Flag state performance and the implementation of port state control in the European Union - A mixed methods approach

Armando Graziano, World Maritime University


The implementation and enforcement of international maritime safety standards by Member States has always represented a key objective for both the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the European Commission (EC). In spite of a strong global legal framework for safety at sea, harmonisation has always been a challenge. Two points are relevant here: firstly, the level of implementation and enforcement with international regulations varies significantly among countries; secondly, it is a challenge to determine and/or quantify this level of compliance.

Several attempts have been made by the maritime industry, academic studies and policy-makers to develop an appropriate set of criteria and/or measurements to benchmark the performance of Flag States. Currently, the White, Grey and Black list (WGB) list of the Tokyo and Paris Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control are the most widely used indicators. While the list was initially developed solely for targeting purposes, it has been recently criticised in recent academic publications and by the industry for being unsuitable to benchmarking Flag States with a small fleet and to be susceptible to a lack of harmonisation. Moreover, the author argues that, given the way the list has been used, it reduces the overall concept of Flag State Performance (FSP) to an overly simplified detention/inspection ratio.

This dissertation begins with an investigation and examination of Flag State Performance by looking into its underlying concept and connected components. The main aim is to contribute to the general knowledge on the performance of complex systems according to policymakers. Subsequently, this dissertation makes an assessment of an inspection’s results as a tool to evaluate the performance, shortcomings and benefits of the complex system under examination. Four research questions have therefore been formulated:

(1) What is Flag State Performance?

(2) What are the contemporary issues of Port State Control (PSC)?

(3) How do discrepancies in the Port State Control regime affect the inspection output?

(4) To what extent is Port State Control a suitable instrument to measure Flag State Performance?

The dissertation is divided into two main parts. Part I presents the main research questions, the methodological and theoretical discussion, the main findings; and a round-up discussion. Part II contains the four research papers based on data gathered throughout the study.