Amendments to the Turkish Ports Regulation ("Regulation") have been published in the Official Gazette on 24 September 2019. Even though several important amendments were made in the Regulation, two stand out.
The amended Article 24 of the Regulation requires interests of vessels and shore facilities to immediately report by VHF and other appropriate means of communication to the Harbour Master's Office ("HMO") any marine accidents, marine pollution, major machinery failures, matters that pose a risk to navigational safety and crimes committed on-board. The previous version of the Regulation allowed a period of 3 hours to vessel/shore facility interests to report incidents to the HMO.
It is important to note that in addition to the said immediate reporting, vessels and shore facilities must also present an incident report in writing to the HMO within 24 hours of the incident.
Another significant amendment was made in respect of the HMO's duties and authority in relation to ordering salvage services to be rendered to vessels in distress. The previous version of the Regulation stipulated that in cases of emergency such as grounding or drifting, the HMO was authorized to order the commencement of salvage services only if the vessel interests did not make such request within 72 hours.
After the amendment, the HMO must commence salvage operations immediately if situations such as "drifting, grounding, fire, collision, sinking" poses a danger to navigational safety and to the safety of life, property or the environment. Therefore, if the HMO considers that such conditions exist, a salvage operation will be commenced regardless of whether required by vessel interests. In other cases though the 72-hour rule will continue to apply, i.e. the HMO will only order the commencement of salvage operations if the vessel interests do not make a request within 72 hours.
This amendment constitues a significant increase in the HMO's s authority in relation to ordering compulsory salvage services to vessels in distress and will inevitably cause friction between vessel interests and the authorities/salvors. It is crucial to consult legal experts as soon as an incident occurs in Turkish waters.