Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)



  60. I say that not from the point of view of catching fishermen out or anything because they actually say that safety is obviously to them a matter of life and death and they want to see these improvements as well. Let me move on to what I will call management issues as opposed to hardware issues. What about feedback from the port operators once a survey has been carried out and inspection has been carried out. What facility will there be for them to feed back into the system their view?
  (Mr Storey) This year, following on the tracking study we did with the fishing industry, we have appointed a company to look at customer feedback. We did six coastguard stations last year, we are doing all the coastguard stations this year and then we will go on a bi-annual basis thereafter. Because this report has just been produced, and it has communication with the ship owners and the users of the service, we would intend in the next financial year—2002-03—to do our own survey of our customers to see what their feedback is on us and then roll it on a bi-annual basis thereafter.

  61. I could be cruel and say if you want to do Tynemouth Coastguard you had better hurry up but I will move on. No aid memoirs for staff in the past so how do you know there is a consistency throughout the surveying and inspection they are carrying out?
  (Mr Storey) The surveyors have what they call an instruction to surveyors available which should give them the guidance as needed to carry out various inspections and surveys on particular ships. With this new database we will be looking to provide that electronically and ensure that it is up to date on a regular basis. We have specialists in specific areas that can input into that data.

  62. What about follow up once a survey or an inspection has come up with problems, what then happens?
  (Mr Storey) If it is a UK ship, of course, when you carry out your survey, the survey usually takes place in dry dock over a specific period and the surveyor may go back to the ship on a number of occasions during that dry dock period. At the end of a survey, particularly on a Class II passenger vessel, he would be there at the end of the survey to see the ship is reinstituted into service with the necessary safety drills and everything and is checked out before it is given its final certificate.

  63. I mentioned earlier about the information that you might want from ports about vessels arriving and departing. What about the information you give to ports on the back of inspections and surveys and particularly any problems that you find?
  (Mr Storey) We did discuss that with the ports industry a couple of weeks ago and I undertook to feed back to them anything that they give to us as to what happens because it is in their interests. It has not happened but it will happen in the future.

  64. If you find a problem with a vessel then you will inform the port?
  (Mr Storey) We will do so, yes.

  65. Only one in six officers routinely record information on potentially dangerous vessels says the report. What are you going to do about that?
  (Mr Storey) That is a failing in the organisation and we will ensure that all officers do take down this information and make it available. It will go with the new central database.

  66. Only one in ten of UK detentions are publicised, far lower proportion than foreign vessels. Some people have this idea that anything which is foreign they do not do things quite as tightly as we do, whatever. I am not at all sure that is the case. We are not publicising what the problem is with UK vessels, are we?
  (Mr Storey) No.

  67. Where is the deterrent?
  (Mr Storey) We publish on a monthly basis the detentions on foreign ships visiting the UK. All other memorandum of group countries that do Port State Control likewise publish foreign ships in their area. So if there are British ships, for example, going to Australia or Japan or whatever they will be picked up and likewise they will be published by the Australian MOU, Far Eastern MOU and the Caribbean MOU so it would pick up foreign ships abroad. As far as our own ships in this country are concerned, if there is anything serious that needs to be done we are looking at publicising that if it is a repeat situation in this country. Most of the ships that we deal with when they come to our shores are either doing a survey or an inspection where you would do normal survey work and that would not be a detention because a ship is voluntarily doing work.

  68. Mr Steinberg I think mentioned the idea that some surveys and inspections might be chosen because it is easier to do that than pick on some of the other vessels. I just want to take up that point if I may. 20 per cent of surveyors in charge say they do not go out on unaccompanied surveys. How do they know the people who do go out and do the surveys are doing what the Agency requires them to do and are not choosing their targets for an easy life?
  (Mr Storey) I believe that all our surveyors are well trained, good surveyors. They know exactly what they are doing and the guidelines that they have got for inspections allow them to do that. However, we will be taking this into account and putting a peer review system in in this next year where we will be doing some spot checks on ensuring that surveyors are doing what is required of them.

Mr Leigh

  69. There has been a lot of publicity in recent years about some of our fishing quotas being bought by the Spanish fishing vessels. Are you generally satisfied with the safety on the Spanish fishing vessels? Is it the same or better or worse than British fishing vessels?
  (Mr Storey) It has given us some concern. We had a meeting about six weeks ago with the Spanish administration, our equivalent, because likewise they were concerned about Spanish people losing their lives on what were Anglo-Spanish vessels. We are just in the throes of setting up a new system for inspection of these vessels in Spain. Invariably those vessels go back to Spain when they fish because they are Spanish owned but British registered and we are going to work with the Spanish administration to see if we can tighten up on the safety. Where we inspect these vessels, if we get the opportunity in the UK, we have detained them and we have removed crew off but, of course, you do that detention or stoppage, give them the instruction, they do what you ask them to do, for example maybe change some of the crew for better quality people, you leave the ship, it goes to sea and then they drop off around the corner and maybe drop someone off. You cannot watch them 24 hours a day seven days a week but we are trying to tighten the net with our Spanish counterparts.

