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The ISPS Code in Maritime Industry

Updated on October 8, 2012
(Photo Courtesy of
(Photo Courtesy of

Memorizing ISPS

The test of recognizing the acronym is always conducted on board ship, while having a slide show presentation at the vessel’s office. You can either forget or interchange it, like International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) but the initials stand for International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.

Having entered into force on July, 2004, the ISPS Code has been widely claimed as a success.

The United States of America, of course, played a leading role in urging the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop such strategy, and member states and the shipping industry responded quickly by unanimously adopting amendments to Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the new ISPS Code at an international conference in December 2002.

Seafarers agreed to the consistency of the ISPS Code when it comes to inspection of the persons coming and out the vessel, the provisions being loaded or the cargo being discharge or loaded, too.

How ISPS started

The US Congress asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a wide-ranging review of how vulnerable the ‘maritime transportation chain, might be.

The first outcome is that the GAO determines that the ISPS Code is sufficient for tankers and no further action is necessary.

The second is that the GAO determines that the ISPS Code is not adequate for tankers and the US should seek improvements through the IMO.

The third-potentially disruptive-outcome is that the GAO finds that the ISPS Code is not adequate for tankers and determines to protect US interests, an outcome that could be disruptive for the industry and lead to a great deal of upheaval for shipping as a whole.

The sailor’s experience on ISPS Code

Just like the traffic lights code, ISPS Code adopted color coding when the level of maritime security is concerned from both the port of loading or discharging operation and inside the ship. The green will always be normal but the red color will always mean danger.

  1. There will be an individual ISPS key that will be issued to each seafarer onboard the vessel.
  2. There will only be a single door that will serve as entry and exit of the ship when the ISPS Code is implemented at the port.
  3. There will be an additional watch outside the weather deck door, taking care of the record of ship’s crew who are going ashore and visitors entering the vessel.
  4. Visitors should be asked for their legitimate IDs (company ID, SSS ID, etc.) and watch men should scrutinize the photo if it’s really them. They should wait at the ship’s office with one watch guarding before relinquishing them to the master or senior officer being asked by the visitor.
  5. Security levels should be posted visible outside the ship or at the gangway of the vessel beside the watchman’s post. It should coincide to the security level being implemented at the port.
  6. Ship’s security plan is confidential. So, when asked by a visitor, the safe way to answer is that the Ship’s Security Officer will take care of his questions.
  7. Unauthorized entry of unaccounted person onboard ship is a clear indication of security breach. It should be reported to the master immediately for the needed action.

In 2007-2008, the sailor experienced the entry of the group of US Coast Guard (USCG) personnel who conducted the Unannounced Drug Inspection On board Ship. They never found any cache of illegal drugs on board ship, but the damage has been done. What was the root cause of all the hullabaloos?

This was because of the joke thrown by the port loading inspector to an AB (able seaman) if the latter wanted to buy drugs. The fault was blamed by the master to the AB because he didn’t reported it to the captain even it was a joke.

More often than not, when you’re at the US waters, never make a joke on drugs and other illegal things. They are always suspicious to the visiting seafarers. If you don’t have a legitimate US Shore Pass, you can’t even go ashore. You’ll just be contented to look at the port holes of the vessel.

Some of sailor’s Filipino friends in Texas (Houston and Texas City) also attested that you cannot even take pictures outside or inside a mall without asking permission. Seafarers are fond of taking pictures everywhere for souvenirs. Most Americans feared that it can be a means of ‘terrorist act’ if not reprimanded. The sailor had a brush of the situation when a young boy told the Filipina guard at Houston’s Wal-Mart about his taking photos outside the mall.

ISPS Code is the solution created by the US government to combat terrorism even before it reaches the shore of the nation. American people didn’t want the controversial September 11, 2001 or 9/11 suicide bombing attack of the New York’s twin tower buildings to happen again.

(You can buy the book on ISPS if you want to read more and understand more about the topic.)

ISPS & MTSA Maritime Security Compliance Video Training Series by MoxieMediaInc


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    • profile image

      Ike 2 years ago

      I'm one of a few admins on a site and we each have mupiltle computers, locations, and browsers we use.From what I can tell, your solution seems like it'll take care of all of that by just inserting your code problem is, where how/ does one use it?Obviously, I'm completely clueless on coding, I'm just a blogger who is tired of seeing 2/3 of our hits come from the admins (not to mention how much that's skewing the other results- notably time on site and bounce rate).Thank you for your help.

    • thesailor profile image

      thesailor 5 years ago from Seven Seas

      @princely Ogbeide: Thank you for asking. My apologies for this late reply.

      A cargo agent should always follow the port protocol or procedure as stated in the ISPS Code.

    • profile image

      princely Ogbeide 5 years ago


    • thesailor profile image

      thesailor 7 years ago from Seven Seas

      ISPS Code is now a priority of USCG whenever to go on board a merchant vessel.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      It's really a very challenging job to be sailor. You will be blamed if the ship violated the MARPOL 73/78 Convention.