Maritime Knowledge

Any idea what GMDSS stands for?

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What would happen if, in the 18th century, an emergency took place aboard a ship? The Sailors would possibly send Morse code to the coast or nearby ships to show some kind of distress. Such a message is not easy to decode, as you can imagine modern shipping has to count on the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). Let’s take a look at its history and how it works.

The history of GMDSS

About 30 years after the first ever communications satellite was put into orbit, GMDSS rolled out in 1992. Despite not entirely replacing radio, GMDSS attempted to put satellite technology at the heart of safety communications system for maritime.

GMDSS is now an international system which uses land-based and satellite technology, aiming to ensure rapid, automated, alerting of shore based communication and rescue authorities, in addition to ships in the immediate vicinity, in the event of a marine distress.

It was adopted by the IMO in 1988 and entered into force on 1 February 1992 with a phase-in period extending until 1 February 1999. As the phase-in period has now passed, all ships are now subject to the full GMDSS carriage and maintenance requirements.

GMDSS and its uses

Under GMDSS, all ocean-going passenger ships and cargo ships of 300 GRT and above conducting international voyages must be equipped with radio equipment that complies with international standards. It includes 5 key elements:

  1. INMARSAT: A Satellite operated system that includes ship earth station terminals. It provides telex, telephone and data transfer services between ship-to-ship, ship to shore, and shore to ship along.
  2. NAVTEX: An internationally adopted automated system which is used to distribute maritime safety information, and includes weather forecasts and warnings, navigational warnings, search and rescue notices and other similar safety information.
  3. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB): An equipment to help determine the position of survivors during a SAR operation.
  4. Search and Rescue Locating Equipment: This is used to home Search and Rescue units to the position of distress which transmits upon interrogation.
  5. Digital Selective Calling (DSC): A calling service between ship to ship, ship to shore or vice versa for safety and distress information.

For the purpose of GMDSS, four operational zones have been identified, based on distance from shore and in range of different communication systems.

  1. SEA AREA A1: The area within the radiotelephone coverage of at least one VHF coast station in which continuous DSC (Digital Selective Calling) alerting is available;
  2. SEA AREA A2: The area, excluding Sea Area A1, within the radiotelephone coverage of at least one MF coast station in which continuous DSC (Digital Selective Calling) alerting is available;
  3. SEA AREA A3: The area, excluding Sea Areas A1 and A2, within the coverage of an Inmarsat geostationary satellite in which continuous alerting is available;
  4. SEA AREA A4: An area outside sea areas A1, A2 and A3.

These areas mean that ships operating exclusively within about 35 nautical miles from the shore may be able to carry only equipment for VHF-DSC communications. Ships that go beyond this distance, up to about 150 to 400 nautical miles from shore, should carry both VHF-DSC and MF-DSC equipment, while those operating further from the shore but within the footprints of the Inmarsat satellites should also carry approved Inmarsat terminal(s).

At the beginning of GMDSS, Inmarsat C was the preferred option and minimum requirement where satellite services were mandated. Currently, compliant services include Inmarsat B, Inmarsat C, Mini C and Fleet 77.

GMDSS availability

Operators should bare in mind that GMDSS regulations define three methods of ensuring availability of GMDSS equipment at sea:

  1. At sea electronic maintenance, requiring the carriage of a qualified radio/electronic officer (holding a GMDSS First or Second class Radio-Electronics Certificate) and adequate spares and manuals;
  2. Duplication of certain equipment;
  3. Shore based maintenance.

Ships on voyages in sea areas A1 and A2 must use at least one of these three maintenance methods, or a combination as may be approved by their administration.

Ships conducting operations on voyages in sea areas A3 and A4 must use at least two of the methods outlined . The lower requirement for A1 and A2 areas recognises that being closer to shore, ships will have more opportunity to address problems.

However, the vast majority of ships do not choose sea maintenance, as they prefer to duplicate the equipment and use shore based maintenance (for A3 ships), or use shore based maintenance only (A1 and A2 ships).

GMDSS training

The right handling of GMDSS equipment requires certified training. Namely, the General Operators Certificate (GOC) is obligatory in order for an officer to handle GMDSS equipment onboard the ship.

