In 2001 the U.S. Coast Guard launched a program intended to reward operators of quality ships. Aimed at non-US-registered vessels that visit U.S. ports, Qualship 21, as the program is named, promised reductions in Port State Control examinations and streamlined inspection procedures to vessels meeting its criteria. A similar program is being considered for US. registered vessels.

In the past, the Coast Guard had aggressively enforced safety standards, putting the primary focus on identifying poor quality vessels. This policy has paid off and the quality of vessels visiting U.S. ports has improved.

Hundreds of vessels are typically found with few or no deficiencies. Qualship 21 is intended to reward these high quality ships and provide an incentive to others to improve.
Qualship 21 criteria, vessels must:

  • Be non-U.S.-flagged
  • Have no substandard vessel detentions in the U.S. within previous 36 months
  • Have no marine violations or serious marine casualties and no more than one ticket in the U.S. within the previous 36 months
  • Must have had a successful port state control exam within the previous 12 months
  • Must not be owned or operated by a company that has been associated with any port state control detention within U.S. waters within the previous 24 months
  • Must not be classed by nor have statutory convention certificate issued by a targeted classification society
  • Must not be registered with a flag state that has a detention rate more than one-third that of the overall U.S. detention ratio; the vessel’s flag state must have had at least 10 distinct arrivals in the U.S. in each of the previous three years; the flag state must have submitted its self-assessment of flag state performance to IMO and provided a copy to the U.S. Coast Guard

There are a number of incentives for Qualship 21 vessels. All vessels in the program will receive a Qualship 21 certificate and be listed on the Coast Guard’s port state control website.

Qualships 21 tankers’ U.S. certificates of compliance will be valid for two years, giving tanker owners more flexibility, and a less thorough mid-period exam will replace the annual tank ship exam.

Qualship 21 freight ships will receive two years of limited port state control oversight.

Qualship 21 passenger vessels will be cut no breaks on port state control exams, but will receive Qualship 21 certificates and recognition on the Qualship 21 web page.

Owners need not apply for Qualship 21 recognition. The Coast Guard is compiling its own list of eligible vessels and will notify owners of the initiative and their opportunity to participate. Owners who believe that they have vessels eligible to participate, but do not see them listed on the Qualship 21 webpage when it is posted in March 2001, should notify the US Coast Guard.

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