A number of very serious accidents which occurred during the late 1980's, were manifestly caused by human errors, with management faults also identified as contributing factors.
Lord Justice Sheen in his inquiry into the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise famously described the management failures as "the disease of sloppiness".
In 1987, the IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.596(15), which called upon the Maritime Safety Committee to develop guidelines concerning shipboard and shore-based management to ensure the safe operation of ro-ro passenger ships.
The ISM Code evolved through the development of the Guidelines on management for the safe operation of ships and for pollution prevention (resolution A.647(17)), adopted in 1989 by the IMO Assembly, and the Revised Guidelines, adopted two years later as resolution A.680(17), to its current form, the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (International Safety Management (ISM) Code), which was adopted in 1993 as resolution A.741(18).
With the entry into force, on 1 July 1998, of the 1994 amendments to the SOLAS Convention, which introduced a new chapter IX into the Convention, the ISM Code was made mandatory. Chapter IX was amended by resolution MSC.99(73), which entered into force on 1 July 2002, and by resolution MSC.194(80), which entered into force on 1 January 2009.
The Code was amended in December was amended in December 2000 by resolution MSC.104(73), and these amendments entered into force on 1 July 2002. It was further amended in December 2004 by resolution MSC.179(79), and these amendments entered into force on 1 July 2006. It was further amended in May 2005 by resolution MSC.195(80), and these amendments entered into force on 1 January 2009. The ISM Code was also amended in December 2008 by resolution MSC.273(85), and the amendments entered into force on 1 July 2010. The Code was further amended in June 2013 by resolution MSC.353(92), with the amendments entering into force on 1 January 2015.
In 1995, the IMO Assembly, recognizing the need for uniform implementation of the ISM Code and there might be a need for Administration to enter into agreements in respect of the issuance of certificates by other Administration in accordance with SOLAS chapter IX and the ISM Code, adopted the Guidelines on implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations (resolution A.788(19)). Revised Guidelines were adopted by resolution A.913(22) in November 2001, and subsequently by resolution A.1022(26) in December 2009. These were replaced with Revised Guidelines on the implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations (resolution A.1071(28)) adopted in 2013, which in turn have been revoked by the new Revised Guidelines, as adopted by resolution A.1118(30), with effect from 6 December 2017.