To obtain this GOC, operators attend a short course, which is then followed by an exam. This training regards Cadets who must be licensed Radio Operators, before operating all the equipment in tandem with the regulations laid out for GMDSS.

As for the GMDSS training, it lasts about 12 days. Over the period of the training, the officer is taught about the various aspects of GMDSS ranging from Radio Log to sending INMARSAT messages and many other aspects which will be required.

Review of GMDSS

A comprehensive review of GMDSS started in 2012. In March 2016, at the Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue sub-committee’s third meeting (NCSR3), it was suggested that an agreed two-year modernisation plan should start. The plan would end in 2018, however the review will require changes to Chapters VI and V of SOLAS. This means that more time will be needed, and the plan is expected to be completed in 2024.

Recently, the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), 7th session, concluded on January 24, and decided on many important issues, including the modernization of GMDSS.

During the session, the Sub-Committee continued reviewing the GMDSS requirements, aiming to enable the use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS, while removing requirements to carry obsolete systems.

Moreover, the meeting saw progress on revision of the relevant regulations in SOLAS chapters III and IV and preparing consequential amendments to other instruments.

An updated work plan was approved, which includes the categorization and prioritization for the review of other instruments related to the amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV.

Overall, the goal of the session is to finalize the work by 2021, so that it can be submitted to the MSC and then the amendments to be adopted in time for entry into force in 2024.

GMDSS is a vital tool for ships in case of emergency, and has definitely saved many lives. Of course, in order to provide its full potential, the right training is necessary, as well as its regular review and update in order to keep up with the latest technological advancements.

Most common personal injuries onboard: Risks and best practice

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Seafaring comes with risks; operations on board a vessel are complex and they can lead to accidents or even casualties if not performed carefully. When carrying out their activities, seafarers have to be vigilant and always wear the appropriate safety equipment. Yet, can you avoid an on-board accident and, if so, how?

Seafaring is a challenging job and no matter how many precautions are taken accidents are bound to happen as a result of one main and common reason – human error. A number of injuries are caused because of negligence by the seafarer themselves, as some fail to follow safety procedures implemented onboard, resulting to personal injuries.

Now, to answer the question of “how you can prevent an injury”, one must firstly be aware of the risks and the challenges onboard a vessel so that they take precautionary safety measures to prevent any potential accident.

Safety guidelines to consider when working onboard

In general, taking the proper steps to carry out a job onboard can mitigate potential injuries. Seafarers can reduce the risk or avoid such injuries by following the plan set for the specific operation and wear safety gear.

First and foremost, formal risk assessments are not a paperwork exercise to appease management but an effective tool to be used on the job to ensure that all risks are considered and that appropriate risk controls are in place before hazardous work is carried out.

It is essential that the scope of work is understood by everyone directly and indirectly involved. Crew members must be trained in recognizing and controlling the injury hazards associated with performing these steps.

A work permit is a major step to ensure that the operation will be done in a safe manner. A permit to work is a formal system to control work activities and is considered to be an integral part of safe work systems. However, remember that the permit will not make the work safer by itself, but is only one aspect of a safe operation.

In addition, any work can be done safely through the combined efforts of those involved in planning the job, authorizing it, supervising it and those who are performing the job. The personnel involved in performing the work activity are usually at the sharp end and most exposed to the hazards if something were to go wrong.

An important step prior to any operation is the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It is considered as a first line of defense to keep maritime workers safe while on duty.

Having medical fitness for service at sea is crucial given that crew members may be exposed to stressful situations demanding high levels of exertion.

