What is PSSA, are we required to deviate our course from it?

IMO defines PSSA as

Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) is an area that needs special protection through action by IMO because of its significance for recognized ecological or socio-economic or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities.

IMO has set the criteria for designation of an area as PSSA.

A flag state that feels that any of its areas meets any of the requirements for designation of PSSA can submit the request with the IMO.

If the IMO designate this area as PSSA, there are one of these measures that will be implemented.

  • The area may be adopted as a special area under Marpol Annex I, II, V or VI.
  • The designated PSSA may be marked as the "Area to be avoided" or routing measures may be implemented.

The IMO will have the details of the measures included on the charts and other relevant nautical publications.

Now coming to the 2nd part of the question. Do we need to avoid "PSSA"?

No. Not always. We just need to follow what measures PSSA has implemented to protect the area. If it has designated an "area to be avoided", we need to make sure that we do not sail in these areas.

If the PSSA requires that a reporting system need to be followed for passing the PSSA, we must follow these reporting requirements.

If the PSSA requires that vessel can only pass the PSSA through the designated TSS for the area, we must keep the vessel in the TSS and follow the TSS.

The whole idea is to follow the measures adopted by the IMO for that particular PSSA. It is not necessary that these measures would always mean that International shipping cannot use these areas.