Development of the ISM Code
A number of very serious accidents which occurred during the late 1980's, were manifestly caused by human errors, with management faults also identified as contributing factors.
Lord Justice Sheen in his inquiry into the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise famously described the management failures as "the disease of sloppiness".
At its 16th Assembly in October 1989, IMO adopted resolution A.647(16), Guidelines on Management for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention.
The purpose of these Guidelines was to provide those responsible for the operation of ships with a framework for the proper development, implementation and assessment of safety and pollution prevention management in accordance with good practice.
The objective was to ensure safety, to prevent human injury or loss of life, and to avoid damage to the environment, in particular, the marine environment, and to property. The Guidelines were based on general principles and objectives so as to promote evolution of sound management and operating practices within the industry as a whole.
The Guidelines recognised the importance of the existing international instruments as the most important means of preventing maritime casualties and pollution of the sea and included sections on management and the importance of a safety and environmental policy.
After some experience in the use of the Guidelines, in 1993 IMO adopted the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (the ISM Code).
In 1998, the ISM Code became mandatory.
The Code establishes safety-management objectives and requires a safety management system (SMS) to be established by "the Company", which is defined as the shipowner or any person, such as the manager or bareboat charterer, who has assumed responsibility for operating the ship.
The Company is then required to establish and implement a policy for achieving these objectives. This includes providing the necessary resources and shore-based support.
Every company is expected "to designate a person or persons ashore having direct access to the highest level of management".
The procedures required by the Code should be documented and compiled in a Safety Management Manual, a copy of which should be kept on board.
Amendments to the ISM Code
The ISM Code was amended in December 2000 by resolution MSC.104(73), and these amendments entered into force on 1 July 2002. It was further amended in December 2004 by resolution MSC.179(79), and these amendments entered into force on 1 July 2006. It was further amended in May 2005 by resolution MSC.195(80), and these amendments entered into force on 1 January 2009. The ISM Code was also amended in December 2008 by resolution MSC.273(85). This resolution was adopted on 1 January 2010, and the amendments entered into force on 1 July 2010. The Code was further amended in June 2013 by resolution MSC.353(92) and these amendments will enter into force on 1 January 2015.
Development of the Guidelines on implementation of the ISM Code
Recalling resolution A.741(18) by which the Assembly adopted the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (International Safety Management (ISM) Code), IMO adopted on 23 November 1995 resolution A.788(19) on Guidelines on implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations.
Noting that the ISM Code was expected, under the provisions of chapter IX of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, to become mandatory for companies operating certain types of ships, as from 1 July 1998, and recognizing that an Administration, in establishing that safety standards are being maintained, has a responsibility to ensure that Documents of Compliance have been issued in accordance with the Guidelines, and that there may be a need for Administrations to enter into agreements in respect of issuance of certificates by other Administrations in compliance with chapter IX of the 1974 SOLAS Convention and in accordance with resolution A.741(18), IMO recognized further the need for uniform implementation of the ISM Code.
Having considered the recommendation made by the Maritime Safety Committee at its sixty-fifth session and the Marine Environment Protection Committee at its thirty-seventh session, the Assembly adopted the Guidelines on Implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations (resolution A.788(19)).
The resolution urged Governments, when implementing the ISM Code, to adhere to the Guidelines, in particular with regard to the validity of the Document of Compliance and the Safety Management Certificate required by the ISM Code; and also urged Governments to request the companies concerned to apply for certification under the ISM Code as soon as possible but not later than twelve months prior to the ISM Code becoming mandatory for ships belonging thereto; to inform the Organization of any difficulties they have experienced in using these Guidelines, so that the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee could keep the annexed Guidelines under review and to amend them as necessary.
These Guidelines established basic principles for verifying that the Safety Management System (SMS) of a Company responsible for the operation of ships or the SMS for the ship or ships controlled by the company complies with the ISM Code; and for the issue and periodical verification of the DOC and SMC. These Guidelines are applicable to Administrations.
Amendments to Guidelines
The Guidelines on implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations, resolution A.788(19) were replaced with revised Guidelines, which were adopted by resolution A.913(22) in November 2001 which revoked resolution A.788(19). Further revision of these guidelines resulted in Guidelines on implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations adopted by resolution A.1022(26) in December 2009. This resolution revokes resolution A.913(22) with effect from 1 July 2010. Revised guidelines on the implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations were adopted by resolution A.1071(28) in December 2013. This resolution revokes resolution A.1022(26) with effect from 1 July 2014.