ISM Code must not become paper excercise

In his opening remarks to the 9th session of the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation yesterday, (19 February 2001) IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil has renewed calls for effective and conscientious implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. Stressing that the shipping industry should spare no effort in making the ISM Code work, Mr O’Neil told delegates: "We should not allow it to become merely a paper exercise."

    At the same time, Mr O’Neil announced his intention to instigate an assessment of the impact of the Code since it become mandatory for passenger ships, oil and chemical tankers, gas carriers, and bulk carriers on 1 July 1998. The Code is due to become mandatory for all other cargo ships of 500 gross tons and above on 1 July 2002.

    The ISM code was adopted in the early 1990s to provide a blueprint for the way shipping companies manage and operate their fleets and to promote the development of a widespread safety culture and environmental conscience in shipping. By defining the company’s responsibility for safety and ensuring that senior management could more easily be held accountable, the code seeks to ensure that safety should be given top priority. Mr O’Neil told delegates to the Sub-Committee, "IMO, its Member Governments and the world maritime community at large have placed great expectations in the anticipated contribution of the code to enhanced safety and environmental protection."

    Mr O’Neil welcomed the analysis reported by the Swedish P&I Club which has shown that ships complying with the ISM code have made significant claim improvements in comparison with non-ISM code ships. He said he believed such a demonstration of the benefits to be gained by those who have introduced the systems of the code should also give encouragement to those who have to implement the same systems between now and 1 July 2002. Mr O’Neil urged governments and industry to ensure that the benefits to be gained from effective implementation of the ISM code are realized in the second and final tranche of ships as well.

    In announcing his intention to make an assessment of the impact of the Code so far, Mr O’Neil identified regional port State control agreements as a useful source of information. He said he intended to ask the Secretaries of the PSC groupings around the world to send him information about the number of detentions recorded for ISM and non-ISM certificated ships, along with any other action taken by PSC authorities in respect of ISM code deficiencies. Mr O’Neil hopes to be able to report on the outcome to the next session of the Maritime Safety Committee.

    In concluding his remarks to the sub-committee, Mr O’Neil called for delegates not to be distracted from the important tasks ahead. "We should not allow incidents," he said "such as those involving tankers that captured the attention of the maritime community recently, to result in a loss of focus on efforts, such as the ISM code, to ensure a sound approach to the maintenance and enhancement of safety and environmental protection."

    The primary objective of the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation is the identification of measures necessary to ensure effective and consistent global implementation of IMO instruments, paying, at the same time, due attention to the special difficulties faced by developing countries in their efforts to discharge effectively their responsibilities under the IMO instruments they are party to.