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Mumbai: Indian ships could be slotted in a higher risk category by international maritime inspection agencies, as 11 vessels from the country have been detained this year for violating safety and environment standards.

Typically, maritime organizations classify ships from a specific country under three categories—black, grey and white—based on the track record of ships from the country.

Being moved from the so-called safe “white" category to the medium-risk “grey" or high-risk “black" increases the degree of scrutiny, thereby increasing delays and costs for ships.

The detentions could also result in losses of up to $35,000 (around Rs15.30 lakh) per day for a ship, and repeated confinements could result in the vessels being banned from international waters.

“Detentions have serious implications as these agencies will move India into a stricter scrutiny regime," said an executive with maritime regulator Directorate General of Shipping, or DG Shipping, confirming the development.

“For instance, Paris has moved India to a white list, a safe group, from (the) grey list, which is a medium risky group in terms of inspection. But India continues to be in the grey list for other nations," he added, asking not to be identified as he’s not authorized to speak with the media.

“This is an alarming situation," said another person familiar with the development, who didn’t want to be named. “The Directorate General of Shipping has called for an urgent meeting on 4 September with shipping companies."

The 11 ships were detained by inspection agencies known as port state controls, or PSCs, created by nations entering into memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with specific countries to check vessels entering their regions.

The Paris MoU, for instance, comprises 27 maritime administrations and covers the waters of the European coastal states and the North Atlantic basin from North America to Europe. The agencies and the inspection procedures are formed in consultation with the International Maritime Organisation, the global regulatory body.

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In the previous year, seven Indian ships were detained by these agencies for not complying with maritime standards.

Some of the Indian ships detained this year belonged to the country’s largest shipping company state-run Shipping Corp. of India Ltd and India’s largest private shipping company, Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd.

The Paris agency had detained Great Eastern’s vessel Jag Pahel in Spain, while the Tokyo agency had held back vessels of Shipping Corp. of India and Fleet Management Pvt. Ltd. The Indian Ocean agency had detained vessels belonging to Mercator Lines Ltd and Great Eastern.

The other ships were detained by agencies in Iran, China, Spain, Jordan, Korea and the US for reasons ranging from minor defects to more serious faulty mechanisms. The period of the detentions ranged from one day to a week.

S.S. Kulkarni, secretary general of the Indian National Shipowners’ Association, said there were allegations that most of the detentions were based on minor defaults. For instance, one of detentions this year was for not placing a sticker of the previous inspection, he added.

“One of the deficiencies reported was not very major and, therefore, sorted out immediately. In another case, the company believed the deficiency did not warrant a detention...and has appealed via the Indian (government) flag administration, which has supported the company," said Anjali Kumar, a spokeswoman for Great Eastern Shipping. “In both cases, the ships sailed out as per schedule and there was no loss of trading hours."

The same DG Shipping executive mentioned earlier admitted that some of the detentions were based on “flimsy reasons," but added that Indian shipowners have made serious defaults in the past.

Ajoy Chatterjee, chief surveyor with the Indian government and additional director general (engineering), also said some of the detentions were wrong.

“Therefore, we are taking up this matter with respective administrations to sort out issues," he said, without disclosing details on the vessels.

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