Essay: History of the ISM Code

The first subquestion to answer the main question, how can the ISM code lead to an optimum safety on board of a product tanker , is: what is the history of the ISM code? ISM stands for International Safety Management and its goal is to provide an international standard for the International Management for Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention. The goal of this part of the report is to give a brief insight into the history of the ISM Code, where does the ISM Code come from and why was it created?
In the late 1980’s there were many accidents on vessels which were caused by human errors. In hindsight many errors and failures were caused by lack of management guidelines and rules. One of the accidents which led to the development of the first guidelines and later on the ISM Code was the capsizing of the RORO ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise. The ferry capsized a few moments after it left the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on March the 6th in 1987. The ferry capsized and 193 passengers and crew drowned. The cause of the capsizing was that the bow-door wasn’t closed when leaving the port, which caused flooding of the decks and the capsizing of the ferry. The person responsible for closing the bow-door was the assistant boatswain, only he was asleep in his cabin. This was a human error, only after further investigation it became clear that there was also a lack of communication and a poor general culture in the ferry company, P&O European Ferries
After having gathered information about the cause and nature of many accidents involving poor management, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) made guidelines on how to manage the safe operation of ships, including the prevention for pollution. The goal of these guidelines was to limit accidents and casualties caused by the lack of management onboard and from the shipping companies. The first resolution A.596, was made in 1987 and only contained guidelines for the safety of passenger ferries. In 1989, IMO adopted a new resolution A.647, which contained guidelines on management for the safe operation of ships and for pollution prevention “to provide those responsible for the operation of ships with a framework for the proper development, implementation and assessment of safety and pollution prevention management in accordance with good practice.” (quote IMO ) These guidelines became the fundation for the ISM Code.
The IMO had two committees, the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environmental Protection Committee, who had meetings in which they reviewed the guidelines to find ways to improve them. By implementing the guidelines many new ways were found to improve the safety onboard, so the guidelines were revised and a new resolution, resolution A.680, was made in November 1991. This resolution was also reviewed for two years and in November 1993 a new resolution was adopted which contained the ISM Code. The guidelines and the ISM Code were in the beginning mere recommendations, but the committees found out that the best way to improve safety at sea and to protect the environment was to make the ISM Code mandatory. The committees decided to add the ISM Code to the Safety of Life At Sea Convention of 1974 (SOLAS 1974). At first the Code became mandatory on July the 1st in 1998 for passenger ships, high speed crafts, oil and chemical tankers and gas and bulk carries. Four years, on July the 1st in 2002, the ISM Code became mandatory for all other vessels and offshore units at sea.
Implementation
The ISM code consists of the original resolution, Resolution A.741, and has been amended by four other resolutions, namely : MSC.104, MSC.179, MSC.195 and MSC.273. In these resolutions several aspects of the original resolution were changed to achieve a better overall understanding or to improve the way in which the code is implemented. The ISM code depends on the competence and commitment of everyone who is involved with it on all levels; within the companies and on board of vessels. A group of independent experts have done an analysis of the contribution of the ISM code to the overall safety on the maritime industry.This group developed questionnaires for all the people in the maritime industry who are involved with the ISM code. All the data was gathered and compared by the WMU(World Maritime University).
The group analyzed the data and found out that the people associated with the ISM code were very supportive of it and that it was a good step towards the main goal of the ISM code; a step towards a safer culture on board and to a safer environment. One thing that they also found out was that the compliance of the ISM code could be made easier in the administrative process. Examples of this are: reducing the paperwork, reducing the cost of compliance and involving and motivating seafarers in the entire process. This generally means that the way in which the ISM code is implemented is a continous process. This process must be critically viewed to find new ways in which the ISM code can be improved to achieve for the whole industry operational, financial and safety advantages.
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