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International Convention for the Safety of life at Sea, 1974

On 1 July 2004 the new maritime security regulatory regime set out in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 as amended, namely the new chapter XI-2 on Special measures to enhance maritime security and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code entered into force only 18 months after adoption by the SOLAS Conference in December 2002. Following the devastating terrorist acts of 11 September 2001 in the United States, the international community recognised the need to protect the international maritime transport sector against the threat of terrorism. IMO responded swiftly and firmly by developing these new requirements, which represent the culmination of co-operation between Governments, Government agencies, local administrations and shipping and port industries.


The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code)

The new requirements form the international framework through which Governments, ships and port facilities can co-operate to detect and deter acts, which threaten security in the maritime transport sector. In order to determine what security measures are appropriate, Governments must assess the threat and evaluate the risk of a potential unlawful act. The ISPS Code provides a standardized, consistent framework for managing
risk and permitting the meaningful exchange and evaluation of information between Contracting Governments, companies, port facilities, and ships. The requirements also include provisions,which establish the right of a State to impose control and compliance measures on ships in or intending to visit its ports. It also provides for Contracting Governments to take further action when relevant requirements are not met or when there are other clear grounds for taking such action. In addition, where a risk of attack has been identified, the coastal State concerned shall advise the ships concerned of the current security level; of any security measures that should be put in place by the ships concerned to protect themselves from attack; and of the security measures that the coastal State has decided to put in place.
​Following adoption of SOLAS Chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code in late 2002 Governments had until July 2004 to implement the mandatory element in their national laws and to make the necessary administrative and organizational alterations to facilitate the implementation of these maritime security instruments.  Many Governments achieved this target though a number of interim arrangements were made which were subsequently altered and, in many States, later enhancements were made in the light of experience.   A number of Governments have also applied security requirements to port facilities and ships not covered by the SOLAS Security Measures, including application to domestic shipping services and adoption of elements drawn from the ILO/IMO Code of Practice.  However, gaps in their implementation and application can persist.


Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988



Adoption: 10 March 1988
Entry into force: 1 March 1992

The main purpose of the convention is to ensure that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships. These include

• the seizure of ships by force;
• acts of violence against persons on board ships; and
• the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it.

The convention obliges Contracting Governments either to extradite or prosecute alleged offenders. Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, 1988

Adoption: 10 March 1988
Entry into force: 1 March 1992

The Protocol extends the requirements of the Convention to fixed platforms such as those engaged in the exploitation of offshore oil and gas.