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Getting to grips with changes to Solas

Many countries risk getting into a bureaucratic tangle as they move to implement IMO-backed security procedures. The implications of the new security code must be swiftly addressed at administration, company and shiplevel

Top representatives of member states of the International Maritime Organisation are in London this week to get to grips with how to amend to Solas chapters V and XI, and develop the new mandatory International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities, which will be commonly known as the ISPS Code.

The impact of September 11 has been so overwhelming that shipping, the so-called ‘invisible industry’, is being affected in the extreme.

In the past, the industry has shown how it self-regulates at moments of change and introduction of new legislation, and the present situation should be no exception.

The IMO assembly has agreed to convene a Diplomatic Conference on Maritime Security in December 2002. There, new regulations to enhance ship and port security and prevent ships being used as weapons, or as a target for terrorist attacks, will be approved under the tacit amendment procedure. This means that, instead of an amendment entering into force once it is accepted by a specified number of countries, it goes into effect unless objections have been received by a certain date from, say, a third of contracting governments, or governments responsible for half the world's tonnage.

This system has greatly speeded up the amendment process.

Pending the IMO outcome, member states agreed to refrain from unilateral measures and procedures.

More than £1.5m ($2.2m) in funding is being administered by the technical co-operation division of IMO, with the aim of designing a programme to help governments address this vital issue.

In the past, IMO has faced fierce external criticism over the time it takes to ratify and implement conventions, but this time, the awareness and common interest to face and find an internationally agreed solution to the menace of terrorism has determined the rapid progress of the exercise.

Before work began, it was agreed that the process would develop on a fast track, meaning that as soon as the changes were approved in the diplomatic conference, full implementation should be expected no later than 2004. It is reported that some interests, including the US, had pressed for implementation by mid-2003.

While the IMO has already begun addressing this issue internationally through conferences and seminars, several countries have taken the initiative of making their national maritime communities aware of the forthcoming legislation, by holding presentations on the subject.

Panama has been one. Capt Orlando Allard, the country’s ambassador to the IMO, has been among the most active in spreading the message, from which it has quickly become clear that all the administrations will have to create an internal organisation to deal with all the requirements of the new code.

Once the new rules are in place, the manpower, infrastructure and resources would need to be ready in an administration so that each security plan for each ship registered is approved. It will be most important to have such plans approved together with a ship’s new documents of registration, so that all the documents are signed, sealed and delivered to new owners without delay and in time for sailing.

Indeed, the implications for administrations look quite complex. They will have perhaps to create a new department or division ensuring that it has the maximum security in place — after all, the administrations will have in their hands details of all their national ports, registered companies and ships with their personnel security plans, together with the mechanism for annual revision and verification.

Administrations should also be aware of the commercial pressure on shipowners and cargo interests.

While there is often criticism of open registers in the media and public forums, there are certain states that have no communication at all with the ships registered with them.

There are cases when owners have tried on numerous occasions to contact their national registers — not open ones — and have had enormous difficulties finding people that could “speak the same shipping language”.

Obviously, sometimes what it is perfectly legal in one country, is problematical in another. But if harmonisation and fast track is the goal, the IMO should perhaps create a Pilot Plan so every single member state can organise its security department, so uniformity of steps, implementation and procedures for the new ISPS can be laid down.

As mentioned, countries may have to ensure that national security, and maritime security and other specialist departments concede to their administrations freedom to act, in order to comply with the code. Perhaps it is time for administrations to start thinking seriously about all the obstacles their internal and national legislation will impose, and the mechanisms to remove those obstacles.

On the crewing front, just a few years ago, shipowners welcomed the idea of having to employ one less crew member, namely the radio officer.

In the present climate, the option of appointing an existing member of the crew to be security officer on top of his or her usual duties is unacceptable.

The figure of the security officer onboard is not unknown in the cruise industry; however, the ships engaged in general trade do not have such a figure on board, although it is most likely this will become indispensable once the ISPS code is in force.

