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January 2002

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IMO SMCP: IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (IA987E)

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Under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as revised in 1995, the ability to use and understand the IMO SMCP is required for the certification of officers in charge of a navigational watch on ships of 500 gross tonnage or more.

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The phrases in this publication are divided into Parts A and B. Part A covers phrases to be applied according to the requirements of table A-II/1 of the STCW Code, and may be regarded as the replacement of the Standard Marine Navigational Vocabulary, 1985. This part is enriched by phrases concerning ship handling and safety of navigation to be used in onboard communications. Part B lists other onboard standard safety related phrases which, supplementary to Part A, may also be regarded as useful for maritime English instruction.


1          Position of the IMO SMCP in maritime practice

2          Organization of the IMO SMCP

3          Position of the IMO SMCP in maritime education and training

4          Basic communicative features

5          Typographical Conventions


1          Procedure

2          Spelling

3          Message markers

4          Responses

5          Distress, urgency and safety signals

6          Standard organizational phrases

7          Corrections

8          Readiness

9          Repetition

10        Numbers

11        Positions

12        Bearings

13        Courses

14        Distances

15        Speed

16        Times

17        Geographical names

18        Ambiguous words

1          General Terms
2          VTS special terms

A1        External communication phrases
            A1/1    Distress Traffic

            A1/2    Urgency traffic

            A1/3    Safety communications

            A1/4    Pilotage

            A1/5    Specials

            A1/6    Vessel traffic service (VTS) standard phrases

Appendix to A1           Standard GMDSS messages

1          Standard

            1.1       Structure

            1.2       Example

2          Standard urgency message

            2.1       Structure

            2.2       Example

3          Standard safety message

            3.1       Structure

            3.2       Example
A2        Onboard communication phrases

            A2/1    Standard wheel orders

            A2/2    Standard engine orders

            A2/3    Pilot on bridge

B          Onboard communication phrases – operative ship handling

            B1/1    Handing over the watch

            B1/2    Trim, list and stability

B2        Safety on board

            B2/1    General activities

            B2/2    Occupational safety

            B2/3    Fire protection and fire fighting

            B2/4    Damage control

            B2/5    Grounding

            B2/6    Search and rescue onboard activities

B3        Cargo and cargo handling

            B3/1    Cargo handling

            B3/2    Cargo care

B4        Passenger care

            B4/1    Briefing and instruction

            B4/2    Evacuation and boat drill

            B4/3    Attending to passengers in an emergency

Procedure for amending the IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases

Resolution A.918 (22)

As navigational and safety communications from ship-to-shore and vice versa, from ship-to-ship and on board ship must be precise, simple and unambiguous, there is a need to standardize the language used. This is of particular importance in the light of the increasing number of internationally trading vessels with crews speaking many different languages, since problems of communication may cause misunderstandings leading to dangers to the vessel, the people on board and the environment.


In 1973, the Maritime Safety Committee agreed, at its twenty-seventh session, that where language difficulties arise a common language should be used for navigational purposes, and that language should be English. In consequence the Standard Marine Navigational Vocabulary (SMNV) was developed, adopted in 1977 and amended in 1985.


In 1992, the Maritime Safety Committee, at its sixtieth session, instructed the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation to develop a more comprehensive standardized safety language than SMNV 1985, taking into account the changing conditions in modern seafaring and covering all major safety related verbal communications.


At its sixty-eighth session in 1997, the Maritime Safety Committee adopted the Draft IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP) developed by the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation. The draft IMO SMCP, following international trials, was amended at the forty-sixth session of this Sub- Committee, and was given final consideration by the Maritime Safety Committee at its seventy-fourth session in light of remarks received by the Organization. The IMO SMCP was adopted by the Assembly in November 2001 as resolution A.918(22).


Under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as revised 1995, the ability to use and understand the IMO SMCP is required for the certification of officers in charge of a navigational watch on ships of 500 gross tonnage or more.

As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.

In other words, its role is to create a level playing field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance. This approach also encourages innovation and efficiency.

Shipping is a truly international industry, and it can only operate effectively if the regulations and standards are themselves agreed, adopted and implemented on an international basis. The IMO is the forum at which this process takes place.

Title: IMO SMCP: IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (IA987E)
Edition: 2002 Edition
Number of Pages: 128
Product Code: 4410m052
ISBN: ISBN 13: 9789280151374, ISBN 10: 9280151371
Published Date: January 2002
Binding Format: Paperback
Book Height: 210 mm
Book Width: 150 mm
Book Spine: 7 mm
Weight: 0.30 kg
Author: IMO

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