ISPS Code as a main pillar in the shipping industry


By Katherine Yakunchenkova, General Manager, Al Safina Security

In the wake of tragic events of 11th September 2001 in the USA, a Diplomatic Conference on maritime security was held at the London Headquarters of the IMO. This Conference enriched the new International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. It contains security-related requirements for Governments, port authorities and shipping companies in a mandatory section and series of guidelines in non-mandatory section. The ISPS Code came into effect on 1st July, 2004 just 18 months after adoption. In 2009 IMO’s focus was shifted to other pressing security issues as piracy and armed robbery.

ISPS Code’s main purpose

The purpose of the ISPS Code is to provide a standardized, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling Governments to offset changes in threat levels with changes in vulnerabilities for ships and ports facilities. The system provides support to the organization of the contracting government to determine what security measures are appropriate, evaluate the risks and identify the threats with the purpose to reduce the vulnerability of ships and port facilities in issues concerning maritime security.

Security Issues:                  

  • Piracy & armed robbery
  • Drug smuggling
  • Stowaways
  • Illegal migration
  • The security of dangerous goods

Legislation & Government co-ordination mechanisms

Essential to the successful implementation and oversight of the Maritime Security Measures is the drafting and enactment of appropriate national legislation. In some countries, international legal instruments and amendments such as Maritime Security Measures automatically apply in national law. Moreover, legislation could also establish the procedures covering withdrawal of an approved PFSP (port facility security plan) or SSP (ship security plan) and procedure to allow its reinstatement. National customs and immigration authorities undertake their own control duties at ports and on ships. Many practices and procedures are drafted from the WCO’s Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade (the SAFE Framework) applying to ports & ships.

Security Criteria:

  • Port facility plans and ship security plans
  • Retention of records and Declarations of security
  • Inspection of port facilities and ships

Integral benefits

Since the entry into force of the Maritime Security Measures (December 2002), a number of port facilities have reported a market reduction in both the incidence of thefts and the number of accidents in security restricted areas. Also, there was a significant reduction in stowaway cases in US ports.


ISPS Code plays a vital role as one of the main Maritime Security pillars in the shipping industry. Effective coordination at the national and port levels allows for port and ship security to gain an appreciation of the security issues and threats that should be considered in their security assessments. On the contrary, the imposition of excessive or inappropriate security procedures can reduce their acceptability and effectiveness and impose unnecessary delays or restrictions on passenger and cargo movements.  Hence, the regulations shall not impede the operation flow. A well structured and organized maritime security risk management system should support the organization with a framework and a possibility to have an overview to prevent and minimize threats from terrorists, piratical and other criminal activities in the most effective way.