Dominican Maritime Law project

Proyecto de Ley de Comercio Maritimo Dominicano

 The purpose of this paper is to give my reflection on the sections of this law affecting the operational aspects, specifically title I to IV

Reading the concept law three main issues are raising questions;

 The first question is, why the execution of a commercial law will be brought under the responsibility of the ministry of defense?

 The second question is, why nowhere reference has been made to existing international regulations, except for the introduction?

 The third question, strongly related to the second question, is, why there are so many open ends while reference to existing international regulations would dramatically increase the quality of this law?

 Ad 1) The complete execution of the law is delegated to the Armada which is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense. Since this law is affecting commercial shipping, shouldn’t it be more logic to have the execution of the law under the responsibility of the Ministerio de Industria, Comercio y MiPYMES? Of course there will be presently be little maritime experience amongst the staff of this ministry but I can imagine that different ministries can share staff and herewith experience. The knowledge of commercial shipping within the Armada most likely will be challenged as well.

 Ad 2) The Dominican Republic is member of the IMO since 1953 and herewith endorsed Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) as well as the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement on Ships of 1969. The Dominican Republic is member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and has herewith endorsed the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

 The law, in its definitions and in various paragraphs is referring to Gross Register Ton (GRT) and Net Register Ton (NRT). Within the IMO it has been agreed that vessels built after 18 July 1982 will be measured in Gross Ton (GT) and Net Ton (NT), which is different from Gross Register Ton and Net Register Ton. In contrary to what is mentioned in the definitions, GRT as well as GT both are used in the law.

In general, vessels over 500GT are being constructed and maintained to Classification Society regulations standards, which involve the construction, the materials and equipment used, watertight integrity, stability and such. All safety related issues are being determined by the Flag State which is the country where the vessel is registered.

 The IMO have made regulations for the safety of vessels, described under SOLAS, which is internationally applicable to vessels of 500 GT and over, and which have the capacity to carry more than 12 passengers. SOLAS is being enforced by the Flag State and regularly inspected by Port State Control (PSC) in foreign countries. A vessel not complying to SOLAS will be detained in a foreign port.

 The law makes difference between vessels of 500 GRT (not GT) and more and smaller vessels. Despite not mentioned in the law, a vessel of less than 500 GT with capacity for more than 12 passengers must comply to SOLAS when trading international. The law, by times is mentioning more than 11 passengers and more than 12 passengers, which can be considered as confusing.

 The law mentions that the Armada will determine (?) to which regulations a vessel must comply to in order to be registered under Dominican Flag, no reference to SOLAS is made.

 According to the law, the Armada will issue two certificates, the Certificate of Registration (Matricula) and Patente de Navigacion. Normally a Flag State issues, amongst others, the following certificates; Safety Construction, Safety Equipment, Safety Radio, Ship Radio Station License, Tonnage Certificate.

 In case of a new built vessel, according to the law, the building yard and the naval architect need to be approved by the Armada. Drawing approval is not mentioned. Normal practice and international accepted is that a vessel is being built under a Classification Society its approval. After completion of the vessel the Classification Society issues a Certificate of Class (amongst others) which means that the vessel has been constructed according to the standards of the Classification Society.

 A vessel is considered to be completed after construction and seaworthy when the Classification Certificate has been issued. The law mentions the yard certificate as indication of completion, which has no international status.

 As the law is written now, it is uncertain to a ship owner to which regulations his vessel must comply.

 As mentioned earlier, the Dominican Republic is a member of the ILO. Crew working and rest hours, living and working circumstances, minimum age and such are regulated by the ILO within the MLC. The law chooses to refer to the Codigo de Trabajo (article 207) in relation to working circumstances related issues which are not the international standard and will not be accepted in international traffic.

 The certification requirements for crew are internationally regulated within the STCW 95 which stands for Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, which was adopted in 1978 by, again, the IMO. The law states that the Armada will set the standards for certification of crew and captain, no reference is made to the STCW 95.

