Maritime security


For trade to flow effectively, the connections between ships, ports and people must also be secure.

IMO facilitates this by helping Member States enhance their maritime security, focussing on what the civil maritime stakeholders, which includes both the shipping and port sectors, can do to protect themselves and to assist governments to protect global maritime trade.

IMO responds to maritime security threats in two ways: by developing appropriate regulations and guidance through its Maritime Safety Committee and Facilitation Committee; and through capacity-building work. 

IMO’s multi-donor International Maritime Security Trust Fund supports global, regional and national projects around the world which enhance the capacity of countries to deal with security threats, while specific trust funds support work in the Gulf of Guinea and in the western Indian Ocean.

International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code)

The cornerstone of IMO regulations to address maritime security is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) chapter XI-2 Special Measures to enhance maritime security, which makes mandatory the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code). 

The ISPS code contains detailed security-related requirements for 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). Read more...

Cyber security

A ship's onboard information technology and operational technology systems can be hacked just as easily as systems ashore. Such security breaches have the potential to do considerable harm to the safety and security of ships, ports, marine facilities and other elements of the maritime transportation system, IMO has taken the initiative to raise awareness across the industry on how to tackle risks by promoting a maritime cyber risk management approach.

The overall goal is to support safe and secure shipping, which is operationally resilient to cyber risks.
IMO has issued MSC-FAL.1/Circ.3 Guidelines on maritime cyber risk management. Read more...

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

IMO has been addressing maritime piracy for some time. A series of measures, developed in co-operation with Member States and the shipping  industry, have helped significantly reduce piracy in the hot spots of the world.  In the late 1990s and the early 2000s the focus was on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore; and since 2005, IMO has addressed piracy off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean. IMO is currently implementing a strategy for enhancing maritime security in West and Central Africa.

IMO has issued a range of guidance aimed at addressing maritime security concerns. For piracy and armed robbery against ships, this includes Guidance to Governments, shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; investigation of offences and the use of armed personnel. Regionally focussed Best Management Practices, developed by international shipping industry bodies, have also been disseminated by IMO. Read more...

Capacity building - Djibouti Code of Conduct and Jeddah Amendment

Capacity building  - Djibouti Code of Conduct and Jeddah Amendment In 2009, the IMO-convened Djibouti meeting adopted the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (The Djibouti Code of Conduct), to address the then-growing problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia. 

The IMO Djibouti Code Trust Fund funded numerous projects, coordinated by IMO, to improve regional capacity to counter-piracy by developing enhanced regional cooperation and coordination, based on the four pillars of  legislation, training, capacity building, and  information sharing.

In 2017, signatories to the Code adopted the “Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct 2017” to broaden the Code’s scope to cover other illicit maritime activities, including human trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Read more...

Capacity building - Gulf of Guinea

Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa was adopted formally in Yaoundé in June 2013 by Heads of State or their representatives from 25 West and Central African countries. 

IMO’s strategy and initiatives for enhancing maritime security and supporting development of a vibrant, sustainable maritime sector in West and Central Africa aims to ensure successful implementation of the Code of Conduct.

IMO assists Member Countries in revising national legislation to criminalize piracy, attacks against ships, and other illicit maritime activities; coordinating structures and procedures; and having in place well-trained operational, technical and logistical personnel. Read more...

Arms on board ships

IMO does not take a position on the carriage of arms on board ships - it is the responsibility of individual flag States to determine if the use of privately contracted armed security personnel is appropriate and legal.

IMO has issued guidance to flag, port and coastal States; and to shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters on the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships in the High Risk Area, as well as

guidance to those private maritime security companies.


Through the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), IMO has issued standards and recommended practices for addressing the problem of stowaways, associated guidance and is working with a number of countries to help address the problem. 

IMO strongly encourages Member States to fully implement the special measures to enhance maritime security contained in SOLAS chapter XI-2  and the ISPS Code, which also contain clear specifications on access control

and security measures for port facilities and ships. Read more....

Unsafe mixed migration by sea

IMO has called for greater focus to be placed on addressing unsafe migration by sea through more safe and regular migration pathways, so that fewer lives are lost due to large numbers of people setting out to cross the sea in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels.

IMO has coordinated input from relevant international organizations and the shipping industry to the Global Compact on Migration,  a UN Member State-led process that emanated from the 19 September 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants approved by Heads of State during the UN General Assembly. This two-year long process is expected to culminate in the adoption of the GCM at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018. Read more...

Counter terrorism

IMO participates in the work of UN Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate and the UN General Assembly’s Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force, through country assessment visits, capacity building coordination, and exchange of policy developments with other UN and partner entities involved in Border Management and Law Enforcement. 

IMO’s SUA Treaties, adopted in 1988 and revised in 2005,  aim to provide the international legal framework to ensure that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships (and fixed platforms on the continental shelf). These unlawful acts listed in the treaties 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.