State Control inspections’ and the supply of quality certificates.

It is obvious that compliance with the regulations of those Conventions has helped significantly to the fact that nowadays Greece has succeeded to conserve and further strengthen the power of its fleet, achieving to own a ‘leading merchant fleet in crisis’. Since quality shipping, apart from the above, means also high commercial competitiveness, it is worthy to mention that Greek-owned fleet, in 2012, accounted for 738 ships flying the national flag, including those registered in second registers and for 2.583 ships flying foreign flags, ranking 4th in the top country merchant fleets. Its transporting capability is estimated to 224.051.881dwt tonnage, ranking 1st in the world, covering the 16,10% of the world transportation needs. 

Charris Chryssanthakopoulos, MA International Maritime Policy


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