Event ReportsPublished on Jul 16, 2005
The primary aim of the ISPS Code was to strengthen the security of international shipping, ports, waterways and the high seas by directing the governments, shipping companies and port operators to enhance security of the maritime edifice.
One Year of ISPS Code Implementation

The world witnessed the use of Civil Aircraft as guided missiles to hit WTC in USA. This jolted US and the rest of the world who, were now witnessing, the innovative ways of the Terrorists, in attacking at important Civilian Targets, right in the mainland itself. Closer home, the Nation witnessed Terrorists attacking the Indian parliament and the Aksharadham temple. Terrorists were getting bolder and using newer methods.

It is then that the real dangers of use of any transport for terrorist attacks were analysed. Cars, Trucks and Motor Cycles had in any case been used in the past and continue to be used as carriers of suicide attackers with loaded explosives. . The multiple blasts in the London Metro on July 7, 2005 leave no doubt that the Terrorists would target the transport sector and the related infrastructure to perpetrate their heinous acts of crime.

By simple logic and extrapolation, it is obvious that the Ships and craft could be used as floating bombs for attacks on Ports and related Infrastructure. Commencing 2002, various proposals were discussed under the aegis of the IMO to arrive at and implement means and methods to render the Ships and Ports safe from possible Terrorist attack. Various provisions of the to-be introduced The International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code were examined with the Signatory States and ultimately, it was decided that the Code could be implemented with effect from July 1, 2004.

ISPS Code thus came in to effect from that date.147 states and two IMO observer members adopted the ISPS code in December 2002 during an IMO conference. It was agreed to implement the Code on 1 July, 2004. On the eve of ISPS adoption, of over 22,000 ships worldwide subject to the Code, only 53.2 percent had complied. Similarly, of 7,974 ports required to make changes to the way they do business, only 53.4 per cent were compliant as of June 30 2004.

The primary aim of the Code was to strengthen the security of international shipping, ports, waterways and the high seas by directing the governments, shipping companies and port operators to enhance security of the maritime edifice.

Broadly, the Code seeks a Continuous Synopsis Record (CSR) of ships, a logbook of the ship's history including data relating to place of construction, name of registries it has operated and the name and address of the registered owner. Besides, the ship crews are required to be trained in safety procedures and adoption of pre-prepared plan providing appropriate response to various levels of threat. 

Similarly, the Code places responsibility on the port authorities to undertake detailed security assessments to identify threats and vulnerabilities including contingency /response plans. The governments, for their part, must identify the level of threat and provide appropriate intelligence and advice to ports and ships. The governments are also responsible for inspecting ports and ensuring ISPS compliance. The Code however is not applicable to vessels below 500 tons. 

There is no denying the fact that seaports are a weak link of maritime infrastructure against terrorism. Meanwhile, the threat of terrorism has put a special emphasis on trade and transportation security. But for a safe system of commerce, a comprehensive and credible approach to security is essential. Port officials are conscious of scenarios such as fully loaded tanker exploding in the harbours, explosives in containers, ship hijacking and terrorists as stowaways. The question before them however is how to enhance security in such a dynamic environment against such elusive threats. This is a question that is unique and vitally important to Maritime Security agencies and the nations. It therefore calls for a systematic approach to security of the entire supply chain from point of loading to the point of delivery. 

Many of the provisions have been tested for over a year now and inputs would be available about the shortfalls based on feedbacks of those involved. On the plus side, the world has not witnessed any serious incidents related to attack on the Ports or related infrastructure.

On the first anniversary of the ISPS, it would be useful to look at all the related issues regarding the Ship and Port Security measures in force and carry out an audit of the entire process.

The following issues in particular may need examination to render the system more effective by plugging loop holes that may have been noticed in the last one year of operation: 

  • The progress in the implementation of the security measures. How many countries are lagging behind and why? 
  • What has been the perception of the port authorities, the merchant shipping companies, the business world, the Navy, the Coastguard and the security agencies---adequate, inadequate or poor? Why? 
  • What deficiencies/loopholes have been noticed in the first year? How to remove them? 
  • Are acts of maritime terrorism still possible even after the full implementation of the IPCS? If so, likely scenarios and how to deal with them? 
  • State of international co-operation in the implementation? Deficiencies. How to remove them? 
  • Any other point of relevance
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