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Assessment of the impact and effectiveness of the ISM Code

The success of the ISM Code depends on its effective implementation and is underpinned to a great extent by the competence and continued commitment and motivation of individuals at all levels, in both companies and on board ships, who are tasked with its implementation.

The outcome of the successful implementation of the ISM Code envisages the enhancement of a safety culture throughout the shipping industry. Through implementing the ISM Code and the application of its requirements over the past decade, shipping companies, classification societies and other industry organizations would have gained significant experience in assessing its manifest benefits and drawbacks, if any. Evidence of an enhanced safety culture and acknowledgement of its many benefits would therefore be a measure of the global impact of the ISM Code on the shipping industry in general, and on safety in particular.

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), at its seventy-fifth session (15 to 24 May 2002), agreed that, an analysis should be undertaken to assess the impact of the ISM Code on the safety of ships to ascertain its contribution to the enhancement of safety in the shipping industry. The Secretariat was instructed to collect from regional PSC MoUs/Agreements, IACS and industry organizations, their information on the impact of the ISM Code on ISM Code-certificated ships vis-à-vis detentions, serious deficiencies, casualties, etc., as well as on any assessment of the impact of the ISM Code and its effectiveness on ships.

In order to make a meaningful assessment, the Secretary-General  established an Independent Expert Group comprising of experts from Governments, organizations, universities and the shipping industry and the Secretariat to collect and analyze data to study the impact of the ISM Code and its effectiveness. This Independent Expert Group, on conclusion of its study submitted its report on 18 November 2005 (MSC 81) to the Secretary-General on its findings and recommendations given below. 

Conclusions and recommendations of the Group of Independent Experts:

 .1         the group, had recognized that the so called ‘hard data’ to be collected, for example from PSC detention records, would have had serious limitations in indicating any effects of the ISM Code implementation.  Therefore, the group had recognized the need to rely on the experts’ judgement on the impact of the ISM Code based on collectively gathered subjective opinions from various levels of the shipping industry; 

 .2        the group had developed four questionnaires for shipboard personnel, shore-based personnel, shipping companies and Administrations.  All data received in response to the questionnaires was collated by the World Maritime University (WMU) and submitted to the IMO Secretariat for preliminary analysis.  The group was then invited to scrutinize and validate the data and preliminary analysis;
.3         the group had found that the overwhelming majority of responses were supportive of the ISM Code.  The consensus among the group was that interest shown in the study was highest amongst those who had generally enjoyed some benefit from the implementation of the ISM Code.  It was the group’s considered opinion that whilst the results could not be claimed to be a representative sample from across the industry, they nevertheless represented a model of collective experience from amongst those that support the Code.  The group had also agreed that this was a limitation in the methodology of the data gathering exercise and believed that it could only be addressed by investing in a study employing researchers in the field to ensure that the views of non‑supporters could be specifically captured;
.4         based on the data collected, the group concluded that: 
4.1      where the ISM Code had been embraced as a positive step toward efficiency through a safety culture, tangible positive benefits were evident;
4.2      ISM Code compliance could be made easier through a reduction in the administrative process by:
 .1         streamlining and reducing the paperwork that supported ISM Code compliance, particularly the SMS;
.2         greater use of technology and IT to reduce paperwork;
.3         identifying common areas in the ISM Code and, for example, the ISPS Code and integrating documentary requirements;
.4         motivating seafarers to use the reporting and monitoring systems towards the improvement of safety management systems;
.5         involving the seafarers in the development and continuous improvement of ISM manuals;
.6         increased integrated training for all concerned;
.7         exploring measures to reduce the cost of compliance; and
.8         improving ISM Code compliance monitoring and developing performance indicators; and 
4.3     the impact of PSC in this area had not been explored but certainly appeared to merit further study;
 .5      the group recommended that: 
5.1     a further study should be undertaken, at a later date, specifically to examine: 
.1         cause and effect between ISM Code implementation and flag State safety records;
.2         the relationship between PSC and ISM Code compliance; and
.3         whether textual changes in the requirements of the Code could make compliance easier and lead to an improved safety culture; 
5.2     in response to data produced for this study: 
.1         methods to streamline the implementation of the Code through technology and increased use of IT should be explored;
.2         the alignment of ISM and ISPS Codes in shipboard documentation should be considered; 
.3         a reduction in paperwork should be encouraged;
.4         guidelines for Administrations should be revised to make them more user friendly; and 
.5         new guidelines to assist companies to implement the Code should be developed; 
5.3     the results of the study be given widespread publicity across the industry in order to show how positive attitudes to ISM Code could yield tangible operational, financial and safety benefits.



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