Better port state control could benefit the environment

How does port state controls affect the environmental impact of shipping? Can they be improved and in the long term give Swedish shipping companies a competitive advantage? This is investigated in a pre-study conducted within the framework of the Swedish Transport Administration's industry programme Sustainable Shipping, operated by Lighthouse


Inspection of foreign vessels is carried out through so-called port state control. Within the EU, all countries are connected through the Paris Memorandum of Understanding Port State Control (Paris Mou) and the data from the controls are also collected in a common base. These are used to classify flag states according to the three-class system; white, gray and black – where the black list shows states whose vessels have been most frequently seized for failure to carry out the inspections. But what does this really mean for the marine environment? Ida-Maja Hassellöv, a researcher at Chalmers, says that the port state controls are in strict accordance with the IMO Marine Pollution Convention, which is the regulatory framework governing shipping emissions.

”The problem is that it regulates one vessel and one emission system at a time. From a marine environment perspective, it is relevant to combine all sources of impact. For example, copper can leak from antifouling paint, but also from scrubbers and from cooling water. We want to try to find the connections between these to determine the total impact from all vessels in one area.”

She has been involved in this kind of research before. The results of the EU BONUS SHEBA project (Sustainable shipping and the environment of the Baltic Sea region) were published in 2019.

”We modulated the impact of shipping in the Baltic Sea, but with the assumption that all vessels follow the regulations. It is very difficult to estimate how many vessels that do not. Now we hope to be able to use figures from the port state controls to get an idea of how common it is.”

After obtaining AIS data from port state inspections within Paris Mou, various types of remarks that vessels have received are currently being reviewed.
”We try to categorize and find the remarks that in some way affect the marine environment. Most do not, as it is primarily safety issues that the controls focus on.”

Hopefully, this will provide enough evidence to modulate vessels that do not meet the standards and make comparisons with AIS data from previous studies in the Baltic Sea area.

”By focusing on these issues, hopefully in the long term we can get more environmental aspects among the parameters used in port state controls. It could benefit Swedish shipowners, give them a competitive advantage”, Ida-Maja Hassellöv says.

No ready-made tool will be developed in the short time the preliminary study is in progress, but Ida-Maja Hassellöv sees great potential for further development. Paris MOU is a regional organization of 27 member countries, but there are several counterparts around the world, such as Tokyo MOU, Indian Ocean MOU and Mediterranean MOU.

”At present, they have no data exchange with each other. In the longer term, research could stimulate an exchange between these organizations”, Ida Hassellöv, who coordinates the feasibility study together with Eva-Lotta Sundblad at the Marine Environment Institute, says.

The project also includes Linnaeus University, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management and the Swedish Transport Agency.

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