Maritime Security Measures Take Shape at IMO

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Experts in maritime security from around the world have completed an exhausting week-long meeting in preparation for a Diplomatic Conference later this year which is expected to adopt a completely new regulatory regime designed to prevent ships and their cargoes becoming the targets of terrorist activities. The second meeting of the intersessional working group on maritime security of the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee met at IMO headquarters last week (September 9th to 13th) to continue its work in refining a raft of measures to be put before the Conference in December. The new measures are centered around a proposed International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, Part A of which is expected to be made mandatory through amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), under which more than 98 per cent of the world's international shipping fleet operates. Part B of the Code has been drafted as guidance material and is recommendatory. The overall objectives of the Code are to establish an international framework involving co-operation between Contracting Governments, Government agencies, local administrations and the shipping and port industries to detect security threats and take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade. It will establish their respective roles and responsibilities and ensure the early and efficient collection and exchange of security-related information. The Code seeks to establish the guiding philosophy that will underpin the whole approach to maritime security. The essence of this philosophy is that, because each ship and each port facility present different risks, the Contracting Government should determine and set the appropriate security level. Security levels 1, 2 and 3 will correspond to normal, medium and high threat situations, respectively. The security level creates a link between the ship and the port facility, since it triggers the implementation of appropriate security measures for the ship and for the port facility. The Code will provide a methodology for security assessments to be made so that plans and procedures to react to changing security levels can be established. At security level 1, for instance, it is envisaged that the activities to be carried out aboard ship would include the following: ensuring the performance of all ship security duties; monitoring restricted areas to ensure that only authorized persons have access; controlling access to the ship; monitoring of deck areas and areas surrounding the ship; controlling the embarkation of persons and their effects; supervising the handling of cargo and ship's stores; and ensuring that port-specific security communication is readily available. By the same token, security level 1 would require a number of actions within the port facility, among them ensuring the performance of all port facility security duties; monitoring restricted areas to ensure that only authorized persons have access; controlling access to the port facility; monitoring of the port facility, including mooring areas; supervising the handling of cargo and ships' stores and ensuring that security communication is readily available. Among the provisions of the Code are requirements for shipping companies to appoint security officers at company level and for individual ships, and for each ship to carry an approved ship security plan on board. The plan should include measures to be taken at each of the three security levels referred to earlier. Ships would also be required to carry a Continuous Synopsis Record, which would provide a lifetime record of details such as the vessel's identification, ownership, registration and classification. Security assessments would be required for all port facilities coming within the scope of the Code, and these would have to be reviewed and verified by the Contracting Government. On the basis of this assessment, a port facility security plan would be established. Furthermore, a port facility security officer would be designated for each port facility. Aside from the provisions of the Code, the meeting also worked on revisions to the SOLAS Convention that would address control requirements and security alert devices to be carried aboard ships. In his opening remarks to the Intersessional Working Group, IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil stressed that since September 11th 2001, hardly a day had passed without the media referring to the world struggle against terrorism and also without the specialized maritime press reporting on the issue, focusing mainly on initiatives taken to enhance maritime security and the reaction with which these initiatives had been met by Governments and the industry. The matter of maritime security has introduced a new, and very important, element in IMO's series of responsibilities. In the short period of time since the last Assembly, the MSC, the Legal Committee and the Facilitation Committee along with its Ship/Port Interface Working Group, as well as four Sub-Committees, each from their own perspective, have contributed substantially to the Organization's anti-terrorism work. IMO Legal Committee, for example, is in the process of reviewing, as a matter of priority, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988, and its protocol concerning the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf. The objective here is to ensure that these treaties, which provide for the prosecution or extradition of alleged criminals wherever they happen to be, remain relevant in light of the events of September 11th. Throughout its work on maritime security, IMO has been at pains to balance the need for a continued, seamless flow of international seaborne trade with the requirements inherent in any enhanced security measures. The Secretary-General has also called for balance in the matter of inspection and control of ships, and urged those Governments wishing to take preventative action and to put in place anti-terrorist defences as soon as possible that it would be prudent to wait until, after the Diplomatic Conference in December, IMO had adopted a meaningful set of international standards which would have been produced in the shortest possible time. The importance of the forthcoming December Conference has been highlighted by the G8 Leaders who, at their summit at Kananaskis in Canada last June, focused on the issue of terrorism and the need to protect shipping against terrorist attacks. The G8 leaders clearly indicated that they expected IMO to take a leadership role in the promotion of the globally perceived need to protect shipping from becoming a target of international terrorism. By recognizing IMO's role in this world effort, they had indicated satisfaction with, and confidence in, IMO's swift, firm and decisive reaction to last year's tragic events and that they had great expectations of the results of the December Conference.
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