Key types of injuries onboard

Let’s explore the most common injuries and key safety tips to minimize risk per occasion:

  1. Falls: In their annual review of marine casualties 2019, EMSA said slips, trips and falls are the most frequent causes of personal injury. Following the Code of Safe Working Practices (COSWP) is the minimum to prevent such injuries.
  2. Burn injuries: To avoid a burn injury, firstly raise awareness of the potential risks of burn injury to crew of all ranks. The requirement to apply meaningful risk assessments, permits to work and toolbox talks to operations which may expose crew to risk of burns should be incorporated into SMS. Furthermore, be aware of proper first aid actions when treating burn casualties and seek professional medical advice using established tele-medical procedures.
  3. Lifeboat drill: Always ensure boat is fully secured (gripes; harbour pins; lashings) before entering for maintenance and conduct toolbox talks covering dangers and operational procedures.
  4. During mooring operations: A risk assessment should be made of all mooring areas onboard, mostly searching for hazards that may cause injury. Mooring areas naturally contain many trip hazards, and highlighting these is a good starting point.
  5. Enclosed space accidents: When working in an enclosed space always check if a permit is required. Then, you have to ensure that the atmosphere has been tested and is safe so that you can enter. Also, confirm that all energy, machinery and fluids and gases have been isolated and locked-out, and make sure that you have in place an appropriate rescue plan with your co-workers before entry, including watchman.
  6. Man overboard: Except the permit, you have to maintain three points of contact when climbing or working from a ladder and always hold onto the handrail on stairs, while also discuss your work with your co-workers. Another precaution is to check condition of fall arrestors and maintain situational awareness of other work being conducted around you.
  7. Head injury: Caution is required as some head injuries may not seem serious. Potential symptoms may be a persistent headache, chronic vomiting or disorientation. The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of Medical Guide onboard Ships could be helpful to assess the degree of impairment of consciousness.

In every case, a thing that remains a challenge onboard is the lack of a doctor; In case of an accident, the injured crew has to be medevaced, therefore it is important to know how to treat an injury until medevacs arrive on the scene.

Always keep in mind that communication fully contributes in the everyday life onboard the ship; Therefore, where the ship has a mixed national crew, emphasis must be given to effective communication taking into account both the culture and language factors. This is particularly important in an emergency situation.

As they say, prevention is better than cure. So always keep safe.

 4 things to remember to prevent injury onboard

  1. Plan the work before its done
  2. Always have a rescue plan / Alternative work method
  3. Work permit to get authorization for the work
  4. Communication among crew members is the key


Any idea why the Command Centre Of A Ship Called “Bridge”?

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Did you ever stop and wonder why a ship’s bridge is named so? i.e. a Bridge.

The reason, however, maybe unravelled through the pages of navigation history, taking us to the very origins of human sailing and shipbuilding.

After centuries of modifications on deck designs, the bridge has now emerged as the command centre of the ship.

On a normal voyage, manning of the bridge is usually done by an officer of the watch, with a lookout. The captain remains on the bridge during the important manoeuvres, assisted by a pilot and other navigational officers.

However, during the early days of sailing, cockpits used to be a lot smaller, with the ship steering being controlled by a rudder. The cockswain was usually in charge of operations using the tiller, which was connected to the rudder.

With technological advancement in ship designs, tillers were gradually replaced with wheels. Wheels used to control the ship direction using ropes and pulleys, placed at some distance from the ship’s stern, enabling the navigational officer to have a clear look of the navigational waters when placed at the quarter deck.

The quarter deck was raised to enable the captain to give direct orders to the crew. This feature proved to be an extremely important tool for navigation, especially during a storm.

With an increase in ship sizes, net tonnage also saw its increment. This in turn, also resulted in the workforce of the ship to be increased considerably.

The wheel was housed in a small structure on the quarter-deck, in the aft end of the ship. It became known as the wheelhouse. This wheelhouse has now been added to a modern ship’s bridge, forming an integral part of the same.

Coming back to history, we do know that advancement in steam engines marked the end of the human need for wind energy. Steam engines replaced sails on board ships, with sail paddles taking its place. They were steered via a rudder wheel.

However, we must remember that steam paddles were enormous in size, rising to a considerable height above the deck. Also, there was the issue as to where the wheelhouse would be placed on board since there was no raised platform from where the captain could give direction to the navigational officers.

One might think that the captain could’ve just climbed up on one of the two enormous steam paddles and issued commands to the navigational officer, but the engineering team needed it for close inspection of the paddles.

For this purpose, a walkaway was constructed on a raised platform, connecting the two paddles, serving as a literal ‘bridge’, earning the command centre its name. Yes, the name has survived till date.

The captain could issue commands to the pilot regarding steering of the ship, as well as engine commands to the engineering officer.

