Maritime Knowledge

ISM Code Updates

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The purpose of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code is to provide an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. The Code’s origins go back to the late 1980s, when there was mounting concern about poor management standards in shipping.

In 1994, the ISM Code was formally adopted and integrated as a part of the SOLAS Convention, while later in 1998, it became mandatory for oil tankers and bulk carriers, with general cargo ships to follow by 2001.

The ISM Code has been the most controversial among all shipping legislative documents. After 20 years of implementation, the industry still examines the effectiveness of the Code, as there are plenty of seafarers and shore staff who feel that ISM Code has only brought more paper work to daily operations. However, the general idea and the objective of the Code is to enhance safety culture based on a documented and assessed operation environment in which each one has a specific role and responsibility (both ashore and on board personnel).

The Code defines that ‘Company’ holds the responsibility to take over all duties imposed by the Code, incorporating SMS into normal business operations. It also requires internal & external audits, certificates, a Designated person who will be a link between ship and shore and clarifies levels of authority and lines of communications. These are also accompanied with  checklists, related forms and procedures.

ISM Code Amendments: Timeline

  • 1 July 2002: The ISM Code was initially amended by Resolution 104(73), adding definitions and chapter 13 to 16.
  • 1 July 2006: The ISM Code was further amended by Resolution 179(79), inserting new sections to the forms of the DOC (Document of Compliance) and SMC (Safety Management Certificate).
  • 1 January 2009: The ISM Code was amended by Resolution 195(80) , adding text to the forms of the full term and interim DOC and the SMC Certificates.
  • 1 July 2010: ISM Code Resolution 273(85) entered into force, introducing among others amended definitions, addition of cross references, risk requirements, specific intervals for implementation and SMS review effectiveness criteria.
  • 1 January 2015: The latest amendments by Resolution 353(92) entered into force, updating and crosslinking the existing IMO documents

Recognizing that no two shipping companies of shipowners are the same, and that ships operate under a wide range of different conditions, the Code is based on general principles and objectives,  including Part A (Implementation) and Part B (Certification and Verification).

As the Code states ”The cornerstone of good safety management is commitment from the top. In matters of safety and pollution prevention it is the commitment, competence, attitudes and motivation of individuals at all levels that determines the end result

Contents of Part A

  1. General
    • Definitions
    • Objectives
    • Application
    • Functional requirements for a Safety Management Systems (SMS)
  2. Safety and environmental protection policy.
  3. Company responsibilities and authority.
  4. Designated person(s)
  5. Master’s responsibility and authority
  6. Resources and personnel.
  7. Development of plans for shipboard operations.
  8. Emergency preparedness
  9. Reports and analysis of non-conformities, accidents and hazardous occurrences
  10. Maintenance of the ship and equipment.
  11. Documentation
  12. Company verification, review and evaluation

Contents of Part B

  1. Certification, and periodical Verification
  2. Interim Certification
  3. Verification
  4. Forms of Certificates

The Code is expressed in broad terms so that it can have a widespread application. Clearly, different levels of management, whether shore-based or at sea, will require varying levels of knowledge and awareness of the items outlined.



The following definitions apply to parts A and B of this Code

  • International Safety Management (ISM) Code : the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention as adopted by the Assembly, as may be amended by the Organization.
  • Company: the Owner of the ship or any other organization or person such as the Manager, or the Bare boat Charterer, who has assumed the responsibility for operation of the ship from the Shipowner and who on assuming such responsibility has agreed to take over all the duties and responsibility imposed by the Code.
  • Administration: the Government of the States whose flag the ship is entitled to fly.
  • Safety Management System:  means a structured and documented system enabling Company personnel to implement effectively the Company Safety and Environmental protection policy.
  • Document of Compliance: a document issued to a Company which complies with the requirements of this Code.
  • Safety Management Certificate: a document issued to a ship which signifies that the Company and its shipboard management operate in accordance with the approved safety management system.
  • Objective Evidence: quantitative or qualitative information, records or statements or fact pertaining to safety or to the existence and implementation of a safety management system element, which is based on observation, measurement or test and which can be verified.
  • Observation : a statement of fact made during a safety management audit and substantiated by objective evidence
  • Non Conformity: an observed situation where objective evidence indicates the non-fulfillment of a specified requirement
  • Major non-conformity: an identifiable deviation that poses a serious threat to the safety of personnel or the ship or a serious risk to the environment that requires immediate corrective action or the lack of effective and systematic implementation of this Code*.

