Widely known as the International Safety Management Code, ISM Code is part of the mandatory regulations in marine industry. The Code’s origins go back to the late ‘80s, when there was increasing concern about poor safety management standards in shipping; specifically, Herald of Free Enterprise disaster hastened the introduction of the ISM Code. In 1994 the code was formally adopted and integrated as a part of the SOLAS Convention, while later in 1998, it became mandatory for oil tankers and bulk carriers, with general cargo ships to follow by 2001.
All ships have to follow this code supported by a Safety Management System (SMS) and the appointment of a ‘designated person ashore’ responsible for every ship’s safe operation.
ISM Code: 5 Amendments Timeline
- 1 July 2002: The ISM Code was initially amended by resolution 104(73), adding definitions and chapter 13 to 16.
- 1 July 2006: The ISM Code was further amended by resolution 179(79), inserting new sections to the forms of the DOC (Document of Compliance) and SMC (Safety Management Certificate).
- 1 January 2009: The ISM Code was amended by resolution 195(80) , adding text to the forms of the full term and interim DOC and the SMC Certificates.
- 1 July 2010: ISM Code Resolution 273(85) entered into force, introducing among others amended definitions, addition of cross references, risk requirements, specific intervals for implementation and SMS review effectiveness criteria.
- 1 January 2015: The latest amendments by resolution 353(92) entered into force, updating and crosslinking the existing IMO documents
ISM Code requirements
In line with the ISM Code Companies should:
- develop a Safety Management System Manual, audited every year for their DOC (5 years validity)
- ensure all their ships are being audited between the 2nd and 3rd anniversary date of their SMCs (5 years validity)
“Shipping industry has a track record of improving safety based on the ISM Code and the requirement for a SMS. However, we continue to see unnecessary incidents and accidents each year with sometimes tragic and entirely avoidable consequences.”
-Esben Poulsson Chairman, ICS commented at SAFETY4SEA Sea Sense Column
Nowadays, digitalization, transparency, paperwork and information availability may be the challenges for the ISM Code, as they are here to remind us that there will always be incidents that could not have been prevented just by implementing the code.