The ISM Code is the International Code for the safe Operation of Ships and Prevention of Pollution, more popularly knows as the International Safety Management Code. The most recent revision of the code was released in 2018 that provides updates to the Resolutions included as amendments to the code. The ISM Code specifies the methods to attain ISM certification.
The regulations were drafted by IMO in an effort to improve maritime safety and while it has been hailed as a major contributor, it has also led to increased bureaucracy as also increased burden of documentation. As part of the ISM certification scheme there are two certificates needed. One for the company called the Document of Compliance or DoC. This allows the companies to operate vessels under the ISM Code. The DoC is issued by the Flag State, that is the country where the company and its ships are registered. The DoC is issued for each type of vessel that the company operates. This means that it cannot operate a bulk carrier if it only possesses a DoC for a container.
The next certificate under the auspices of the code that is issued is a safety management certificate. This is issued to each ship of the company and in order to get the certificate an audit of the vessel is conducted, and certain criteria needs to be met prior issue of the certificate. The SMC ISM Certification is issued for a period not exceeding five years and where only one intermediate verification is done it should be done within the 2nd and 3rd anniversary of the certification.
The ISM Certification provides validation that both company and ship are operating using a process-based system approach to manage risks and achieve continual improvement. The ISM code is meant to be a preventive tool and asks companies to assess all risks and then take measured to safeguard against them. Responsibilities and authorities are set out for the various entities includes in the ISM process.
Gaining ISM Certification does not guarantee that the ship will be safe or environmental pollution will not occur. It does however provide stakeholder the confidence that non-conformities will be addresses systemically and where an emergency does occur, the company and ship will be prepared to deal with them in the best way possible to mitigate consequences. To be successful it needs active involvement by the leadership and needs them to walk the talk. The system must be built around the users and for the users to enable them to succeed.
To learn more about the ISM Code and ISM certification enroll for QMII’s ISM auditor training.

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