With the advent of technological advancements, propellers replaced the steam paddles, but naval coinage kept the term ‘bridge’ alive.

It is an interesting fact however that unlike merchant vessels, major warships have a number of bridges, including a navigational bridge, an admiralty bridge, and a conning tower in old warships.

Any Idea what a Bunker Delivery Note includes?

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A Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) is the standard document required by Annex VI of MARPOL, which contains information on fuel oil delivery. It is the responsibility of the fuel oil suppliers to provide the bunker delivery note, which must remain on the vessel, for inspection purposes, for a period of three years after the fuel has been delivered. But, what information exactly should A BDN include?

MARPOL Annex VI and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 mandate that specific information must be contained on the bunker delivery note, which is provided to a ship receiving bunkers. This information includes:

  • Name and IMO number of receiving ship;
  • Port;
  • Date of commencement of delivery;
  • Name, address and telephone number of marine fuel oil supplier;
  • Product name(s);
  • Quantity (metric tons);
  • Density at 15ºC (kg/m3);
  • Sulphur content (per cent m/m).

Further, the seal number of MARPOL sample label must be included in the Bunker Delivery Note for cross-reference purposes.

In addition, in the beginning of the year, on 1 January 2019, amendments to the bunker delivery note regarding the supply of marine fuel oil to ships which have fitted alternative mechanisms to address sulphur emission requirements entered into force.

The amendments aim to address situations where the fuel oil supplied does not comply with low sulphur requirements, but has been supplied to a ship which is using an alternative compliance method to comply with the 2020 sulphur cap, such as scrubbers.

The BDN must contain a declaration, which is to be signed and certified by the fuel oil supplier’s representative. This declaration must state that the fuel oil supplied complies with regulation 18.3 of Annex VI, as well as that the sulphur content of the fuel supplied does not exceed:

  • The limit outside ECAS (currently 3.50%, falling to 0.50% from 1 January 2020) under regulation 14.1;
  • The limit in emission control areas (0.10% m/m) under regulation 14.4.

Moreover, the fuel’s sulphur content must not be more than the purchaser’s specified limit value, as completed by the fuel oil supplier’s representative and based on the purchaser’s notification that the fuel oil is intended to be used:

  • In combination with an equivalent means of compliance in accordance with regulation 4 of Annex VI;
  • Is subject to a relevant exemption for a ship to conduct trials for sulphur oxides emission reduction and control technology research in accordance with regulation 3.2 of Annex VI.

Clarifications needed over new rules

When the new regulatory text was adopted, there was a need for clarifications regarding the two specific sub-conditions of the purchaser’s specified limit value, justifying supply of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO).

The clarification on the matter said that, as there was no tick box against the two sub-clauses, the third tick box only requires the sulphur value specified by the purchaser.

There is no requirement for validation by the supplier on the BDN as to which method of compliance is used by the ship

However, there are many who claim that the new supplier’s declaration obliges suppliers to make sure that the vessel has an approved scrubber before supplying fuel with sulphur exceeding the sulphur limit.

International Bunker Industry Association – IBIA notes nevertheless, that this is not the case and the regulation is clear. It specifically requires bunker suppliers, if asked to provide fuel that it surpasses the sulphur limit, to do so only on the basis of receiving a notification from the buyer that the fuel is intended to be used compliantly. In fact, the supplier does not have to check if this is the case, only to obtain a ‘notification’.

Nonetheless, despite the clarifications given, IBIA states that they could prevent confusion more effectively. This can be achieved by stating the actual sulphur limits associated with each tick box, as well as a format that enables suppliers to provide assurance that they are meeting the 0.50% limit.

On the other hand, if the BDN only states that the supplier is providing fuel meeting the sulphur cap, they are only guaranteeing max 3.50% up to and including 31 December 2019.

For this reason, IBIA created and recommended a specific format to enhance clarity.


By | INTLREG NEWS, Maritime Knowledge | No Comments

INTLREG is bringing our technical expertise closer to our clients by launching the Remote Surveying to our services for Ocean going voyages as well as domestic vessels. Travel restrictions amid the pandemic COVID-19 are affecting the surveys onboard ships and delays are affecting the projects in Oil & Gas Industry across the globe. Yet the industry is embracing digital technology and is quickly adapting to the smart era.