*Refer to the Procedures concerning observed ISM Code major non-conformities (MSC/Circ.1059-MEPC/Circ.401).

  • Anniversary date: the day and month of each year that corresponds to the date of expiry of the relevant document or certificate.
  • Convention: the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 as amended.

1.2 Objectives of the ISM Code

1.2.1 The objectives of the Code are to ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the environment, in particular, to the marine environment, and to property.

1.2.2 Safety management objectives of the Company should, inter alia:

  1. provide for safe practices in ship operation and a safe working environment,
  2. assess all identified risks to its ships, personnel and the environment and establish appropriate safeguards; and
  3. continuously improve safety management skills of personnel ashore and aboard ships, including preparing for emergencies related both to safety and environmental protection.

1.2.3 The safety management system should ensure:

  1. compliance with mandatory rules and regulations, and
  2. that applicable codes, guidelines and standards recommended by the Organization, Administrations, classification societies and maritime industry organizations are taken  into account*

* Refer to the List of codes, recommendations, guidelines and other safety and security related non-mandatory instruments   (MSC.1/Circ.1371).

1.3   Application

The requirements of this Code may be applied to all ships.

1.4 Functional Requirements for a Safety Management System (SMS)

Every Company should develop, implement and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS) which includes the following functional requirements:

  1. a safety and environmental protection policy,
  2. instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships and protection of the environment in compliance with relevant international and flag State legislation,
  3. defined levels of authority and lines of communication between, and amongst, shore  and shipboard personnel,
  4. procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformities with the provisions of this Code,
  5. procedures to prepare for and respond to emergency situations, and
  6. procedures for internal audits and management reviews.

2. Safety and Environmental Protection Policy

2.1     The Company should establish a safety and environmental protection policy which describes how the objectives, given in paragraph 1.2, will be achieved.

2.2     The Company should ensure that the policy is implemented and maintained at all levels of the organization both ships based as well as shore based.

3. Company Responsibilities and Authority

3.1     If the entity who is responsible for the operation of the ship is other than the owner, the owner must report the full name and details of such entity to the Administration.

3.2     The Company should define and document the responsibility, authority and interrelation of all personnel who manage, perform and verify work relating to and affecting safety and pollution prevention.

3.3     The Company is responsible for ensuring that adequate resources and shore based support are provided to enable the designated person or persons to carry out their functions.

*Refer to the Guidelines for the operational implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Companies (MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.5).”

4. Designated Person (s)*

To ensure the safe operation of each ship and to provide a link between the company and those on board, every company, as appropriate, should designate a person or persons, ashore having direct access to the highest level of management. The responsibility and authority of the designated person or persons should include monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each ship and to ensure that adequate resources and shore based support are applied, as required.

* Refer to the Guidance on the qualifications, training and experience necessary for undertaking the role of the Designated Person under the provisions of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code (MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.6).

5. Mater’s Responsibility and Authority

5.1     The Company should clearly define and document the master’s responsibility with regard to:

.1       implementing the safety and environmental protection policy of the Company,

.2       motivating the crew in the observation of that policy,

.3       issuing appropriate orders and instructions in a clear and simple manner,

.4       verifying that specified requirements are observed, and

.5       reviewing the SMS and reporting its deficiencies to the shore based management periodically.

5.2     The Company should ensure that the SMS operating on board the ship contains a clear statement emphasizing the Master’s authority. The Company should establish in the SMS that the master has the overriding authority and the responsibility to make decisions with respect to safety and pollution prevention and to request the Company’s assistance as may be necessary.

