As far as Maritime Security is concerned, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) provides support, assistance and guidance to Member Governments on matters relating to the implementation of the following instruments:
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended
The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety and security of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster, the second in 1929, the third in 1948, and the fourth in 1960. The 1974 version includes the tacit acceptance procedure - which provides that an amendment shall enter into force on a specified date unless, before that date, objections to the amendment are received from an agreed number of Parties.
As a result the 1974 Convention has been updated and amended on numerous occasions. The Convention in force today is sometimes referred to as SOLAS, 1974, as amended.
SOLAS and Maritime Security
On 1 July 2004 a new maritime security regulatory regime was adopted into the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 as amended, namely chapter XI-2 on Special measures to enhance maritime security, which includes the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The ISPS Code entered into force a mere 18 months after its adoption by the SOLAS Conference in December 2002.
It was adopted in response to the devastating terrorist acts of September 11 (2001) in the United States, following which, 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 are a by-product of cooperation between Governments, Government agencies, local administrations and shipping and port industries.
The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code)
Adopted under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974, as amended, through chapter XI-2 on Special Measures to enhance maritime security, the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which is a mandatory instrument for all countries Party to the Convention, is the IMO's main legislative framework to address maritime security related matters.
The ISPS Code, which contains detailed security-related requirements for Governments, port authorities and shipping companies, is divided into two sections, a mandatory Part A, and a series of guidelines on how to meet the requirements of Part A in a non-mandatory Part B. Read more
The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988 (SUA Convention, including the 1988 and 2005 Protocols)
Concern about unlawful acts which threaten the safety of ships and the security of their passengers and crews grew during the 1980s, with reports of crews being kidnapped, ships being hi-jacked, deliberately run aground or blown up by explosives. Passengers were threatened and sometimes killed.
As a result of the Achille Lauro incident, in November 1985 the IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.584(14) on Measures to prevent unlawful acts which threaten the safety of ships and the security of their passengers and crew, and in 1986 the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) issued Circular MSC/Circ.443 on Measures to prevent unlawful acts against passengers and crews on board ships.
In Rome, March 1988, the International Conference on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, adopted the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention). The main purpose of the Convention is to ensure that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships. Among other unlawful acts covered by the Convention, the following noteworthy provisions are outlined under Article 3: 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. Furthermore, the Convention obliges Contracting Governments either to extradite or prosecute alleged offenders.
2005 Protocols to the SUA Convention
Important amendments to the 1988 Convention and its related Protocol, were adopted by the Diplomatic Conference on the Revision of the SUA Treaties held from 10 to 14 October 2005. The amendments were adopted in the form of Protocols to the SUA treaties (the 2005 Protocols).
Article 3bis (Unlawful acts provisions)
With regards to Article 3 of the 1988 SUA Convention, the 2005 Protocols add a new Article 3bis which clarifies under what conditions a person commits an offence within the meaning of the Convention. Read more.
Article 8bis (Boarding provisions)
Article 8 of the SUA Convention covers the responsibilities and roles of the master of the ship, flag State and receiving State in delivering to the authorities of any State Party any person believed to have committed an offence under the Convention, including the furnishing of evidence pertaining to the alleged offence. A new Article 8bis in the 2005 Protocol covers co-operation and procedures to be followed if a State Party desires to board a ship flying the flag of a State Party when the requesting Party has reasonable grounds to suspect that the ship or a person on board the ship is, has been, or is about to be involved in, the commission of an offence under the Convention. Read more.
Article 11bis and 11ter (Extradition provisions)
Article 11 covers extradition procedures. A new Article 11bis states that none of the offences should be considered for the purposes of extradition as a political offence. New article 11ter states that the obligation to extradite or afford mutual legal assistance need not apply if the request for extradition is believed to have been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of that person's race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, political opinion or gender, or that compliance with the request would cause prejudice to that person's position for any of these reasons.
2005 Protocol to the SUA Convention vis-à-vis the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf (1988 SUA Protocol) - Article 2bis (Range of offences)
The 1988 SUA Protocol was adopted alongside the 1988 SUA Convention and applies exclusively to fixed platforms located on the Continental Shelf. Amendments to the 1988 Protocol to the SUA Convention are reflected in the 2005 Protocol to the SUA Convention.
New Article 2bis of the 2005 Protocol broadens the range of offences contained in the 1988 Fixed Platforms Protocol. Read more.
Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT)
The Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system provides for the global identification and tracking of ships.
The obligations of ships to transmit LRIT information and the rights and obligations of SOLAS Contracting Governments and of Search and rescue services to receive LRIT information are established in regulation V/19-1 of the 1974 SOLAS Convention.
The LRIT system consists of the shipborne LRIT information transmitting equipment, the Communication Service Provider(s), the Application Service Provider(s), the LRIT Data Centre(s), including any related Vessel Monitoring System(s), the LRIT Data Distribution Plan and the International LRIT Data Exchange. Certain aspects of the performance of the LRIT system are reviewed or audited by the LRIT Coordinator acting on behalf of all SOLAS Contracting Governments. For IMO documents related to LRIT click here.
Assisting Member States
Providing support, assistance and guidance to its Member States in the process of implementation of relevant maritime security and facilitation related measures and instruments is the main task of IMO sub-Division for Maritime Security and Facilitation (MSF), which operates under the umbrella of the Maritime Safety Division (MSD). Overseeing maritime security matters within MSF is a small team of staff supported by specialist consultants.
The IMO secretariat, in particular MSF staff with maritime security related duties, work in close cooperation with Member States, partner United Nations agencies, regional organizations, development partners and the wider maritime industry, to safeguard global maritime security and suppress piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activities. This multilateral and cooperative effort ensures that the response in dealing with major maritime security threats and incidents around the world is adequate and effective, at national, regional and international levels.
IMO's maritime security global and regional technical cooperation programmes entail a complementary series of national and regional seminars, workshops, needs assessment missions, etc. In 2017 the Organization successfully delivered more than 50 activities around the world, making maritime security one of the largest capacity building programmes in the Organization.