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Maritime Security Measures

September 11, 2001 changed the way the world thinks. It many ways, it served as a wakeup call about the importance of security. Terrorist use of commercial airplanes holding numerous passengers as missiles changed the approach to security in the 21st century. Later events confirmed this, as well, including other shocking terrorist attack attempts.

The emergence of ISIS in Iraq has contributed to the need for security. Initially referred to as AL-Queda in Iraq, ISIS grew from a small group to a massive global terrorist network.

Like the airline industry, the maritime industry adapted to the new realities of maritime security. Fear about terrorists attacking US ships compelled the government to reassess its security measures with respect to US ships, ports, and waterways. Similarly, it compelled those internationally to reassess their security of ships, ports, and waterways. This lead to the creation of the International Ship and Port Facility Code in 2004, or ISPS code, which amended the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of 1988, also known as SOLAS.

IMO Statement and Scope

The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations body that oversees maritime activity, stated: “The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States[.]”

The ISPS Code is applicable to ships that are bound on international journeys, such as passenger ships, cargo ships, and ships going to international waters for oil drilling. It also applies to the ports servicing such ships. The ISPS Code does not apply to warships or other ships owned by a government that is used for non-commercial purposes.

ISPS Measures

The ISPS Code applied security measures in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Possibly the most important measure was the requirement of a Company Security Officer, or CSO, and a Ship Security Officer, or SSO, for each ship. A CSO evaluates data and assess possible attacks against the ship and provide such data to the SSO. The CSO also reviews the ships security plan and oversees the SSO’s implementation of the security plan.

Each jurisdiction is to have a procedure wherein the CSO approves the SSO for a ship’s voyage. In addition to having a CSO, the ISPS Code requires ships to have processes for protecting sensitive security information. It also requires an inventory report about hazardous materials that are on board a ship.

Moreover, the ISPS Code mandates that all ships maintain a security alarm system, based on satellite signals, in the event of an attack. In the event of an attack, the alarm system will tell the name of the ship, its whereabouts, and the type of terrorist threat or attack.

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(image courtesy of David Keegan)

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