ISPS Code

International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code)

Following on from the terrorism events on 11 September 2001, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to develop security measures applicable to ships and port facilities. These security measures have been included as amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, 1974 (SOLAS Convention) to which Australia is a party (Chapter XI-2). The ISPS code is associated with this new chapter. Part A of the Code is mandatory and Part B recommendatory.

Contracting governments to the SOLAS Convention finalised the text of the preventative maritime security regime at a Diplomatic Conference held at the IMO’s Headquarters in London from 9 to 13 December 2002. The Conference adopted the tacit acceptance procedures established in SOLAS to ensure that the maritime security measures would be accepted internationally by 1 January 2004, and in force six months later (by 1 July 2004).

The IMO security regime in Chapter XI-2 is essentially preventive in nature, and it applies to ships and port facilities. In Australia, responses to maritime security incidents will be undertaken through its law enforcement agencies and under existing arrangements for responding to terrorist incidents generally (eg. through the National Counter-Terrorism Plan).

The objectives of the ISPS Code are to:

  • establish an international framework involving co-operation between contracting governments, government agencies, local administrations and the shipping and port industries to detect/assess security threats and take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade;
  • to establish the respective roles and responsibilities of all these parties concerned, at the national and international level, for ensuring maritime security;
  • to ensure the early and efficient collation and exchange of security-related information;
  • to provide a methodology for security assessments so as to have in place plans and procedures to react to changing security levels;
  • and to ensure confidence that adequate and proportionate maritime security measures are in place.

The objectives are to be achieved by the designation of appropriate security officers/personnel on each ship, in each port facility and in each shipping company to prepare and to put into effect the security plans that will be approved for each ship and port facility.

Key Elements of the ISPS Code

The Code provides for considerable flexibility to allow for required security measures to be adjusted to meet the assessed risks facing particular ships or port facilities.

It has two Parts:

  • Part A containing mandatory provisions covering the appointment of security officers for shipping companies, individual ships and port facilities. It also includes security matters to be covered in security plans to be prepared in respect of ships and port facilities; and
  • Part B containing guidance and recommendations on preparing ship and port facility security plans.

The ISPS Code contains three security levels. The security level will be set by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government with the aid of Australian Government intelligence agencies.

The three levels are:

  • Security Level 1, normal; the level at which ships and port facilities normally operate.

In Australia this will mean that minimum protective security measures shall be maintained at all times.

  • Security Level 2, heightened; the level applying for as long as there is a heightened risk of a security incident.

In Australia this will mean that additional protective security measures shall be maintained for a period of time.

  • Security Level 3, exceptional; the level applying for the period of time when there is a probable or imminent risk of a security incident.

In Australia this will mean further specific protective security measures shall be maintained for a limited period of time when a security incident is probable or imminent, although it may not be possible to identify the specific target. Security Level 3 will imply that a port facility, and ships at that facility must await instructions from the Department, and follow them as required. Security Level 3 is likely to trigger responses under the National Counter-Terrorism Plan.

At the international level the IMO is consulting and progressing work with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) in terms of security of cargo and seafarer identification.

In Australia, regulatory arrangements covering the security of cargo are primarily the responsibility of the Australian Customs Service

International Maritime Organization Model Courses

The following IMO Model Courses are now available from IMO and through AMSA.

  • ISPS – Company Security Officer, 2003 edition
    This model course aims to provide knowledge to those who may be designated to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Company Security Officer (CSO).
  • ISPS – Port Facility Security Officer, 2003 edition
    This model course aims to provide knowledge to those who may be designated to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Port Facility Security Officer (PFSO).
  • ISPS – Ship Security Officer, 2003 edition
    This model course aims to provide knowledge to those who may be designated to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Ship Security Officer (SSO).

A list of approved training providers is available on the AMSA website.

IMO Circulars/Guidelines on Maritime Security

IMO Circulars/Guidelines are available on the Maritime Security index page.

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