  70. From what you said you feel that there is a problem, the safety is perhaps less of a concern on Spanish vessels than the British vessels, is that what you are saying?
  (Mr Storey) I think there have been problems on some of the vessels. I would not say it is less of a concern because the Spanish authorities are very concerned that they have a high standard also.

  71. Sometimes there has been criticism of Spanish inspection routines, not just in this industry but in other industries as well. Are you satisfied that your equivalent in the Spanish authorities is as good and as conscientious as you are and has the authority and the manpower and the resources to deal with this problem because clearly they are best equipped to deal with it? Do they have a motive as well?
  (Mr Storey) I think in the meeting we had with the head of the administration and the commitment that he has made, he wants to see that things are done correctly. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We are starting to work together to achieve this and when we look at a vessel that they have looked at on our behalf we will soon see whether the standard is acceptable.

  72. I know you have been asked before but I still do not understand this paragraph 2.39 about "Five out of thirteen surveyors we interviewed told us that they sometimes selected foreign ships simply to meet their marine offices' targets." Perhaps I have not understood something that I should have understood. How does this way of doing things come about?
  (Mr Storey) It should not come about. The procedure is quite simple. They should look at any ships that are coming into their area, they should look at the Paris MOU database and make the selection in discussion with their team leader at the particular office. They should not be looking for the easy ones. I am not saying that maybe it has not happened, it may be an individual's opinion and I am disappointed to read it and we will be doing something about it.

  73. Just help me again, I am not quite clear what this means, the "easy" ones. You are sitting there doing your job and you are working out how you are going to meet your target and it is always a problem in the modern world in the public sector, is it not, that previously people just did their job professionally but now they all have to meet these targets and it can distort the way they do their job. That is what worries me.
  (Mr Storey) The procedure in targeting a vessel, if you go to the Paris MOU database, which is called SIRENAC, it allows you to look at a particular vessel that may be visiting your port and the vessel has points awarded against it. Those points can be for flag, for previous detentions, problems with the ship or the crew or whatever.

  74. It is like form really if you are going racing, they have got their previous form and you can just work out who is likely to be the biggest offender?
  (Mr Storey) I am certainly not a racing man so I do not know how it works that way but it sounds like the same. Basically you look at the previous record and you make your action on the record. There are four levels of port state inspection, it goes from zero, low, medium and high. It depends on where the points fall within that framework as to what level the ship falls into.

  75. So it is not necessarily a bad system, your people are not necessarily going after the easy targets, but there may be easier targets in that they are more likely to offend and they are going after them primarily because they have got a previous record of non-compliance.
  (Mr Storey) In principle, yes. I think the ships that we target in the UK, the majority, are because they have got a bad record previously.

  76. I know you have been asked about this paragraph 2.47 but it still worries me. "Surveyors' normal work patterns follow typical working hours... they rarely inspect ships on a Saturday or Sunday." You do not think this matters too much? I think you answered previously and said that nobody deliberately seeks to land on a Saturday or Sunday because they have to pay higher charges. The fact that your people are working mainly office hours is not a problem, is it?
  (Mr Storey) No. We have a standby surveyor available in every area at weekends who is on call when the office is closed. The office is normal working hours but the surveyors are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ships are in dry dock sometimes and surveyors are there during the night doing surveys.

  77. I know that people are on call but still the fact of the matter is that you are far more likely to be inspected during the week than at the weekend, that is true, is it not?
  (Mr Storey) It is, yes, of course.

  78. Paragraph 2.46: "some operators tried to avoid inspection in the UK by using remote ports..." and "surveyors seldom visited some ports, such as Harwich, Newhaven and Ramsgate, despite their handling of large volumes of traffic." Perhaps you feel you have answered this point but it rather worries me that there appears to be this discrepancy in how you are managing your workload.
  (Mr Storey) I think the target factor is the factor that indicates which ship you should tackle and if there was a bad ship coming into the port at Harwich, for example, it would be tackled. Knowing from my previous experience of the customers coming to Harwich that is probably why it has not been tackled, because the record of ships coming in is pretty good, they are common known ships, regular traders there and we do see them from time to time, some of them are British. If a bad targeted ship came up on the database and it was coming into that port it would be tackled.

  79. So there are some ports, such as, say, Ramsgate, where generally for some reason they just do not have the bad boys using them, is that right?
  (Mr Storey) I assume there is nothing bad that has come up at Ramsgate that has warranted a visit.


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