Common reasons for detentions

What are the most common reasons for detentions and what happens after a ship is detained?

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Any-non compliance with rules, regulations, standards and treaties may result in vessel’s detention. These usually fall under the following categories:

  1. Safety deficiencies: Detentions can happen if a vessel is found to have significant safety deficiencies during a port state control inspection: life-saving equipment, firefighting systems, navigational aids, or structural integrity.

  2. Environmental violations: Vessels can be detained if they are found to be in violation of environmental regulations, such as improper disposal of oil, sewage, or garbage. Failure to comply with ballast water management requirements or emissions standards can also lead to detentions.

  3. Documentation and certification issues: Detentions can occur if a vessel does not have the necessary documentation or certificates required for safe operation. These documents may include the ship’s registration, certificates of seaworthiness, crew qualifications, or cargo-related documentation.

  4. Operational and technical deficiencies: Vessels may be detained if they have operational or technical deficiencies that pose a risk to safety or the environment. This could include malfunctioning machinery, inadequate maintenance, or improper cargo securing arrangements.

  5. Crew welfare and labor violations: Detentions can happen if a vessel is found to have violations related to crew welfare and labor conditions. These violations may involve issues such as unpaid wages, excessive working hours, inadequate living conditions, or lack of medical care.

  6. Non-compliance with international regulations: Vessels can be detained if they fail to comply with international regulations and conventions, such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), or the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

Detentions in the maritime industry typically occur due to safety, health, or environmental non-compliance, such as inadequate equipment, unseaworthy conditions, or breach of international maritime conventions. Following a ship’s detention, it undergoes thorough inspections and necessary remedial actions before it can resume its journey. Importantly, detentions can significantly impact the ship’s operational schedule and can lead to reputational damage, legal implications, and financial penalties for the ship owners and operators.

Ships may also be arrested for many financial reasons - for examples if insurance or port payments (through agents) are not made. Obviously, failing to meet mortgage payments can also be a key reason. There are some examples in this link - Ship Arrest - ITIC

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Indeed, detentions can be a lengthy and costly process. After a vessel is detained, deficiencies are listed and must be corrected by the crew under the owner’s direction. Depending on the severity, a ship may be held until all serious deficiencies are addressed.

Once corrected and approved by a follow-up inspection, the detention order is lifted. However, this can lead to more frequent future inspections, substantial costs for rectifying the deficiencies, potential penalties, and possible reputational damage.

Additionally, as @ali-gara1 mentioned, ships can also be arrested for financial reasons such as non-payment of insurance, port charges, or mortgage defaults, which brings legal and financial complications.

The key takeaway is that understanding and complying with regulations are critical to avoid the serious consequences of detentions and arrests in the maritime industry. Prevention is always the best strategy.