A recently released update of security measures was undertaken by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for measures to improve the safety of international shipping and to prevent marine pollution from ships. In the report, the IMO announced that both ships and port facilities are now approaching complete compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).
Enacted immediately after 9/11 to protect ships from terrorist attack, ISPS is an internationally agreed upon regulatory framework that seeks to address maritime security. In its analysis, the IMO Secretariat found that 89.5% of over 9,000 declared port facilities now have approved Port Facility Security Plans (PFSPs). This is a considerable improvement compared to the 69% figure reported on the 1 July 2004 entry-in-force date of the ISPS code. In addition, 90% of ships subject to the security regime have now been issued an International Ship Security Certificate (ISSCs), up from 86% on 1 July 2004.
IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan stated: “We applaud the steps taken by the IMO to bring into effect the ISPS Code. Increased compliance with international security regulations is critical. While the IMB approves of these regulatory measures, it may be too early to assess their value, both commercially and from a security standpoint.”
In theory, compliance with ISPS should reduce the risk of piracy and armed robbery at sea, however empirical evidence provided by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur does not support this view. The reporting centre’s statistics indicate that there has not been a dramatic decline in the number of piracy attacks since the new regulatory regime has been in place.
The report points out that the implementation of IMO security measures in certain regions has been slower than hoped. It states that in Africa, for example, only half of the continent’s 30 countries to which the code applies have reported approved ship security plans. Other regions have not fared better; countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have been very slow to implement key security measures.
Captain Mukundan concluded: “The ISPS code is a necessary first step in establishing a global maritime security framework, but it has to be recognized as only a baseline standard. Improving maritime security requires the active support, in the spirit and in the letter, of ship’s crews and, perhaps more importantly, port authorities and shore-based personnel. We should aim for an environment that motivates all parties to actively participate. The code alone cannot defeat the challenges facing maritime security.”