 Besides the above mentioned, there are several regulations which can be subject to confusion or being very impractical.

 Article 211, a vessel needs to use tugboats when it is above 400 GRT (Not GT) but needs a pilot when it is more than 300 GT (Not GRT) (article 209) while these are still below GRT 500 and considered as a small vessel.

 Article 205 states that Radio Certificates are issued by the “autoridades competentes” but not mentioning who these are.

 Article 198 states that the first officer “le corresponde distribuir el trabajo entre él y los demás oficiales, así como dirigir las tareas de todo el personal a bordo” But articulo 203 states “los oficiales de máquinas estarán a las órdenes de jefe de máquinas”

 According to Article 78, the captain has to get approval from the Armada prior to every departure from a port.

 Article 45, listing the required documents for obtaining the Patente de Navigacion. Under d) it states “Cualquier otro requisito que establezca la Armada de República Dominicana” A law should be clear and not leaving open ends, at least if the aim is to have vessels registered under the Dominican Flag

 Article 37 mentions “los documentos técnicos de seguridad” but these are nowhere specified so no one knows what these are.

 Article 30 states the requirements for “Solicitud del registro provisional” It might be advisable to add to have a vessel inspected prior to registration to see if it complies to the Flag its requirements.

 A vessel can be registered as the property of a natural person, article 25 is describing “Copropiedad de una nave marítima” which cannot be applied in case of a natural person.

 Article 9 indicates that a vessel can only be permanently registered when it is in a Dominican port, this might conflict with the international character of the maritime world and will be seen as a handicap by shipowners.

 Article 5 states that a ship’s name should be “único, no puede coincidir ni literal ni fonéticamente con el de otra naveexistente o en construcción” With a world fleet of over 62,000 vessels in 2020 it will be a serious challenge to find a name.

 A law, in my opinion, should be a clear reference. Despite all Convenios Internacionales mentioned in the law, the law makers apparently decided to ignore these. It is concerning that the law, as per article 1 “tiene por objeto regular, dentro del territorio de la República Dominicana, los hechos y relaciones jurídicas relativas a las naves marítimas nacionales y extranjeras” and is therefore affecting foreign vessel which should only need comply to international regulations regarding safety, construction and labour matters, not to local laws.

 A lot of work has been done over the past years to get this law this far but the input from a wider expertise could have been helpful to have it improved to a higher standard. The present omissions as described in this paper will not contribute to attracting ship owners to have a vessel registered under the flag of the Dominican Republic.

 Hans de Koning MBA AFNI

Flag state surveyor

The future of Marine Surveying

The future of Marine Surveying

 The marine surveying business always has been very traditional. A large number of surveyors work alone or in small business, they go to a vessel and write a report about their findings. Every surveyor company has his or her own reporting format and expertise. As experienced during the 2020 Covid pandemic, travel restrictions are increasing the need for, and development of, modern techniques, like remote surveying. Just recently, techniques like ballast tank inspections by Remote Operated Vehicle, digital reporting, and certification have been introduced by classification societies and flag states. Given the most recent developments it can be expected that the sector is finally to develop from very traditional to most likely, web-based platforms like Uber or Airbnb with more standardized service and remote data collection. Technology developments could change the role and importance of the Marine Surveyor if anticipated upon.

 Below I will discuss the several factors that will influence the future of Marine Surveying and create new opportunities.

Improvement of Remote Surveying

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in 2020, travel became more complicated and to many locations impossible. On the first instance, attendance to the vessel by superintendents and classification or flag state surveyors was postponed, and temporarily certificates were being issued. On case-to-case bases, local surveyors are being appointed to substitute for superintendents. ISM audits and later flag state and classification surveys were being conducted remotely with crew members taking pictures or videos from the subject items. However more structural and generally accepted methods and protocols for remote surveying are needed.