6. Resources and Personnel

6.1     The Company should ensure that the master is:

.1       properly qualified for command,

.2       fully conversant with the Company’s SMS, and

.3       given the necessary support so that the Master’s duties can be safely performed.

6.2 The Company should ensure that each ship is:

.1 manned with qualified, certificated and medically fit seafarers in accordance with national and international requirements; and

.2 appropriately manned in order to encompass all aspects of maintaining safe operations on board*.

* Refer to the Principles of minimum safe manning, adopted by the Organization by resolution A.1047(27).

6.3     The Company should establish procedures to ensure that new personnel and personnel transferred to new assignments related to safety and protection of the environment are given proper familiarization with their duties. Instructions which are essential to be provided prior to sailing should be identified, documented and given.

6.4     The Company should ensure that all personnel involved in the Company’s SMS have an adequate understanding or relevant rules, regulations, codes and guidelines.

6.5     The Company should establish and maintain procedures for identifying any training which may be required in support of the SMS and ensure that such training is provided for all personnel concerned.

6.6     The Company should establish procedures by which the ship’s personnel receive relevant information on the SMS in a working language or languages understood by them.

6.7     The Company should ensure that the ship’s personnel are able to communicate effectively in the execution of their duties related to the SMS.

7. Development of Plans for Shipboard Operations

The Company should establish procedures, plans and instructions, including checklists as appropriate, for key shipboard operations concerning the safety of the personnel, ship and protection of the environment. The various tasks should be defined and assigned to qualified personnel.

8. Emergency Preparedness*

8.1     The Company should identify potential emergency shipboard situations and establish procedures to respond to them.

8.2     The Company should establish programs for drills and exercises to prepare for emergency actions.

8.3     The SMS should provide for measures ensuring that the Company’s organization can respond at any time to hazards, accidents and emergency situations involving its ships.

*Refer to the Guidelines for a structure of an integrated system of contingency planning for shipboard emergencies, adopted by the Organization by resolution A.852(20), as amended.

9. Reports and Analysis of Non- Conformities, Accidents and Hazardous Occurrences*

9.1     The SMS should include procedures ensuring that non-conformities, accidents and hazardous situations are reported to the Company, investigated and analyzed with the objective of improving safety and pollution prevention.

9.2     The Company should establish procedures for the implementation of corrective action, including measures intended to prevent recurrence.

* Refer to the Guidance on near-miss reporting (MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.7).

10. Maintenance of the Ship and Equipment

10.1    The Company should establish procedures to ensure that the ship is maintained in conformity with the provisions of the relevant rules and regulations and with any additional requirements which may be established by the Company.

10.2    In meeting these requirements the Company should ensure that:

.1       inspections are held at appropriate intervals,

.2       any non-conformity is reported with its possible cause, if known,

.3       appropriate corrective action is taken, and

.4       records of these activities are maintained.

10.3    The Company should identify equipment and technical systems the sudden operational failure of which may result in hazardous situations. The SMS should provide for specific measures aimed at promoting the reliability of such equipment of systems. These measures should include the regular testing of stand-by arrangements and equipment or technical systems that are not in continuous use.

10.4    The inspections mentioned in 10.2 as well as the measures referred to 10.3 should be integrated in the ship’s operational maintenance routine.

11. Documentation*

11.1    The Company should establish and maintain procedures to control all documents and data which are relevant to the SMS.

11.2    The Company should ensure that:

.1       valid documents are available at all relevant locations,

.2       changes to documents are reviewed and approved by authorized personnel, and

.3       obsolete documents are promptly removed.

11.3    The documents used to describe and implement the SMS may be referred to as the “Safety Management Manual” Documentation should be kept in a form that the Company considers most effective. Each ship should carry on board all documentation relevant to that ship.

