What is ISM Code and its content?

International Safety Management (ISM) Code means the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention as adopted by the Assembly, as may be amended by the Organization.

What is Structure of ISM code?

  • Definitions of various terms used in the code.
  • Objective
  • Part A talks about the implementation of the code.
  • Part B talks about the certification and verification.
  • There is an appendix which gives out the forms for DOC, SMC, and Interim DOC and SMC.

What is  Objectives of  ISM code ?

  • Ensure safety at sea.
  • Prevention of human injury or loss of life.
  • Avoidance of damage to the environment, in particular to the marine environment and property.

What are List of certificates issued  under ISM CODE?

Document of Compliance (DOC).

Issued  to every company which complies with the requirements of the ISM code. It is issued by the administration. A copy of the DOC is to be carried onboard. This certificate does not need to be authenticated or certified.

Validity is subject to annual verification within 3 months before or after the anniversary date.

DOC can be withdrawn if an annual review is not requested by the company or if there are major non-conformities.

All SMC and interims will be withdrawn as well if DOC is withdrawn.

Safety Management Certificate (SMC).

Shall be issued to every ship by the administration. The administration should check that the company and its shipboard management operate in accordance with the approved safety management before issuing.

SMC is issued for a period not exceeding 5yrs.

Validity of SMC is subject to  atleast one intermediate verification. If there is only one intermediate  verification carried out, then it should be between the 2nd and 3rd anniversaries.SMC can be withdrawn if an annual review is not requested by the company or if there are major non-conformities.If the renewal verification of a DOC or SMC is carried out 3 months before the expiry, the renewal date of the new DOC or SMC will be from the date of completion of the verification to 5yrs from the date of expiry of the existing.

If the renewal verification of a DOC or SMC is carried out more than 3months before the expiry, the renewal date of the new DOC or SMC will be from the date of completion of verification to 5yrs from the date of completion of the verification.

What is Interim  Certification as per ISM code?

Interim DOC is issued to facilitate:

  • When the company is newly established.
  • New ship types are to be added to the existing DOC.

An interim DOC is issued for a period of 12months. Within this timeframe the company has to bring all plans and procedures in full force onboard the new types of vessels. A copy of the interim DOC is to be carried onboard. This copy does not need to be authenticated or certified.

How /when interim SMC is issued?

Interim SMC is issued:

  • To new ships on delivery.
  • When a company takes on the responsibility for the operation of a ship which is new to the company.
  • When a ship changes its flag.

Interim SMC is issued for a period of 6months. Under special circumstances, this can be further extended to a max of 6 more months from the date of expiry.

What is Criteria for issue of  Interim SMC?
  • DOC or Interim DOC is relevant to the ship.
  • SMS concludes the key elements of ISM and has been approved in the DOC or the Interim DOC.
  • The company has planned to audit the ship within 3months.
  • Master and officers are familiar with the SMS and its planned implementation.
  • Instructions identified as being essential have been provided prior to sailing.
  • Information on SMS has been given in the working language and understood by all onboard.

Non-conformity means an observed situation where objective evidence indicates the non-fulfillment of a specified requirement. The SMS should include procedures for reporting. They should be investigated and analyzed to improve safety and pollution prevention. There should be provisions for the implementation of a corrective action.

What are objectives of safety management system of the company?
  • Provide for safe practices in ship operation and a safe working environment.
  • Establish safeguards against all identified risks.
  • Continuously improve safety management skills of personnel, including preparing for emergencies.

The safety management system should ensure:

  • Compliance with mandatory rules and regulations.
  • Applicable codes, guidelines and standards recommended by the organization are being followed.
 What are Functional requirements of a SMS?
  • Safety and environmental protection policy.
  • Instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships and protection of environment.
  • Defined levels of authority and lines of communication for shore and shipboard personnel.
  • Procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformities.
  • Procedures to prepare for and respond to emergency situations.
  • Procedures for internal audits and management reviews.
What is duty of Designated  persons onboard  as per ISM code?

Meaning of designated person onboard as per ISM. 

  • To ensure the safe operation of each ship and to provide link between the company and those onboard, there should be a DPA having direct access to the highest level of management. 
What is Responsibility of designated person ( DPA)  as per ISM?
  • Monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of each ship.
  • Ensure that adequate resources and shore based support are supplied as required.
 What is the Top of Form the certification process for ISM?

 Certification activities

The certification process relevant to a Document of Compliance for a Company and a Safety Management Certificate to a ship will normally involve the following steps:

  1. Initial verification;
  2. Annual or intermediate verification;
  3. Renewal verification; and
  4. Additional verification.

