Guidelines on the Application of the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code (eBook)

Published Date

June 2020

Guidelines on the Application of the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code (eBook)

(Excludes any applicable taxes)

The International Safety Management (ISM) Code is a key mandatory requirement for merchant ships, critical to the improvement of maritime safety and environmental performance. These guidelines have been rewritten to provide additional advice on the elements of an effective SMS, taking advantage of experience gained since compliance with the ISM Code became mandatory.

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The new fifth edition of these guidelines includes comprehensive advice on compliance with the ISM Code for anyone involved with developing, implementing and maintaining Safety Management Systems (SMS). This includes shipping company executives, Designated Persons Ashore (DPAs), Masters and all other personnel – shipboard and shore based – with responsibility for ISM related compliance.

Modern technology and regulatory developments are addressed, helping users to keep the SMS and its documentation as straightforward as possible. It is recommended that a copy of this publication is in every shipping company office and carried on board every ship worldwide.

Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1 Context
1.2 Objectives of the ISM Code
1.3 Objectives of the Safety Management System
1.4 Stakeholders
1.5 Complexity

Chapter 2 Elements of an Effective SMS
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Policy
2.3 Commitment
2.4 Communication
2.5 Roles
2.6 Resources
2.7 Risk Assessments
2.8 Procedures
2.9 Documentation
2.10 Verification

Chapter 3 Tools for an Effective SMS
3.1 Simplifying the SMS
3.2 Developing Procedures and Checklists
3.3 Establishing Effective Management and Leadership
3.4 Assessing Risks
3.5 Using Technology
3.6 Using Data
3.7 Learning Lessons
3.8 Learning from Success

More than 20 years have passed since compliance with the IMO International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (ISM Code) initially became mandatory for shipping companies operating most types of merchant ship. This latest edition of the International Chamber of Shipping’s guidelines on the application of the ISM Code contains new guidance that reflects those years of experience by the industry, implementing the ISM Code’s provisions.

With much of the focus often being on safety management, it can be easy to overlook that the ISM Code is equally concerned about the environment, specifically pollution prevention. In addition to ensuring safe ship operations, an important function of the Safety Management System (SMS) is to organise and manage efforts of the Company to prevent pollution from its ships, particularly through compliance with relevant environmental rules and regulations.

These ICS Guidelines aim to help shipping companies develop, implement, maintain and improve their SMS and to support continuous improvement of the safety and environmental management skills of their shore‑based and shipboard personnel. The SMS provides an essential and flexible framework to deliver safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sound ship operations, and to cope with and manage the ever‑growing body of international, regional, national and other requirements that affect ship operations.

Given that the industry is now familiar with the ISM Code and its requirements, this latest edition focuses on providing additional guidance on practical implementation. It does not intend to set out or suggest there is only one way to develop, implement, maintain or improve an SMS. However, it should assist shipping companies operating ships in all sectors and trades and their shore‑based and shipboard personnel, in particular those specifically tasked with writing, reviewing and using the SMS.

These guidelines are primarily for company personnel, including senior management, Designated Persons Ashore (DPAs), Masters and crew. External stakeholders who interact either directly or indirectly with the SMS may also find the guidance useful. This may include flag Administrations and Recognised Organisations (ROs). They will also be useful for maritime education and training institutions and auditors.

These Guidelines should be read alongside the most recent and in‑force version of the ISM Code and Chapter IX of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). This does not replace or supersede the requirement to comply with the provisions of these mandatory IMO instruments or any additional relevant requirements of the flag Administration.


The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is the principal international trade association for the shipping industry, representing shipowners and operators in all sectors and trades.

ICS membership comprises national shipowners' associations in Asia, Europe and the Americas whose member shipping companies operate over 80% of the world's merchant tonnage.

ICS membership comprises national shipowners' associations in Asia, Europe and the Americas whose member shipping companies operate over 80% of the world's merchant tonnage.

Established in 1921, ICS is concerned with all technical, legal, employment affairs and policy issues that may affect international shipping.

ICS represents shipowners with the various intergovernmental regulatory bodies that impact on shipping, including the International Maritime Organization.

ICS also develops best practices and guidance, including a wide range of publications and free resources that are used by ship operators globally.

Title: Guidelines on the Application of the IMO International Safety Management (ISM) Code (eBook)
Edition: Fifth
Product Code: MA1009EA
ISBN: 978-1-9162322-9-7
Published Date: June 2020
Author: ICS

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