A high-level Diplomatic Conference begins at IMO Headquarters in London today to adopt a package of security measures for the international maritime and port industries. The measures represent the culmination of just over a year’s intense work by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee
and its Intersessional Working Group since the terrorist atrocities in the United States in September 2001.
The Conference will be invited to adopt amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). Among the most far-reaching of these is the proposed International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code which would be implemented through a new chapter of the Convention.
In essence, the Code takes the approach that ensuring the security of ships and port facilities is a risk management activity and that, to determine what security measures are appropriate, an assessment of the risks must be made in each particular case. The Code is designed to provide a standardized, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling Governments to determine the appropriate response to the level of threat and vulnerability which exists.
As the level of threat increases, the logical counteraction is to reduce vulnerability, and the Code provides several ways to do this. For ships and shipping companies, the requirements are likely to include ship security plans, ship and company security officers and certain items of equipment. Security plans and security officers for port facilities are also to be covered by the Code. Ships would be subject to a system of survey, verification, certification and control to ensure that their security measures are implemented, while port facilities would also be required to report certain security-related information to the Government concerned, which in turn would submit a list of approved port facility security plans
The draft Code has two parts, one mandatory and one recommendatory. The mandatory part will be due to enter into force eighteen months after adoption, that is expected to be on July 1, 2004.
According to IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil, this will be an historical Conference, both from the point of view of the volume of work IMO has been able to accomplish in the short time since the 11 September attacks and also, even more importantly, from the point of view of the substance of the decisions prepared for the Conference to make.