These verifications are carried out at the request of the Company to the Administration, or to the organization recognized by the Administration to perform certification functions under the ISM Code, or at the request of the Administration by another Contracting Government to the Convention. The verifications will include an audit of the safety management system.

What is  initial verification  of certificate as per ISM?
  1. Initial verification
  • The Company should apply for ISM Code certification to the Administration.
  • An assessment of the shore side management system undertaken by the Administration would necessitate assessment of the offices where such management is carried out and possibly of other locations, depending on the Company’s organization and the functions of the various locations.
  • On satisfactory completion of the assessment of the shore side safety management system, arrangements/planning may commence for the assessment of the Company’s ships.
  • On satisfactory completion of the assessment, a Document of Compliance will be issued to the Company, copies of which should be forwarded to each shore side premises and each ship in the Company’s fleet. As each ship is assessed and issued with a Safety Management Certificate, a copy of it should also be forwarded to the Company’s head office.
  • In cases where certificates are issued by a recognized organization, copies of all certificates should also be sent to the Administration.
  • The safety management audit for the Company and for a ship will involve the same basic steps. The purpose is to verify that a Company or a ship complies with the requirements of the ISM Code.
What are audits carried out under ISM?

List of  audits carried out under ISM

 The audits include:

  1. the conformity of the Company’s safety management system with the requirements of the ISM Code, including objective evidence demonstrating that the Company’s safety management system has been in operation for at least three months and that a safety management system has been in operation on board at least one ship of each type operated by the Company for at least three months; and
  2. that the safety management system ensures that the objectives defined in paragraph 1.2.3 of the ISM Code are met. This includes verification that the Document of Compliance for the Company responsible for the operation of the ship is applicable to that particular type of ship, and assessment of the shipboard safety management system to verify that it complies with the requirements of the ISM Code, and that it is implemented. Objective evidence demonstrating that the Company’s safety management system has been functioning effectively for at least three months on board the ship should be available, including, inter alia, records from the internal audit performed by the Company.
What Is Annual Verification Of Documents Of Compliance ( DOC)?

 Annual verification of Document of Compliance

  • Annual safety management audits are to be carried out to maintain the validity of the Document of Compliance and should include examining and verifying the correctness of the statutory and classification records presented for at least one ship of each type to which the Document of Compliance applies. The purpose of these audits is to verify the effective functioning of the safety management system, and that any modifications made to the safety management system comply with the requirements of the ISM Code.
  • Annual verification is to be carried out within three months before and after each anniversary date of the Document of Compliance. A schedule not exceeding three months is to be agreed for completion of the necessary corrective actions.
  • Where the Company has more than one shore side premises, each of which may not have been visited at the initial assessment, the annual assessments should endeavour to ensure that all sites are visited during the period of validity of the Document of Compliance.
What Is intermediate verification of Safety Management Certificates?

Intermediate verification of Safety Management Certificates

  • Intermediate safety management audits should be carried out to maintain the validity of the Safety Management Certificates. The purpose of these audits is to verify the effective functioning of the safety management system and that any modifications made to the safety management system comply with the requirements of the ISM Code. In certain cases, particularly during the initial period of operation under the safety management system, the Administration may find it necessary to increase the frequency of the intermediate verification. Additionally, the nature of non-conformities may also provide a basis for increasing the frequency of intermediate verifications.
  • If only one intermediate verification is to be carried out, it should take place between the second and third anniversary dates of the issue of the Safety Management Certificate.
What is  Renewal verification of safety management certificate( SMC) as per ISM?

Renewal verifications are to be performed before the validity of the Document of Compliance or the Safety Management Certificate expires. The renewal verification will address all the elements of the safety management system and the activities to which the requirements of the ISM Code apply. Renewal verification may be carried out from six months before the date of expiry of the Document of Compliance or the Safety Management Certificate, and should be completed before their date of expiry.

What are  Safety management audits as per ISM?

The procedure for safety management audits outlined in the following  paragraphs includes all steps relevant for initial verification. Safety management audits for annual verification and renewal verification should be based on the same principles even if their scope may be different.

What is  Application for audit of document of compliance as per ISM?

The Company should submit a request for audit to the Administration or to the organization recognized by the Administration for issuing a Document of Compliance or a Safety Management Certificate on behalf of the Administration.
The Administration or the recognized organization should then nominate the lead auditor and, if relevant, the audit team.

About the author

Amit Sharma

Graduated from M.E.R.I. Mumbai (Mumbai University), After a brief sailing founded this website with the idea to bring the maritime education online which must be free and available for all at all times and to find basic solutions that are of extreme importance to a seafarer by our innovative ideas.

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