Security on board

Even in the modern age, maritime shipping still faces dangers that require special measures to avert. Such dangers include theft, drug smuggling, stowaways and piracy, which still occurs in certain areas today.  

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was first passed after the sinking of the “Titanic” in 1913, and several amended versions have been adopted over the years. In addition to minimum standards for the building, equipping and commissioning of ships, the SOLAS convention also sets the framework for an obligatory safety management system on board via the ISM Code, among other things.  Furthermore, maritime security is regulated by the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, an amendment to the SOLAS convention. 

The ISPS Code – Maritime security

Launched after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the International Ship & Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) has regulated security measures for vessels (cargo ships of 500 GT and upwards and passenger ships on international voyages) and port facilities worldwide since 2004. 
Every shipping company operating vessels subject to the ISPS Code must draw up a special ship security plan (SSP) for each of them. This security plan must specify all the procedures and measures that the ship is required to take to counter security threats of varying degrees. The plan must also be reviewed and approved by the vessel’s flag state.
On board each vessel, there is a ship security officer (SSO) who is responsible for ensuring compliance with and the implementation of the ship-specific security plan on board. On the other hand, there must be a company security officer (CSO) within each shipping company (the company managing the ship) who is responsible for preparing the security plan and ensuring that the SSO maintains this plan in an efficient manner.

The ISPS Code defines three threat levels, which describe the current threat situation in a given geographical area:

  • Level 1 – normal
  • Level 2 – heightened
  • Level 3 – exceptional

The applicable level of security in the region is determined by each flag state for its ships or by the port state for ships in its territorial waters/ports. The procedures and measures on board the ships and in the ports in question will be adjusted in accordance with the security level in effect at that time and place. Such measures include, for example, limiting access to ships and terminals, registration obligations for visitors, and the handling of suspicious objects.