June 29, 2004

Plea for ISPS enforcement "rationality"

The new International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, comes into force world-wide on July 1, 2004 for all ships in international trade.

On the eve of the ISPS deadline the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has issued a final plea to governments and port state control authorities to "temper rigor with rationality during the immediate enforcement of the ISPS Code, in order to avoid unnecessary disruption to the flow of world trade and the movement of goods in ports."

ICS Secretary General, Chris Horrocks, explained:

"In just over 18 months, and at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, the shipping industry has trained thousands of ship security officers, conducted on-board security assessments and prepared detailed ship security plans as required. By any standards this is an impressive achievement."

For months ICS has been vociferous in warning operators that ships unable to demonstrate compliance should anticipate serious hold-ups and even possible denial of entry to certain ports. Yet while the task facing everyone in the industry-- shipping companies, flag state and ports--in preparing for July 1 has been enormous, the delay by some flag states in processing applications for approval of security plans and issuing ISPS Code certificates has been a disappointment, especially as the unusually short period for the implementation of ISPS was enthusiastically accepted by governments at the IMO Diplomatic Conference in December 2002. ICS acknowledges the late efforts made by some flag states to complete the necessary paperwork, while pointing out that in some cases these efforts may have come too late.

"There can be no excuse for ships which have simply ignored all the warnings," said Horrocks, "and we expect port state inspectors to apply the Code with rigor. But this must be tempered by common sense. It would be ironic indeed if security measures designed to protect world trade simply cause disruption after July 1."

"A ship must be able to demonstrate that it takes its security responsibilities seriously, but the aim should be to ensure that security is enhanced, not to seek out deficiencies at all costs. Ships' crews should be treated as partners in combating terrorism, not as potential security risks".

ICS has continuing concerns about the readiness of ports world-wide, which must comply with their own security requirements, to meet the July 1 deadline, and about the implications for compliant ships that call at non-compliant ports. ICS stresses that it will be vital for ports to co-operate fully with requests from ships made necessary by the ISPS Code, including the completion of formal Declarations of Security.

Horrocks observed: "There will clearly be problems if ships are seriously penalized for failures on the part of ports over which the ship has no control – yet another reason why we are calling for a rational response by port state control inspectors."

Since the adoption of the ISPS Code, and in lieu of timely advice being issued by many governments, ICS has been active in educating shipping companies about ISPS requirements, including the development of a Model Ship Security Plan which is being widely used within the industry. Further details can be found at www.marisec.org/isps.

Meanwhile, in co-operation with the Round Table of international shipping associations, ICS is encouraging shipping companies to complete an Industry Feedback Report on any incident that may occur as a result of actions taken by port state control authorities when enforcing ISPS, in order that any problems that arise can be taken up with IMO or individual administrations. For details see web address above.

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