 Autonomous vessels

 The maritime world is moving towards autonomous or semi-autonomous vessels. Internet of Things (IoT) applications will become more common in ship management data supply, and crew interference will be reduced over time. In case vessels have less to no crew, alternative sources for data collection and on-board handling formerly done by crew will be needed, and local surveyors may play a role to fill this gap.

 According to Kretschmann et al. (2017) in their article “Analysing the economic benefit of unmanned autonomous ships: “An exploratory cost-comparison between an autonomous and a conventional bulk carrier” the difference in cost of owning and operating an unmanned bulk carrier over 25 years accumulate to a USD 4.3 million below the costs for a conventional bulk carrier. A crew of 9 is considered to board prior to arriving in port to conduct the ship handling, mooring and cargo operations.

 Developments in scale

 There is a tendency of a few marine surveying companies providing services worldwide by having a network of local surveyors. For example, Sinotech states at their website that they cover 55% of the Shipping Asset Condition and Risk Assessment Services in Asia

 Idwal Marine started with condition surveys in 2010 and developed a global network of 360 surveyors conducting around 1.000 inspections in 2018, which has developed to close to 2.000 inspections in 2020 (accessed 4 January 2021)

 Inchcape, a shipping agency, is offering a single point of contact for a worldwide marine surveying network (accessed 4 January 2021)

 BMT is claiming to serve more than 250 ports with a network of over 500 surveyors and specialised in, amongst others, Audits and Inspections, Marine casualty and claims investigations.

 The larger the company, the larger the budget for product and technology development as well as for sales and marketing. Simply saying, a company selling the production of 300 surveyors has, in general, more considerable financial means than a company with three surveyors. The result of this will be that the market will be divided into small companies providing services for larger companies and the same larger companies which will determine price, technology, and quality.

Client requirements

For my MBA dissertation research, I have interviewed a group of typical Surveyor’s clients.

1) Insurance, Claims Division Managers, Claim Handlers, Correspondence Managers or Loss Prevention Managers with Hull and Machinery (H&M) or P&I insurers.

  • 2) Fleet Managers and Superintendents of Shipmanagement companies.

During the interviews, three categories of questions have been asked; Are you happy with the average quality of Marine Surveyors? Would you prefer to work with a single -regional- point of contact instead of maintaining an extensive network? And would remote surveying supported by a local surveyor be an option or solution to be considered?

 Of the H&M and P&I interviewees none is expecting large technology developments in the near future, other than platform-based reporting. They don’t expect a large change in their network and prefer to maintain their own network of local correspondents who are appointing the surveyors. They prefer to work with physical attendance instead of remote techniques. The interviewees indicated that there are large differences in surveying and reporting quality, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. In case of major damages, they prefer to fly in a qualified surveyor from the Northern America or Europe. This is expensive, and several interviewees indicated that a good quality, network of -local- surveyors is considered preferred above flying in surveyors from abroad.

Of the fleet managers and superintendent interviewees, 80% indicated that they are generally satisfied with the surveyors they are working with. The remaining 20% indicated that surveyors and inspections, including those for Classification and Flag, are considered a burden and without any added value.

All fleet managers and superintendent interviewees have experience with remote surveys done by the classification society or flag state. The typical comment is that the classification society charges the same for a remote survey as for a physical inspection, which was considered unfair. The experience of time required for an inspection differs per flag state or Classification Society, but the general observation is that a thorough remote inspection requires more time than a physical inspection. In case the remote inspection was less time consuming it lacked the in-depth quality of a physical inspection. The general conclusion of all interviewees is that matters can be easily overlooked or hidden with a remote inspection.

All interviewees confirmed that accreditation is important for a local surveyor. If a local surveyor has sufficient accreditations, such as ISO certification or membership of an acknowledge association, they will prefer to work with a local surveyor instead of a global operator. In case a single point of contact would cover various ports in a region, this would be preferred. The objection against using a local surveyor is that a local surveyor might have local interests and therefore might not let the client’s interest prevail.

