IMO’s Proposed Security Manual Should Avoid ‘One Size Fits All’

Last month, the IMO published the table of contents for its future security manual that will to provide guidelines for the effective implementation of preventive security measures promulgated in the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

Since ISPS Code implementation, oversight and enforcement of the comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of commercial maritime facilities, vessels, and operations has been delegated to the Contracting Governments. While this policy approach encouraged agreement of the signatory countries to the measure, practical application has resulted in the uneven interpretation of the criteria for compliance.

Although it has taken almost eight years from since the agreement to the ISPS Code in December of 2002, it is expected that the IMO’s development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual for port and ship security will help harmonize performance-based criteria for “functional” compliance with ISPS Code requirements and recommendations throughout the global maritime community.

The IMO’s development of this Port and Ship Security Manual provides the commercial maritime industry with an opportunity to provide insights into the challenges that are unique to the operations of its varied sectors. Passenger cruise vessels have security issues that are different from those experienced by cargo and energy carriers, or outer-continental shelf platforms.

A “one size fits all” approach to security practices to achieve ISPS Code compliance is likely to result in weaknesses in the maritime components of the global trade and transportation systems. For example, passenger cruise vessel Ship Security Officers (SSO) have to deal with crimes against persons (passengers and crew), as well as property crimes committed onboard the vessels while it is in international waters.

Although there has been a noticeable increase in reporting of these types of threats on board vessels with increasingly larger numbers of passenger, training and certification of the SSOs remains focused on the prevention of and response to crimes such as piracy and terrorism. The lack of guidance from the IMO as to standards for SSO execution of the basic law enforcement procedures necessary to ensure the deliberate execution of investigatory and prosecutorial actions by an appropriate law enforcement authority presents an increased risk of legal and financial vulnerability to the passenger carrier community and, to a lesser degree, the cargo carrier as well.

Hopefully the IMO’s Port and Ship Security Manual will provide meaningful guidelines for successfully addressing the credible security threats and challenges associated with the maritime facilities, vessels, and operations that are subject to the ISPS Code.

-By Ron Thomason

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