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What is ISPS Code – Part 1

Good day all and compliments of the season to you..

All of you  no doubt have heard of ISPS and all you know is that you are “paying” for it.. Here I would like to explain what ISPS actually means and what it does and why it exists..

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the USA, the IMO, decided to develop, recommend and implement a set of security measures applicable to ships and port facilities around the world.. These measures called International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) are  implemented through International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974 chapter XI-2 to enhance maritime security..

The purpose of the ISPS Code is to : 

  • ISPS Codeprovide a standardised, consistent global framework across the maritime world
  • this enables various countries (that have subscribed to the code) to evaluate, detect and asses the security risks to the ships calling at their ports and allows them to take appropriate measures to determine the security levels they must follow and the corresponding security/preventive measures to be taken
  • to institute respective roles and responsibilities of all parties (governments and government agencies subscribed to the code, port administration and the shipping and port agencies) concerned, at a global and domestic level , to ensuring maritime security
  • to exchange/share relevant security related information
  • and to assure shipowners that adequate and proportionate maritime security measures are in place for their ships

As per the code, each of the entities above, are required to place appropriate security officers/personnel on each ship, in each port facility and in each shipping company to prepare and to put into effect the security plans that will be implemented.. The ISPS Code consists of two parts & three levels of security..

The parts of the ISPS code are :

  • ISPS CodePart A – These are mandatory provisions which talks about the employment of security officers in the shipping companies, their ships and port facilities that they call..

This also covers various security matters that need to be considered in the preparation of security plans to be implemented in the ships and port facilities..

  • Part B – These are recommendatory provisions providing guidance and recommendations on how the above security plans must be prepared and implemented..

The security levels are implemented by the local port authority under consultation with the government authorities.. The security level adopted by the port facility must be co-ordinated with the ship for synergy..


The three levels of security are : 

Security Level 1
– normalthis is the the level at which the ships and port facilities operate under normal conditions.. Minimum  protective measures will be maintained at all times..

  • ISPS Security Code Level 1In normal level, both ships and port operations are carried out in general way.
  • Minimum security measures are always maintained on board and in port.
  • Ship and port operation are carried out as per ship and port facility security plan.
  • Port facility ensures to keep the ‘no access’ areas under surveillance at all times.
  • Ship and port authority mutually supervise loading and unloading operation of cargo and stores, ensuring access control and other minimum security criteria.
  • Minimum access in the ship is maintained at all times.

Security Level 2
– heightened – this is a level that will apply whenever there is a heightened risk of a security incident.. At this level, additional security measures will have to be implemented and maintained for that period of time.. This time frame will be determined by the security experts on the ship or at the port facility..

  • ISPS Security Code Level 2In level 2, the threat to the security is higher than the normal level.
  • All the routine and cargo operations are carried out with an increase in security measures in both ships and ports.
  • Look-outs in no access zone and waterside area is to be increased  by port and ship authorities.
  • Access control is maintained all the time with escorting the visitors and use of security equipments like metal detector etc.
  • Communication between port authority and ship administration is always maintained in case of increase in security level.
  • Preparing a full or partial search operation of ship.
  • A declaration of security is undertaken between port state and ship administration.

Security Level 3
– exceptional – at this level, it is considered that a security incident is imminent and SPECIFIC security measures will have to be implemented and maintained for that period of time.. At this level, the security experts will work in close conjunction with Government agencies and possibly follow specific protocols and instructions..

  • ISPS Code Security Level 3Level 3 is imposed when the probability of security threat to ship or port authorities are highest or imminent and specific protective measures are to be maintained.
  • In level 3 all ship and port operations are stopped and frequent security rounds and duties are carried out by both ship staff and port authorities. Boat petrol are done by port state on the water side.
  • Main propulsion plant is always kept ready for moving the ship out of port if require.
  • No personal is allowed to access the ship without the authorization of port state official.
  • Only one access point is maintained on board at all time.
  • Preparing a full search operation of ship or under water hull search operation with port facility.
  • Preparation for evacuation of ship by its staff.
  • A declaration of security is undertaken between port state and ships administration.

Further details regarding the ISPS code can be seen here..



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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


    • Hi Amira, in the past before ISPS, many of the people were able to go into different areas of the port, even get on board the ships etc.. This was because there was not really much security to control this as people were not aware of the risks and security threat levels were not not so high.. This lack of security was a serious threat to cargo and ships.. This amplified after 9/11..

      After the implementation of ISPS, each port, shipping line had to employ security personnel to ensure that there is no unauthorised access to ships, ports etc.. These extras cost money and as the shipping lines and ports are employing these security personnel to safeguard the cargo belonging to customers and facilities that are serving the customers and hence it is necessary for the shipping lines to charge these extra..

      Trust this is clear now..

    • Hello Luis, ISP is generally linked with the freight and therefore in any sales contract CIF, FCA, CFR etc whoever pays the freight will pay ISP as well.. But there may also be cases where there is a specific agreement between buyer and seller..


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