The ISPS Code For Ships – A Quick Guide

The biggest challenge the world is facing today is fighting terrorism. There have been many events in the history showing terrorist attacks in different parts of the world in different forms. But the most gruesome of all – September 11 terrorist attack on the twin towers proved that the international security was on stake.

The maritime security is a prevailing issue and several incidences have taken place even before the 9/11 attack (for e.g. On 26th February 2000, bombs that were hidden inside two crowded buses in a Philippians’ ferry – Our lady of Mediatrix, exploded and killed 45 passengers). Before ISPS code, the SOLAS primary focus was the safety of the ship at sea. As security and safety are entirely different topics, new amendments were made in SOLAS and the Chapter XI, which contains measures to enhance maritime safety, by renaming to Chapter XI-1 and a new Chapter XI-2 was added with additional focus on maritime security.


his new chapter comprises of regulations known as International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities with the abbreviated name “International Ship and Port Facility Security Code or the ISPS Code”.

Since the sea is one of the easiest ways to approach an international territory, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) under SOLAS convention chapter XI-2 developed the International Ship and Port Facility Security code – The ISPS code for the safety of ships, ports, seafarers and government agencies.

The ISPS code was implemented by IMO on July 1st 2004 as a comprehensive set of measurements for international security by prescribing responsibilities to government authority, port authority, shipping companies and seafarers.

It applies to the ships doing international voyages which include passenger ships & cargo ships of 500 GT and above.

Main Aim of ISPS code

The ISPS code mainly looks after the security aspects of the ship, seafarers, ports and port workers, to ensure preventive measures can be taken if a security threat is determined. The main aim of International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities is as follows:

  • To monitor the activity of people and cargo operation
  • To detect the different security threats on board vessel and in port and implement measure as per the situation
  • To provide a security level to the ship and derive various duties and functions at the different security level
  • To establish the respective roles and responsibilities of the contracting governments, agencies, local administrations and the shipping and port industries
  • To build and implement roles and responsibilities for port state officer and onboard officers to tackle maritime security threat at the international level
  • To collect data from all over the maritime industry concerning security threats and implementing ways to tackle the same
  • To ensure the exchange of collected security-related information data with worldwide port and ship owners network
  • To provide a methodology for security assessments so as to have in place plans and procedures to react to changing security levels
  • To find the shortcomings in the ship security and port security plan and measure to improve them
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