For remote surveys and inspections, the surveyors do not have to be physically present on board a vessel. As a result, a remote survey can be conducted anywhere in the world without the surveyors’ physical presence. This also enhances survey flexibility and efficiency of survey.

A survey without attendance has benefits for both our customers and surveyors; however, safety must always be and remain our ultimate consideration and target. Remote surveys will be permitted only for ships maintaining class with INTLREG.

The following surveys, which may be permitted using remote surveys techniques by International Register of Shipping (INTLREG), are written below. Such surveys could be subject to prior approval from the flag administration:

  1. Classification Surveys (annual)
  2. Condition of Class Surveys
  3. Minor damage and repair surveys for hull and machinery.
  4. Extension of Surveys (Class conditions, Propeller shaft, Boiler etc.)
  5. Continuous Surveys Machinery (CSM)
  6. Change of Owner, Change of vessel name / flag.
  7. A Cases by Case approval

Benefits :


Owners and operators can easily access the collected data and planned maintenance.

Immediate access to the best technological expertise

Connect to an expert from any location relevant to the assignment.

Cost Effective 

By introducing remote surveys, many market and situation challenges can be resolved thereby saving travelling time and cost.

INTLREG will always remain a reliable partner to the maritime world providing cost-effective and professional services. We have exclusive surveyors stationed worldwide and are ready to provide any services to your vessel(s). Please feel free to reach out to us for any questions or inquiries you may have at

Do you know the number of ranks and duties on board?

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Seafaring is a career that requires different roles and responsibilities such that everyone on board will know what to do, as various tasks will be conducted simultaneously. Each of these responsibilities also has unique duties that are vital to a ship’s efficient service.

The ranks on a vessel  are classified into three categories:
  1. the deck department
  2. the engineering department
  3. the steward’s / catering department

In 1978, IMO adopted a landmark Convention for all seafarers across the world to establish high standards of competence and professionalism in their duties on-board. The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, the STCW Convention in brief, establishes the minimum basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level.

Deck department

Captain: The captain or master is the ship’s highest responsible officer, acting on behalf of the shipowner. He/she is responsible for all operations onboard.

Chief mate: The head of the deck department on a merchant vessel, second-in-command after the ship’s Master. This position is responsible for cargo operations, the vessel’s stability, the deck crew and the safety and security of the vessel. The chief mate is the one to train the crew and cadets on various operations, such as safety, firefighting, search and rescue, and various other contingencies.

Second mate: The one that holds this position is a qualified Officer in Charge for Navigational Watch (OICNW), responsible for directing the bridge and navigating the ship. The second mate is the third most experienced deck department officer after the Captain/Master and Chief mate. One of their priorities is to update charts and publications, keeping them current, making passage plans, and all aspects of ship navigation. Additional duties include directing line handlers, cargo watches, directing anchor detail and training and instructing crew members.

Third mate: The third officer is responsible for the maintenance of life-saving equipment and fire-fighting equipment under Safety Officer`s instruction. Also, the third mate conducts the drilling operations and handles all the port documents on behalf of the Master.

Deck cadet: Also known as the Trainee Navigational Officer or Nautical Apprentice is an apprentice who must learn the basic duties, comprehend and apply the new skills learned.

Deck cadet ratings

  • Bosun (head of the rating staff)
  • Welder/Fitter (this rank onboard renders his services to both the deck as well as the engine department)
  • Able Bodied Seaman (AB)
  • Ordinary Seaman (OS)
  • Trainee OS

Engineer/Technical Department

Chief engineer: This person is the one overseeing the engine department and gives work orders for the ones operating in the engine room.

Second engineer: This rank is responsible for supervising the daily maintenance and operation of the engine department, directly reporting to the chief engineer.

Third engineer: The third engineer or second assistant engineer is the one dealing with boilers, fuel, auxiliary engines, condensate and feed systems, always reporting to the second engineer.

Fourth engineer: The fourth engineer or third assistant engineer is junior to the second assistant engineer/third engineer in the engine department.