A new security officer for a new ship will have to be fully trained and will have to have full access to ship plans and blueprints in order to know what he or she is dealing with. They will have to have experience, as well as perhaps special training for conflicts and delicate situations.

It is not only the security officer who will have to be trained. All the crew will have to participate in a re-education, and evaluation of ship practices, to ensure that a vessel is safe and perfectly sealed from any outsiders before leaving a port and that everything is according to the ship’s security plan.

Needless to say, the aim of every shipowner is to have his ship tied up in port the least possible time. But it has come to pass that crew must comply with the ISM code demands, and with the demands of the ISPS code regarding security.

In the case of newbuildings, would the shipyard be considered a port? Would the shipyard have rules to ensure safe delivery of the vessel, and would they have to have risk assessment and security plans?

And if we start thinking of the bodies that could be acting as security organisations, are we going to create another IACS entity? Are we going to start giving to third parties responsibilities and attributes of a government? Is the industry prepared to face the uncertainty and perhaps mistakes of dealing with amateurs designated as experts on security?

Before criticising this worthy exercise and before the shipowners take out their calculators and start cursing the new regulations, it is important to work out the best way to get trained. But perhaps the multimillion dollar question at present is, who will be in charge of training every single officer, seafarer and those in related professions? And how are administrations in the open registries going to get their governments to support and fund such new responsibilities?

Changes to the Solas Convention

Chapter V: mainly on regulations over bridge equipment.

Chapter XI: the title of this chapter will change to Special Measures to Enhance Maritime Safety and Security. The chapter will be divided into two: Chapter XI-1, Special Measures to Enhance Maritime Safety; and Chapter XI-2, Special Measures to Enhance Maritime Security.

Impact on the industry will be wide. For instance:

Administrations

All administration would have to comply with these mandatory requirements:

  • Establishment of threat levels (I, II or III)

  • Certification and approval of the port, of all the companies whose ships are registered under their flag and registry, and assessment of the security plan of every ship they have registered under the flag

  • Surveys and certification of the security plan

  • Security plans approval and certification for ports, companies and ships

  • Certification and training of ship, port and company security officers

  • Recognised security organisations

  • Control and declaration of security

  • Provision of information

  • Determination of applicability of regulations to national ports, based on state assessment — establishment of alternative and equivalent requirements for ports

Ports

It is expected that ports that receive ships engaged in international voyages have in place the following:

  • Port facility security assessment

  • Port facility security plan

  • Port facility security officer

  • Certification and review of security plan

  • Capability to conform to threat Levels 1, 2 and 3

  • Passengers, ship’s crew and port personnel identification

  • Training of personnel

  • Declaration of security

Ships

All ships over 500 grt engaged on international voyages, once SOLAS is amended and the ISPS Code is approved, would have to comply with the following:

  • Ship security assessment and plan

  • Master’s discretion for ship security

  • Ship security alarm

  • Records of all activities regarding security

  • Continuous synopsis record

  • Appointment of ship security officer

  • Ship identification — permanent markings on the hull of the ship, visible at dark

  • Training of the ship security officer and ship’s crew

  • Certification and declaration of security

  • Lighting and security equipment when vessel is in port or in anchorage

  • Capability to conform to the threat levels 1, 2 or 3

Companies

Most important features are:

  • Security assessments

  • Periodic review of plans

  • Training of personnel and the newly appointed security officers

  • Seek all the certifications required

  • Share information and ensure that the synopsis records of the ship are kept

  • Supervision of ships security assessments

  • Creation and Implementation of the security plans

  • Supervision of ships security plans

  • Obtention of the required certification

The new International Code for the Security of Ships and of Port Facilities (ISPS Code) would have two parts; Part A would be mandatory, and would have the following features:

  • Responsibilities of contracting governments

  • Declaration of security

  • Obligations of the company — information

  • Ship/Port security assessments

  • Ship/Port security plans — records

  • Ship/Port/Company security officer assignment and responsibilities

  • Training and drills

  • Survey and certification


© 2002 Maria Dixon - ISM Shipping Solutions Ltd.

Published in Lloyds List, with permission from the Author