What is ISM?

What is ISM?

The History of ISM

Otherwise known as International Safety Management, the ISM code has been integral to the SOLAS convention since 1994. The regulation came about due to investigations into accidents revealing errors on the part of management. It all started in 1987 when the Maritime Safety Committee developed guidelines concerning shore-based management to ensure the safe operation of ro-ro passenger ferries. 

From July 1998, compliance became mandatory to all commercially operated vessels of 500 GT and above, including commercial yachts.

The Purpose of ISM

Safety of personnel and protecting the ocean remain the marine industries top concerns. The purpose of ISM is to ensure and maintain an international standard of safety for seafarers and prevention of pollution. Providing universal guidelines for the safe management and operation of ships at sea, the ISM is a common platform across all nationalities. This safety protocol eliminates discrepancies ensuring all vessels adhere to global mandatory regulations.

Safety Management System (SMS) & the Designated Person Ashore (DPA)

To effectively implement safety policies as set out by the ISM, “the Company” must establish a SMS for the vessel. Of which, a copy of the SMS must be readily available on-board. Detailing all the important policies, practices, and procedures, the SMS ensures compliance with the mandatory safety regulations recommended by the IMO and concerned maritime organizations. Yacht management companies should develop, implement and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS). Every company is expected “to designate a person or persons ashore having direct access to the highest level of management” in order to provide a link between “the Company” and those on board.

ISM Code particularly requires that the SMS incorporate the following

  • A safety and environmental protection policy;
  • Instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships and protection of the environment in compliance with relevant international and flag state legislation;
  • Defined levels of authority and lines of communication between and among shore and shipboard personnel;
  • Procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformity with the provisions of the Code;
  • Procedures to prepare for and respond to emergency situations; and
  • Procedures for internal audits and management reviews.
Document of Compliance (DOC)

When the Company is verified for complying with the ISM Code, they will receive a Document of Compliance (DOC). Valid for a period of five years, the DOC is subject to annual verification within three months before or after the anniversary date confirming the approved SMS.

Safety Management Certificate (SMC)

For a DOC, the company’s ships must first receive their SMC. A SMC verifies that the Company and its shipboard management are operating in accordance with the approved SMS. The certificate issued to an individual ship has a validity period of five years.

An internal and external audit determines the issue of both the DOC and SMC. The company and ships carry out the internal audits, whereas, every 2-3 years, the ships flag state performs the external audit. To qualify, a manual consisting of information, records, reports or statements, indicating implementation of SMS by the company and the ship is required. This manual serves as proof of evidence based on observations, measurements or tests made during the audit. Failure to uphold the requirements of the ISM code will result in non-conformity, posing as a serious threat and requiring immediate corrective action.

To find out more about the ISM Code check out the International Maritime Organization

Some think the ISM code is a best practice, but it’s a minimum standard. Although super yachts have been engineered to be highly safe boats. The most critical safety element is the crew! Working alongside yacht management companies, well trained crew are paramount to the safety of the boat and its occupants.

Virtual Pursers are not a yacht management company; we are an extension of your crew and act as a landbased bridge to your shoreside counterparts. As trusted yachting professionals with 20 years combined industry experience, we are here to help as well as to keep you informed on relevant industry related news and updates! For more information contact info@virtualpursers.com or call +44 203 514 0413.