Steward’s / catering department

Chief cook: The chief cook is the senior unlicensed crew member working in the steward’s department of a ship. Their duty is to prepare meals regularly for the crew and passengers, inspects the galley and equipment ensuring all cleaning and proper storage operations are in line.

Chief steward: This position is the one handling the catering department, by directing, instructing and assigning personnel for preparing and serving meals. Also, this rank plans the menu, orders the supplies along with the Master.


Any idea what a Ship Security Alert System is?

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Although piracy follows a downward trend in the last decade, the threat of sailing in high risk areas still poses a psychological burden for crews. After the 9/11 attacks that changed the world, IMO requires every ship above 500 GT sailing the world’s oceans to have a Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) to enhance security. Have you ever wondered what this system is and how it works?
To provide knowledge to those designated to perform duties of CSO, SSO and other security duties on a managerial and operational level and ensure effective implementation of the ISPS Code, explain SSA process, SSP contents and measures per level, weapons recognition, devices, suspects & contingency planning, as per new STCW requirements,International Register Of Shipping (INTLREG) Conducts ISPS Code Training Course. For more details and registration of the course, Please contact

What is a Ship Security Alert System (SSAS)?

The Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), under the ISPS Code, is a system onboard designed to raise the alarm ashore in case of a security threat or security incident, so that help from security forces can be deployed to the scene.

Technically, the SSAS consists of a GPS receiver linked to a transmitter, a power supply, software and activation buttons.

When used, the activation button basically notifies the flag State of the ship without alerting ships or coastal states in the vicinity or giving any indication onboard.

Use of the ship security alert system is a recognition that security is political and requires different response to a distress or emergency onboard,

…IMO notes.

 Where is this alert sent to?

What makes the SSAS unique is the fact that it constitutes a silent ship security alarm system that does not issue any audio-visual signal on the ship or to nearby vessels, not even to security forces nearby.

In contrast, upon activated, the alert is sent directly to the ship owner or an SSAS management company. It is then directed to the ship’s flag state. Some flag administrations even require having direct notification upon activation.

As soon as the flag state is informed, it is obliged to immediately notify the state(s) and the international security centers in the vicinity of the ship’s location.

Then, local state authorities or already deployed antipiracy/antiterrorist forces will be able to provide appropriate military or law-enforcement forces to deal with the menace.

 What information does the SSAS provide?

Upon activated, the Ship Security Alert System sends the following details to the administration:

  1. Name and IMO number of the ship
  2. The Call Sign of the ship
  3. The ship’s position through Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)
  4. Date and time of the alert
  5. Maritime Mobile Service Identity.

 Where can we find an SSAS onboard?

Current regulatory framework foresees that there must be at least two security alert buttons onboard the ship, one on the bridge and another one in any other prominent location.

The whole crew onboard must be aware of at least one activation button location.

What happens if the button is pushed by accident?

The ISPS Code mandates that the SSAS activation points must be designed to prevent the unwanted initiation of the ship security alert.

A latch cover secures the button to prevent any accidental operation.

Anyone working in the vicinity of the SSAS button must be notified accordingly not to touch the button.

Once the SSAS button is pressed, the alert will be continuously transmitted to the administration unless it is reset or deactivated.

 What are the key challenges of the SSAS?

Although there are specialized security companies for SSAS monitoring, most shipping organizations for financial reasons prefer to assign a person within the company for this job, known as the Company Security Officer (CSO). This means that a CSO lies with a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders, and the ship crew must feel lucky if he/she is not in the shower or deep asleep.

In addition, it is known that the SSAS will not work in case of failure of main power or fault in the emergency backup power.

And as in any other task onboard, crew familiarization with the button location and the procedures to be followed is vital for cases of real emergency and should not be taken for granted.

About the ISPS Code

Under SOLAS Convention Chapter XI-2, IMO developed the International Ship and Port Facility Code (ISPS Code), a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities.

The Code was adopted on 12 December 2002 on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in United States. ISPS Code came into force on 1st July 2004.

The Code is applicable to all vessels over 500 GRT operating on international trades, as well as the ports that service them.

