SOLAS amendments and ISPS Code enter into force on 1 July 2004
Far-reaching international maritime security measures developed and adopted by IMO enter into force on 1 July 2004. The security measures, which include the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), are in the form of amendments to the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and are aimed at enhancing maritime security on board ships and at ship/port interface areas. They were adopted by a Conference on Maritime Security in December 2002.
Other amendments to SOLAS entering into force on the same date include requirements for the fitting of water ingress alarms in holds, ballast and dry spaces on bulk carriers and requirements for radar transponders to be fitted in liferafts carried on ro-ro passenger ships.
Measures to enhance maritime security
The bulk of the new security measures are included in a new Chapter XI-2, entitled Special measures to enhance maritime security. The new chapter applies to passenger ships and cargo ships of 500 gross tonnage and above, including high speed craft, mobile offshore drilling units and port facilities serving such ships engaged on international voyages, and it enshrines the much-heralded ISPS Code.
The ISPS Code contains detailed security-related requirements for implementation by Governments, port authorities and shipping companies in a mandatory section (Part A), together with a series of guidelines about how to meet these requirements in a second, non-mandatory section (Part B). It is the first ever internationally agreed regulatory framework addressing the crucial issue of maritime security and represents the international maritime community's contribution to the global resistance against terrorism.
The Code requires a ship security plan to be drawn up for all SOLAS vessels, and for the plan to be approved by the flag State administration. Each ship must also have a designated ship security officer and each shipping company must appoint a company security officer. Similarly, port facilities are also required to have an approved security plan and to appoint a designated security officer.
Both shipboard and port facility security plans must set out the details of measures to be put in place at each of three escalating security levels. National Administrations are required to set the security levels and ensure that security level information is provided to ships entitled to fly their flag. Prior to entering a port, or whilst in a port, within the territory of a Contracting Government to the SOLAS Convention, a ship shall comply with the requirements for the security level set by that Contracting Government, if that security level is higher than the security level set by the Administration for that ship.
The new chapter confirms the role of the master in exercising his professional judgement over decisions necessary to maintain the security of the ship. The master shall not be constrained by the Company, the charterer or any other person in this respect.
It also requires all ships to be provided with a ship security alert system, fitted according to a strict timetable which requires most vessels to be fitted by 2004 and the remainder by 2006. When activated, the ship security alert system shall initiate and transmit a ship-to-shore security alert to a competent authority designated by the Administration, identifying the ship, its location and indicating that the security of the ship is under threat or has been compromised. The system will not raise any alarm on board the ship. The ship security alert system shall be capable of being activated from the navigation bridge and in at least one other location.
Other regulations in this chapter cover the provision of information to IMO, the specific responsibilities of shipping companies, and the control of ships in port, including measures relating to the delay, detention or restriction of operations including movement within the port or expulsion of a ship from port.
To improve the traceability of ships on the high seas, regulation XI-1/3 of the existing SOLAS Chapter XI on Special measures to enhance maritime safety (re-numbered as Chapter XI-1) is modified to require ships' identification numbers to be permanently marked in a visible place either on the hull or superstructure. Passenger ships should carry the marking on a horizontal surface visible from the air. Ships should also be marked with their identification numbers internally. In the same vein, a new regulation XI-1/5 requires ships to be issued with a Continuous Synopsis Record (CSR) which is intended to provide an on-board record of the history of the ship. The CSR shall be issued by the Administration and shall contain information such as the name of the ship and the State whose flag the ship is entitled to fly, the date on which the ship was registered with that State, the ship's identification number, the port at which the ship is registered and the name of the registered owner(s) and their registered address. Any changes shall be recorded in the CSR so as to provide updated and current information together with the history of the changes.
Modifications to SOLAS Chapter V (Safety of Navigation) contain a new timetable for the fitting of Automatic Information Systems (AIS). Ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 300 gross tonnage and above but less than 50,000 gross tonnage, are required to fit AIS not later than the first safety equipment survey after 1 July 2004 or by 31 December 2004, whichever occurs earlier. Ships fitted with AIS shall maintain AIS in operation at all times except where international agreements, rules or standards provide for the protection of navigational information.
Other amendments to SOLAS adopted in December 2002
In addition to the security-related measures, a series of other important SOLAS amendments adopted in December 2002 by the expanded Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), also enter into force on 1 July 2004. They include:
Chapter XII (Additional Safety Measures for Bulk Carriers)
(Construction - structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical
(Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction)
(Life-saving appliances and arrangements)
1In May 2004, the MSC adopted amendments to SOLAS regulation 3-6 in chapter II-1 (Construction - Subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations) on Access to and within spaces in the cargo area of oil tankers and bulk carriers (resolution MSC.134(76)) and to the associated Technical Provisions for means of access for inspections (resolution MSC.133(76)). The amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2006.
The resolution adopting the amendment includes a paragraph under which the flag State Administration may provisionally apply the amended regulation to new ships to be constructed on or after 1 January 2005 instead of applying the original requirements of regulation II-1/3-6.
The Committee also approved an MSC circular on the Application of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-6 on Access to and within spaces in, and forward of, the cargo area of oil tankers and bulk carriers - Application of the Technical provisions for means of access for inspections, drawing the attention of the Member States to the provisions for their provisional early application as from 1 January 2005.
IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.