*Refer to the Revised list of certificates and documents required to be carried on board ships (FAL.2/Circ.127, MEPC.1/Circ.817 and MSC.1/Circ.1462).

12. Company Verification, Review and Evaluation

12.1    The Company should carry out internal safety audits on board and ashore at intervals not exceeding twelve months to verify whether safety and pollution prevention activities comply with the SMS. In exceptional circumstances, this interval may be exceeded by not more than three months.

12.2    The Company should periodically verify whether all those undertaking delegated ISM related tasks are acting in conformity with the Company’s responsibilities under the Code

12.3    The Company should periodically evaluate the effectiveness of the SMS in accordance with procedures established by the Company.

12.4    The audits and possible corrective actions should be carried out in accordance with documented procedures.

12.5    Personnel carrying out audits should be independent of the areas being audited unless this is impracticable due to the size and the nature of the Company.

12.6    The results of the audits and reviews should be brought to the attention of all personnel having responsibility in the area involved.

12.7    The management personnel responsible for the area involved should take timely corrective action on deficiencies found.

International Register Of Shipping is conducting 02 days  ISM Code Auditing Maritime Management Systems Course, our next session is at Lagos, Nigeria on 25/26 July 2019. For more details and registration of the course, Please contact

Maritime Knowledge – Bringing the ISPS Code into practice

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According to the ISPS Code, all ships must have Ship Security Plan (SSP) on board, including all safety measures to be  applied by the crew at each stage of safety.Also, SSP should demonstrate the restricted areas and provide guidelines for an effective implementation of the Code, with Risk Assessment forms and checklists to be used by key personnel during several activities on board.

Identifying the Key personnel

The key personnel are responsible for the implementation of ISPS requirements on vessels. Designated persons are placed by the company and each of them is committed to act accordingly in order to ensure vessels’ security.

Personnel involved with the implementation of the security requirements onboard are: Company Security Officer (CSO) who is responsible of ISPS implementation within Company and managed fleet; Ship Security Officer (SSO) who is responsible of ISPS and approved Ship Security Plan implementation on board and the; Master who is the ultimate authority on board the ship.

Important tips for effecting implementation

A.   Access Control

Access points of the vessel should at all times be secured and used only for the specific purposes. When pilot ladder or rope ladder is in use weather the vessel is at sea, at anchorage or in port, the embarkation area should be supervised at all times for the period the ladder is in use and further securely folded in its position on completion of its use.

Gangways should, at all times when at anchorage, be heaved up and lowered only when necessary for embarkation/disembarkation. When gangways are lowered a watch shall be positioned by the gangway for supervision and control of embarkation. When at port, whether the gangway is provided by the vessel or by shore side a watch shall be positioned at all times, controlling and logging boarding and disembarkation of persons and crew.

When at anchorage or in port access doors should be limited to a number sufficient of the vessels capability of control and supervision which at the same time will not pose a threat, in the event of an incident, to the safety of the crew and vessel.

Ropes and Chains are particularly vulnerable usually due to lack of supervision and lighting. When at anchorage, anchor chain hawse pipes should be capped and a patrol should be placed to cover the forecastle at regular intervals. When alongside, ropes and springs should be fitted with rat guards, chain hawse pipes capped and a patrol to monitor the areas aft, fore and midship should be appointed with intervals dependent on the security level of the vessel and the probability of an incident/breach occurrence.

When the vessel is at anchorage or at port, a watch is appointed by the Ship Security Officer. The Watchman shall at all times be equipped with a walkie-talkie, a flash light, and Safety clothing. All communication shall be performed via walkie-talkie, the watchman is not to leave his position under any circumstances, unless replaced.