Among others, the ISPS Code:

  • enables the detection and deterrence of security threats within an international framework
  • establishes roles and responsibilities
  • enables collection and exchange of security information
  • provides a methodology for assessing security
  • ensures that adequate security measures in place.

 Did you know?

The SSAS is the correspondent means of notification with the Emergency Transponder Code 7700 for aircrafts.




Why IMO number is important for vessels?

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The IMO Ship Identification Number is a unique seven-digit number which remains unchanged through a vessel’s lifetime and is linked to its hull, regardless of any changes of names, flags, or owners.

In fact, the IMO number is a unique seven digit number that is assigned to propelled, sea-going merchant ships of 100 GT and above upon keel laying, with the exception of ships without mechanical means of propulsion; pleasure yachts; ships engaged on special service, such as lightships; hopper barges; hydrofoils, air cushion vehicles; floating docks and structures classified in a similar manner; ships of war, troopships as well as wooden ships.

The IMO number is a mandatory prerequisite for sailing through the SOLAS regulation XI/3 which was adopted in 1994; in fact, specific criteria for passenger ships of 100 gross tonnage and upwards and all cargo ships of 300 gross tonnage and upwards were agreed. Further to this, the records based on the IMO number also require an independent audit trail for each vessel.

The scheme was further applied to fishing vessels in 2013, and the eligibility criteria were amended in 2016 to cover smaller and non-steel hull vessels. In particular, the IMO number is assigned to the total portion of the hull enclosing the machinery space and can play the determining factor, should additional sections be added.

For new vessels, the IMO number is assigned to a hull during construction, generally upon keel laying. The SOLAS regulation XI-1/3 requires ships’ identification numbers to be permanently marked in a visible place either on the ship’s hull or superstructure. Passenger ships should carry the marking on a horizontal surface visible from the air and vessels should also be marked with their ID numbers internally.

This number remains unchanged and is never reassigned regardless of any changes concerning the ship’s owner, country of registration, name or transfer to other flags and should be inserted in the ship’s certificates. It is also important to note that this number is separate and different from the official number issued by the vessel’s flag administration which is only internally used and cannot replace the IMO number.

IMO notes that the IMO ship identification number scheme, which was introduced in 1987 through adoption of resolution A.600(15), can act as a measure aimed at enhancing “maritime safety, and pollution prevention and to facilitate the prevention of maritime fraud.” It aims at assigning a permanent number to each ship for identification purposes.

IMO numbers can be an essential tool in shipping because they help to improve monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement of operations, as they allow flag states to accurately manage vessels under their authority; give national authorities information to help them police their waters more effectively; bring clarity and consistency to legal records; and help governments determine whether vessels are authorized to be in their waters.

All in all, having an IMO number is a prerequisite for selling and can be the best way to track and locate a vessel’s history since each number is unique and is the only identification that remains with a vessel from shipyard to scrapyard, regardless of all other modifications. Indeed, the IMO number is recognized by most governments and regional fisheries organizations and is considered the best available global identification system for ships.

Do you know what Plimsoll lines on ships are?

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Have you ever wondered what Plimsoll lines are? And why are they called Plimsoll? Professionals across the shipping industry may be familiar with the term, but even those not working in the industry, but who are extra observative, may have noticed that ships have some line marks on their hull, just above the waterline. These are Plimsoll lines.

What it is

The Plimsoll line (also known as a Load Line or the International Load line) is a reference mark located on a ship’s hull that indicates the maximum depth to which the vessel may be safely immersed when loaded with cargo.

Why it is useful

It is evident that there is not a standard maximum height into which a ship is allowed to immerse, but the maximum allowed depth varies depending on the conditions, for example:

  • the ship’s dimensions,
  • the type of cargo carried,
  • the time of year, and
  • the water densities encountered in port and at sea.

Considering the above factors, a ship’s captain can determine the appropriate Plimsoll line needed for the voyage. As such, load limits are calculated for each type of operating environment into the following levels:

TF = Tropical Fresh Water

T = Tropical

F = Fresh Water

S = Summer

W = Winter

WNA = Winter North Atlantic

There are also two letters with the name of the authority setting the load limit

Why ‘Plimsoll’?

The name comes from Samuel Plimsoll (1824–1898), a member of the British Parliament, who expressed concerns in regard to the loss of ships and crews from vessel overloading.

