The master of a ship can be designated as the Ship Security Officer (SSO) in implementing the provisions of the mandatory International Ship and Port Facility Security
(ISPS) Code, IMO's Flag State Implementation (FSI) Sub-Committee has unanimously decided to recommend to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).
The FSI Sub-Committee, which meets this week at IMO's London Headquarters, considered the issue following concerns raised by Contracting Governments to the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and by the shipping industry as to whether the ISPS Code, as drafted, would prevent the master of the ship being designated as the SSO. The ISPS Code will become mandatory in July of this year under amendments to SOLAS adopted in December 2002.
Based on information received from the IMO Secretariat, confirmed by the Chairman of the MSC, the Chairman of the Maritime Security Working Group (MSWG) and several delegations which had attended the relevant sessions of the MSWG, the Sub-Committee confirmed that neither the drafting of the definition of the SSO nor the provisions of the ISPS Code relating
to his responsibilities, training etc. were aimed at preventing the master from being designated as SSO.
According to the ISPS Code, it is the responsibility of the Company and the Company Security Officer to appoint the SSO. This naturally has to be endorsed by the Administration of the flag State and/or the Recognized Security Organization through the approval of the Ship Security Plan
and issuing of the International Security Shipping
Certificate and/or the relevant training certificate by the Administration as appropriate.
The definition of the SSO should be viewed in conjunction with SOLAS regulation XI-2/8 on "Master's discretion for ship safety and security", which makes it clear that the master has ultimate responsibility for safety and security.
The phrase "accountable to the master" in the definition of SSO is intended to cover those situations, for example on large passenger ships, where the SSO is not the master, by reaffirming that the master has overall responsibility for security. There is implicitly no intention of preventing the master from assuming the duties of SSO, as this would be inconsistent with SOLAS regulation XI-2/8.
It is, of course, for the national Administrations to decide if they wish to impose particular restrictions on who may serve as SSOs on ships flying their flag. This should, however, not be imposed by national Administrations on ships not flying their flag through port State control measures, since this is clearly the prerogative of the Contracting Government of the flag State concerned.
In view of the limited time available until 1 July 2004, the Sub-Committee considered it appropriate to clarify the issue and invited the MSC to endorse its recommendation that the provisions of the ISPS Code do not prevent the master being appointed as SSO, if so decided by the flag State Administration. The Sub-Committee was of the view that, by acting in this manner, it provided the industry and all Parties concerned with a clear direction on this issue in the run up to 1 July.
Welcoming the action of the Sub-Committee, the IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, commented: "This is another example of IMO's quick and flexible reaction to real needs demonstrating, at the same time, the Organization's willingness to serve the cause of security and the industry in a pragmatic manner, overcoming bureaucratic impediments."