B.  Vessel search

The restricted areas on board and areas surrounding the ship shall be monitored at all times. Such monitoring capabilities may include use of lighting watch-keepers, security guards and deck watches including patrols, and Shore / boat patrols in cooperation with the port facility. The Ship Security Plan should include a “Vessel Search Checklist” to assist the monitoring operations. In order to be easily used by the watch-keepers and patrols, “Vessel Search Checklist” should sort the searching areas, as suggested for example, into three Areas:

Area 1: Accommodation

Area 2: Engine Room Spaces

Area 3: Deck – Holds

At security levels 2 & 3, searches shall be conducted:

  • In accordance with Port Facility requirements (whilst at Port / Anchorage)
  • As per Master’s discretion with respect to partial or full extent of ship’s search
  • As may be instructed by Company

C.  Restricted area control

Any unauthorized presence within restricted areas constitutes a breach of security. Adjoining areas to restricted areas will be manned /patrolled when visitors have authorized access to restricted areas. Any other areas as may be determined by the CSO though the SSA to which access must be restricted to maintain the security of the ship must be taken into consideration.

D.  Stores and deliverables check

The security measures relating to the delivery of ship’s stores should:

  • ensure checking of ship’s stores and package integrity
  • prevent ship’s stores from being accepted without inspection
  • prevent tampering, and
  • prevent ship’s stores from being accepted unless ordered

All stores & provisions are subjected to visual and physical examination, in accordance with the appropriate security level. All stores are subject (when search is ordered) to checks for the presence of weapons, ammunition, incendiary and explosives and narcotic substances.

E.  Documentation Control

Security Controlled Documentation includes but not limited to the following:

  • Ship Security Plan
  • Ship Security Assessment (incorporated in the relevant section of the Ship Security Plan)
  • Continuous Synopsis Records

The Company Security Officer in co-operation with the designated Ship Security Officer is responsible for the periodic review of the Ship Security Plan and the Ship Security Re-Assessment at least once per year. The review of the plan is essential in order to ensure that is suitable for the vessel, crew, cargoes, area of trade etc. The Company Security Officer is responsible to ensure that the forms are available onboard vessel. Furthermore, he is responsible for the issue, revision and distribution of all new or revised forms and the updating of the Controlled Documentation List.

All records produced in support of the Ship Security Plan and which demonstrate either compliance to specified requirements or the effective implementation of the ISPS Code shall be kept in specific files both on board and office. Records should be available to duly authorized Officers of Contracting Governments to verify that the provisions of the SSP are being implemented.

Ship Security Officer and Company Security Officer are responsible to ensure that all data/records produced by Ship Security Plan implementation, ashore and onboard, are retained for a period of at least the Flag Administration’s demand, or five (5) years, whichever comes last.

F.  SSAS regular test

There are two ways of testing the SSAS:

  • Testing of the alert buttons
  • Test transmission

Each flag registry sets the frequency and the way that periodical testing should be occurred. For example, operators and/or owners of the Panamanian registry vessels through the CSO have the responsibility to schedule, -not less than 3 days before- through the platform, the annual tests of SSAS TEST in a period no longer than twelve (12) calendar months. The Republic of the Marshall Islands Maritime Administrator does not receive SSAS alerts directly from any vessel.

The CSO receives and verifies SSAS transmissions. Furthermore, the CSO acknowledges and responds to all test messages directly, ensuring the proper functioning of SSAS equipment and verifying the accuracy of the transmitted data without the need for acknowledgement of receipt by the Administrator. The M.I. Maritime Administrator involves to only those SSAS transmissions that are real alerts on unresolved alerts, which are to be immediately forwarded by the CSO to the administrator.

G.  Drills & briefings/training

Company CSO has attended relevant training courses by a training facility recognized and endorsed by the Administration or an RSO designated by the Administration. It is the Company Security Officer’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate shore-based personnel (including himself) and the designated Ship Security Officer has received appropriate training in accordance with guidance given in the ISPS Code Part B.

All other shipboard personnel and shore-based personnel visiting ships should have sufficient knowledge of and be familiar in accordance with guidance / requirements given in the ISPS Code Part B with relevant provisions of the SSP.