Local surveyors can act on behalf of owners and managers as their local eyes and ears according to all interviewees, although they will not be able to replace all superintendent visits. One of the aspects of a superintendent’s visit is the human aspect and being the link between the ship and shore organisation. This aspect can be partly replaced by video conferencing. Smaller operators prefer physical attendance above video conferencing.

Costs are a concern to all; local surveyor attendance is preferred if cost-effective, preferably cost saving.


 When the world of travel came to an abrupt standstill half of March 2020, my expectation was that it would be a lost year because many inspections were conducted outside of the country. The factor I overlooked was that no one could travel. Not to the country where I am based either. The result was a shift from work abroad to work locally. The same happened with the work I usually did abroad, which now is being done by local surveyors. It is expected that this situation will remain. Clients now have been forced to be more creative with their solutions for attending vessels and realized that these solutions are more economical.

 A contributing factor is the development of remote survey techniques. Although not being very high-tech, a good internet connection is the main requirement, it appeared to be useful although having its negative aspects as well. From the interviews done with ship managers and insurers, the main comments heard was that remote inspections for class or flag are very time consuming, not objective, and often an -additional- burden to the crew. A local surveyor can be of added value to assist during remote inspections.

Physical attendance to vessels remains important for interpersonal contacts and collections of information. Alternatives can be and will be considered to avoid travel and related costs as well as man hours.

From the interviews, we can conclude that local surveyors can contribute to information gathering for ship managers and insurers. This outside of the normal scope of work with the surveyor becoming a local technical representative or observer. The main objection against this is the assumed lack of reliability combined with local interests that are not always in line with the clients’ interests. I have learned from the interviews that the surveying company’s credibility can partly compensate for this objection.

The most considerable change in technology I expect not to be in surveying technics; this will be limited to life video and the use of drones. The most significant change will be coming from the use of technology required for autonomous ships. Currently, autonomous ships are being used in short sea or local operations such as liners between two known ports or ferries since it relies on stable internet connections. As soon as stable internet can be provided globally, the first expected vessels to become globally operational autonomous most likely will be bulk carriers. Autonomous vessels calling ports will need attendance, and on this role, a surveying company could anticipate.

Another significant development will be related to the growth of companies’ scale. The most significant factor in this aspect is the marketing and product development strength of global operating companies. It can be expected that information sharing as well as surveyor selection and appointments will become more and more platform based, comparable the way Airbnb and Uber work already. From the interviews held, it appears that ship managers are more likely to work with a network surveyor than insurance, which is slightly more conservative. Therefore, the biggest competition with the global working surveying companies can be expected in the market of ship managers, operators, and charterers.


Global working companies have a larger market penetration capacity due to their networks and budgets. The interviews and document research carried out are indicating that clients’ demand from the insurance market will not drastically change in the short term. The travel restrictions and technology developments are resulting in increased demand from ship managers and operators for more local based surveyors. The tendency of ship management companies to increase scale and larger companies’ preference to seek larger business partners is evident. The scale increase and travel reduction will lead to the conclusion that a global or regional surveyor’s network with a single point of contact will be of added value to the ship operators and managers market and the insurers market, especially in case of more significant claims. Added value can also be found in interpersonal contact and reduction of costs for travel and manhours. With good marketing, focussed on technology, reputation, and consistent quality, a global or regional operating surveyor’s company can gain market share in the insurance market and ship managers and operator’s market. This improved market position will be advantageous in the long term when the market for autonomous or semi-autonomous vessels will develop.

 Today’s maritime surveying companies will have to make a strategic choice to be a follower or a leader, the Airbnb host or Airbnb. To develop, adapt and anticipate on changing circumstances and technology or be a service provider using the technologies provided by those who developed the platform. Both options are just as good but will need a different focus and business model.