Safe Operation

The International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (ISM Code) is also part of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention.  The background to the introduction of the Code was a series of very high profile maritime losses during the 1980’s and early 1990s.  In particular the total loss of the Felixstowe – Rotterdam Ferry ‘Herald of Free Enterprise’ in 1987 with a large passenger death toll was almost entirely the result of a lack of safety management procedures. This was followed shortly after by the loss of the ferry ‘Estonia’ in the Baltic although there was more doubt about the proximate cause, safety management was certainly a factor.  There were other ferry incidents not only in Europe but around the world. However many of the total losses that occurred during this period were less high profile but a significant number of bulk carriers were very seriously damaged or lost, sometimes without trace of vessel or crew.  Mostly large bulk carriers but there were also some new and well maintained container ships and a maiden voyage barge carrier.  In some of these cases there was little doubt that a lack of maintenance played a large part in the tragedy and in particular there were failures of side shell plating due to corrosion particularly in the areas of side shell frames.  In other cases the losses were due to failures in risk recognition and subsequent management. The stated objectives of the ISM Code are set out in the preamble, paragraph 1: “The purpose of this code is to provide an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention”. Section 1.2 (Objectives): “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. Safety management objectives of the ‘Company’ should, inter alia: provide for safe practices in ship operation and a safe working environment, establish safeguards against all identified risks; and continuously improve safety management skills of personnel ashore and aboard ships, including preparing for emergencies related both to safety and environmental protection. The safety management system should ensure: compliance with mandatory rules and regulations; and that applicable codes, guidelines and standards recommended by the organisation, classification societies and maritime industry organisations are taken into account.”