International Register Of Shipping Conducts ISPS Code Training Course, our next session is at Lagos, Nigeria on 29/30 July 2019. For more details and registration of the course, Please contact

Maritime Knowledge – Summary of ISPS Code Implementation

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The sea is a very vulnerable place with easy access to terrorist and pirate attacks, as there are not any boarders or limits to the activities taking place at the ocean and open seas, thus mariners face a big threat even if they operate at ports or onboard vessels. As an act to defeat one of the most challenging dangers of nowadays, IMO, under SOLAS Convention Chapter XI-2, developed the International Ship and Port Facility Code – the ISPS Code, a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities.

The Code was adopted on 12 December 2002 and came into force on 1 July 2004; it is applicable to all vessels over 500 GRT operating on international trades, as well as the ports that service them.

ISPS Code: Key elements

ISPS Code is divided into two sections: Part A, which is a mandatory section, includes the maritime and port security-related requirements which should be followed respectfully by the governments, port authorities and shipping companies, while Part B provides guidelines on how to meet these requirements.

The main objectives of the ISPS Code include:

  • 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

Scope of ISPS Code is to ensure that adequate security measures are followed on board ships and in ports as well.

Except for the non-mandatory Part B, ISPS Code is framed by a variety of related IMO resolutions, circulars and letters, which actually are guides to be used by port facility personnel, company personnel or on-board personnel with security duties, assisting their activities.

Key personnel

Responsible for the implementation of ISPS requirements is the designated personnel established by the Code. The personnel assigned with these duties is in charge to assess, prepare and implement the effective security plans in order to prevent or manage accordingly security threats.

  • The Port Facility Security Officer (PFSO) is an authorized officer at port who is responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of port facility security plan. PFSO is also responsible for liaison with the SSO and CSO.
  • The Ship Security Officer (SSO) is an authorized person on board the ship, designated by the company and is responsible to implement and maintain the ship security plan and the overall security of the ship. Also, is responsible to contact with other designated persons, PFSO and CSO.
  • The Company Security Officer (CSO) is a person designated by the company and is charged with the duty to ensure that ship security assessment is carried out properly. Moreover, is responsible to develop the ship security plan, submit it for approval and ensure that it is implemented as appropriate. Last but not least, CSO is responsible to communicate with the SSO and PFSO.

ISPS Code: Challenging areas

By the time it officially adopted in 2004, ISPS Code has arisen some questions concerning its implementation.

A very common issue related to ISPS Code has mostly to do with the relationship between it and the ISM Code about which is more important – safety or security? In shipping, both safety and security are equally needed. However, the implementation of both Codes means additional costs for operators and sometimes this leads to a dilemma on what is more important to be maintained.

In general, an operator could have a secure ship that is not safe, which in turn could lead to the ship being lost, no matter how secure it is. On the other hand, if the ship is not secure, it can be lost due to acts of piracy and other related matters. If in the professional judgement of the Master, a conflict between any safety and security requirements applicable to the ship arises during its operations, the Master shall give effect to those requirements necessary to maintain the safety of the ship. In case of conflicts between safety and security “SAFETY” prevails to security as per ISPS code.

Another challenge related to the security of the fleet is the actual absence of an official monitoring procedure regarding security issues, as there are not Office audits conducted from internal or external, like ISM audits. This also happens with PSC inspections. Except for USCG ports where PSC officers focus on security items, inspections at other ports worldwide seem to pass by security issues. This handling of security parameters results in the neglect of the security practices by vessels’ crew and even by the operating company.

There should also be noted that because of the numerous confidential information included in Ship Security Plan, sometimes maintenance, amendments and revision are difficult to take place.

Furthermore, since ISPS code is based on 9/11 outcome and the early piracy activity in the area of Somalia, no amendments or revisions have been made to the code and new types of security threats have not been identified and incorporated (i.e. attacks on Tankers in the area of Persian gulf, Hormuz straight etc).

International Register Of Shipping Conducts ISPS Code Training Course, our next session is at Lagos, Nigeria on 29/30 July 2019. For more details and registration of the course, Please contact