In 1876, he persuaded Parliament to pass the Unseaworthy Ships Bill. This mandated marking a ship’s sides with a line that would disappear below the waterline if the ship was overloaded.

The line is found midship on both the port and starboard hulls of cargo vessels and is still used widely in shipping.

The original Plimsoll Mark was a circle with a horizontal line through it to indicate the maximum draft of a particular ship. Additional marks have been added over the years, taking into consideration different water densities.

It makes no wonder that Samuel Plimsoll has passed through history as the ‘Friend of Sailor’.

Did you know?

At first, the Act allowed the shipowners to paint the line where they saw fit. It was not until 1890 that Board of Trade officials applied the regulations that Plimsoll had intended and the line was painted on the side of all ships.

Regulatory framework 

The first International Convention on Load Lines, adopted in 1930, was based on the principle of reserve buoyancy, although it was recognized then that the freeboard should also ensure adequate stability and avoid excessive stress on the ship’s hull as a result of overloading.

IMO adopted the existing Load Lines Convention in 1966, setting limitations on the draught to which a ship may be loaded and thus making a significant contribution to shipping safety.

The limits, defined under the treaty, are given in the form of freeboards. The treaty takes into account the potential hazards present in different ocean zones and different seasons.

In March, Georgia became the 112th State to accede to the International Convention on Load Lines.


Load Line Convention rules do not apply to certain types of vessels, such as:

  • warships,
  • new ships of 24 length or less,
  • existing ships of less than 150 GT,
  • pleasure yachts not engaged in trade and
  • fishing vessels.

There are also some exemptions by geographical area:

  • the Great Lakes of North America and the River St. Lawrence as far east as a rhumb line drawn from Cap des Rosiers to West Point, Anticosti Island, and, on the north side of Anticosti Island, the meridian of longitude 63° W;
  • the Caspian Sea;
  • the Plate, Parana and Uruguay Rivers as far east as a rhumb line drawn between Punta Norte, Argentina, and Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Do you know why So Many Ships Are Red On The Bottom ?

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Chances are you have never salvaged a vessel yourself or you have (hopefully) never seen a vessel upside down. But in case you have seen photos of a shipwreck or of a new ship getting launched from shipyard, you may have noticed that the bottom of a ship is most times red.

While many may have never really thought about this until reading this article, others, who do have noticed, may think that there is no apparent reason for a ship to be painted in an area which is always below the waterline and nobody normally sees it.

Either way,

…have you ever wondered why most ships are red on bottom?

Reason 1: The answer can be spotted again in tradition. Shipping is a tradition-oriented industry and if it is hard to believe, just remember ships are called ‘she’ based on an old nautical tradition or ask how much paperwork crews have to deal with every day.

But let us take things from the beginning.

Among the many challenges a ship has to encounter during its journey at sea is biofouling, which refers to the accumulation of various aquatic organisms at the ship’s hull, such as plant life and barnacles, as well as worms that eat hulls.

Except for transferring invasive aquatic species from one sea ecosystem to another and affecting marine life normality in each of them, this accumulation is responsible for deteriorating the ship’s structural integrity but, more importantly, for causing the ship to run slower and, consequently, burn more fuel.

Shipbuilders of the early years of shipping would use a copper coating as a biocide, to prevent organotins from sticking on the vessel’s hull. That copper coating was responsible for the ship’s red color.

In the 21st century, it is more than obvious that antifouling coatings can be mixed with any color. So why ships insist on red? It is nautical tradition, of course!

Did you know?

-Due to lack of a global regulatory framework on biofouling, local governments are developing their own unilateral regulations, most notably:

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • US (Federal Law)
  • The state of California

-In March 2019, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and IMO kicked off the five-year GloFouling Partnerships project, to address bioinvasions by organisms which can build up on ships’ hulls and other marine structures.

Reason 2: Another reason can be traced in the contrast of red hull to the sea water, which demonstrates if the load of cargo is overweight: The more cargo a ship is carrying, the deeper it enters the water. In the same context of ‘contrast’, the red color at sea can be very easily captured by passing-by helicopters in case of an emergency.