What is International Safety Management Code or ISM Code?

what does ism stand for in the ism code

It is a structured and well-documented system that enables company personnel to implement the company’s safety and environmental policies, making it an essential component of its functioning. Also, a document of compliance is issued to each company that complies with this code’s requirements. All valid documents must be available at relevant offices, and obsolete documents can be removed.

  • The catastrophic capsizing of the passenger/car ferry Herald of Free Enterprise in March as well as investigations into several accidents revealed major errors on the part of management.
  • These may occur because the system is not being followed in which case corrective action needs to be taken to prevent re-occurrence.
  • The company should ensure that all its ships have medically fit seafarers.
  • The seafarers must be aware of the code’s provisions and try their best to abide by the prescribed rules and regulations and the Safety management rules of the company they are working for.
  • ISMC (Interim Safety Management Certificate) is issued to a new ship on delivery or when a company takes on responsibility for the operation of a ship which is new to the company or when a ship changes flag.

ISM code has not mentioned any time frame for this review but as per the understanding of industry experts, it should be done at least annually. In an effective system, DPA will be a senior person in what does ism stand for in the ism code the company who has some authority and control over the company’s activities. This means that the superintendents of the vessel cannot carry out the internal audit of the vessels they are managing.


IMO in its MSC circ 1059 and MEPC circ 401 has given the detailed guidelines on the procedure to handle major non-conformities identified during ISM audits. While he may have gone through all the trainings required for the DPA as per MSC circ 6, he will be ineffective in carrying out his duties because of lack of authority in the organisation. An effective Internal audits is the main dividing line between a good ship management company and a bad one. Second, the company need to provide all the support a ship may need for running the ship safely. The introduction of the ISM Code (International Safety Management Code) was intended to create a new culture of safety at sea whereby accidents and particularly pollution incidents would not be tolerated.

Leading for safety: a guide for leaders in the maritime industry – GOV.UK

Leading for safety: a guide for leaders in the maritime industry.

Posted: Wed, 28 Sep 2022 07:00:00 GMT [source]

In some of these incidents, there was little doubt that a lack of maintenance played a large part in the incidents, and in particular there were failures of side shell plating due to corrosion particularly in the areas of side shell frames. In other incidents, the losses were due to failures in risk perception and consequent management. The company should ensure that all its ships have medically fit seafarers. Another important guideline is to have constant lines of communication between onshore and shipboard personnel for reporting essential matters. The company should provide adequate resources and necessary support so that the designated people can carry on their tasks efficiently. The International Management Code provides an international standard for the management and operation of ships and pollution prevention.

Who is the Company as per ISM code

To ensure the safe operation of each ship and to provide a link between the company and those on board, every company, as appropriate, should designate a person or persons, ashore having direct access to the highest level of management. The Company is then required to establish and implement a policy for achieving these objectives. This includes providing the necessary resources and shore-based support. To ensure the safe operation of each ship
and to provide a link between the company and those on board, every company,
as appropriate, should designate a person or persons ashore having direct
access to the highest level of management. For instance, the safety management objectives of the company should prioritise safe working environment practices for operating ships. Company verification and evaluation include the assessment of all identified risks, hazards and technical systems, ensuring the training of the personnel and conducting a safety management audit, inspections and drills at appropriate intervals.

The Herald of Free Enterprise was a modern ferry equipped with advanced technology and operated by a highly qualified crew. Only seven years prior to the accident, it was built in a German shipyard according to international maritime safety regulations. The general frustration in the shipping industry following the capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise is typical of the kind of accident that precipitated in a paradigm shift in maritime safety administration and the development of the ISM Code. It can be said that the code focuses on bringing the aspect of marine safety to a common platform for vessels of all nationalities by laying down certain safeguards, general principles and objectives. This eliminates any discrepancies in the maintenance of a much-needed safety protocol.

What is the abbreviation for Code International Safety Management Code?

The Code was further amended in June 2013 by resolution MSC.353(92) and these amendments entered into force on 1 January 2015. 1.1.3 “Administration” means the Government
of the State whose flag the ship is entitled to fly.

Since ships operate in a wide range of different conditions, the code has several provisions and guidelines concerning the ship’s safety and pollution prevention. State administrations, ship owners, classification societies and maritime industry organizations are expected to abide by these provisions. The ISM Code has been the most controversial among all shipping legislative documents.

In simple terms, an inspection (and surveys) is for equipments and audit is for procedures. ISM and ISPS code require the surveyor to check if procedures are in place. For example a safety equipment survey is more concerned about if the safety equipments are working or not. Whereas ISM audit is not concerned about if the equipments are working. It is more concerned about what procedures are followed if a safety equipment is not working. This actually is a good question and I will post a detailed answer sometime.

what does ism stand for in the ism code

Compliance with ISM Code is sometimes required by vessel client regardless of Gross Tonnage ( GT). In order to comply with the ISM Code, the Company operating the vessel has to be audited first (after they submit their Safety Management System Manual (SMS) and is approved by Flag Administration or Recognized Organization (RO). Once a Company is Audited, the Document of Compliance (DOC) will be issued (validity 5 years). Every Company is subject to auditing every year (three months before and after anniversary date and before DOC expiration date).

