Strategic Performance Agreements (SPAs) in SOLAS: A Comprehensive Guide

The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is an international treaty that sets the standards for ship safety, including construction, equipment, and operation. SOLAS is crucial for ensuring the safety of people at sea and the protection of the marine environment. However, compliance with SOLAS requirements can be demanding for ship operators, and non-compliance can result in heavy fines or even vessel detention.

To facilitate compliance with SOLAS requirements, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced Strategic Performance Agreements (SPAs) in 2016. SPAs are a voluntary agreement between a shipowner/operator and a recognized organization (RO), where the operator commits to meeting specific performance targets related to safety, security, and environmental protection. In return, the RO provides enhanced services and support, including extended validity of relevant certificates, reduced frequency of inspections, and prioritized attendance in case of emergencies.

If you are operating a vessel subject to SOLAS requirements and are considering entering into an SPA, here are some essential things you need to know:

1. Eligibility

To be eligible for an SPA, your ship must be less than 12 years old, have no history of major safety or environmental incidents, and be managed by a Company with a valid Safety Management System (SMS) certified under the International Safety Management (ISM) Code.

2. Content of the SPA

The SPA should cover performance indicators related to safety, security, and environmental protection, such as:

– The percentage of deficiencies identified during PSC inspections

– The percentage of non-conformities identified during ISM/ISPS audits

– The amount of time the vessel spends in port for cargo handling operations

– The quantity of waste generated and disposed of on-board

– The number of crew injuries and incidents

The SPA should also include a detailed action plan for achieving the performance targets, as well as a monitoring and reporting mechanism.

3. Benefits of an SPA

Entering into an SPA can bring several benefits to ship operators, including:

– Reduced inspection frequency and enhanced RO support

– Increased operational efficiency and cost savings

– Improved safety and environmental performance, leading to a better reputation and reduced insurance premiums

4. Risks of an SPA

Entering into an SPA also involves some risks that operators should consider, such as:

– Failing to achieve the performance targets, leading to financial penalties or termination of the SPA

– Increased scrutiny by port state authorities and other stakeholders, who may view the SPA as a tool to bypass mandatory inspections or standards

– A possible reduction in flexibility and control over operations, as the SPA may require specific procedures or equipment to be implemented.

In conclusion, Strategic Performance Agreements can be a useful tool for ship operators to improve compliance with SOLAS requirements and enhance safety, security, and environmental performance. However, operators should carefully evaluate the eligibility criteria, content, and risks associated with SPAs before entering into them. They should also ensure that the SPA is aligned with their overall business strategy and objectives.