What is Consolidated Freight in Shipping?

A Company here means the owner of the ship or any organization, a person such as a manager, or the bareboat charterer, who has the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the shipowner. Administration refers to the government of the state whose flag the vessel flies, and so it abides by that state legislation and international norms. Such NC can be closed by training of “filling up and use of bunker checklist” for all engine room staff. Corrective actions need to be monitored after next bunkering and correctly filled next bunkering checklist along with training record will act as the supporting documents for close out of this NC.

what does ism stand for in the ism code

Upon issuing DOC to Company (or Managing Company) each vessel can be audited to verify vessel compliance with ISM Code. Each vessel will be issued SMC (Safety Management Certificate) valid for 5 years and subject to verification of Compliance with ISM Code between second and third years of certificate validity. The code has many objectives, such as ensuring the safety of life at sea, preventing injury to human beings and loss of lives, and avoiding any harm to the environment and property.

Thus, in 1987 the IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.596(15), which called upon the Maritime Safety Committee to develop guidelines concerning shipboard and shore‑based management to ensure the safe operation of  ro-ro passenger ferries. If for some reason the DOC is revoked or if it becomes invalid, the safety management certificate will also be invalid. We must understand that the issuance of safety management certificate is conditional to the validity of the DOC. Some companies even have a “Shipboard Audit department”, whose only responsibility is to look after the internal audits of the ships.

PSC inspections follow the guidelines set by the MOU and IMO for PSC inspections (& not the ISM code). These guidelines require PSC inspectors to give deficiencies and these deficiencies are given different codes. In Safety management systems of most of the companies, PSC deficiencies are required to be considered a non conformity and need to dealt as non conformities. So even though all PSC inspections are non-conformities, both terms are different because these are required by different guidelines and legislations. The SMS requires that minimum inventory of the critical spares need to be maintained at all times.

ISM Code (International Safety Management Code) requires formal procedures for all activity relating to the safe management and operation of the ship both in the offices ashore and in the ship afloat. In the same way as in other ‘quality systems’, the procedures need to be fully documented. The best practice is to write the ISM Code (International Safety Management Code) procedures in-house so that they reflect the best actual practice used in the company. All employees both ashore and afloat need to be inducted into the system although the degree of involvement will vary considerably with seniority and areas of responsibility. The Code defines that ‘Company’ holds the responsibility to take over all duties imposed by the Code, incorporating SMS into normal business operations. It also requires internal & external audits, certificates, a Designated person who will be a link between ship and shore and clarifies levels of authority and lines of communications.

ISMC (Interim Safety Management Certificate) is issued to a new ship on delivery or when a company takes on responsibility for the operation of a ship which is new to the company or when a ship changes flag. ISMC is issued by the FSA and valid for not more than 6 months but can be extended as a special case by the FSA. The period of validity for SMC is 5 years with annual verification within 3 months before or after the anniversary date. SMC can be withdrawn if the annual verification is not requested or there is a reported major non-conformity. It is explained and applicable broadly, so it has a wide-ranging application. However, the cornerstone of good safety management comes from the shipowners and the top stakeholders.

what does ism stand for in the ism code

I will highly appreciate you the way you have written, u made this subject very interesting. Just only becoz of you I m very much confident about my exams, thank a lot Sahab…looking forward some matter on ship chartering from ur side. This is different from an observation because in this case a specific requirement of the ISM code was not met. Non-conformity means an observed situation where objective evidence indicates the non-fulfilment of a specified requirement. Both of these are observations because the ship is complying with the requirement of SMS. But if these situations are not corrected, it may lead to a non-conformity.

The International Safety Management Code includes all the international conventions such as the SOLAS 74, MARPOL 73/78 etc. ISM brings them together at a single platform and incorporates them into the working schedule of vessels and the daily functioning of the industry. If the vessel has successfully incorporated all the safety requirements, then the officials issue it with a Certification of Safety Management or the Safety Management Certificate, which brings the entire chain of a process to a fruitful completion. According to the provisions of this Code, all ships must follow this code.

The code applies to all vessels, including oil tankers, chemical tankers, cargo ships, gas carriers, bulk carriers, passenger ships and offshore structures. The objectives of the Code are to ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury, the safety of personnel and avoidance of damage to the environment, especially to the marine environment. The Company should establish procedures, plans and instructions, including checklists as appropriate, for key shipboard operations concerning the safety of the personnel, ship and protection of the environment. The various tasks should be defined and assigned to qualified personnel. 1.2.1 The objectives of the Code are to ensure
safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance
of damage to the environment, in particular, to the marine environment,
and to property. For example if a company is managing ships of 4 flags, Company need to have DOC from each of these flag, so in this case company will have 4 DOCs.






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