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January 2002

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IMO SMCP: IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (IA987E)

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Under STCW, 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 are divided into part A and part B. Part A covers phrases to be applied according to the requirements of table A-II/1 (minimum competence of officers in charge of a navigational watch on ships of 500 gross tonnage) of the STCW Code, and may be regarded as the replacement for the Standard Marine Navigational Vocabulary, 1985. This part is enriched by essential 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





A1/1        Distress Traffic

A1/1.1     Distress communications

A1/1.1.1                  Fire, explosion

A1/1.1.2                  Flooding

A1/1.1.3                  Collision

A1/1.1.4                  Grounding

A1/1.1.5                  List – Danger of Capsizing

A1/1.1.6                  Sinking

A1/1.1.7                  Disabled and adrift

A1/1.1.8                  Armed attack/piracy

A1/1.1.9                  Undesignated distress

A1/1.1.10                Abandoning vessel

A1/1.1.11                Person Overboard


A1/1.2     Search and Rescue Communications

A1/1.2.1                  SAR Communications (specifying or supplementary to A1/1.1)

A1/1.2.2                  Acknowledgement and/or relay of SAR messages

A1/1.2.3                  Performing/coordinating SAR operations               

A1/1.2.4                  Finishing with SAR operations


A1/1.3     Requesting medical assistance


A1/2        Urgency traffic

A1/2.1                     Technical Failure

A1/2.2                     Cargo

A1/2.3                     Ice Damage


A1/3        Safety Communications

A1/3.1     Meteorological and hydrological conditions

A1/3.1.1                  Winds, storms, tropical storms, sea state

A1/3.1.2                  Restricted Visibility

A1/3.1.3                  Ice

A1/3.1.4                  Abnormal Tides


A1/3.2     Navigational warnings involving:

A1/3.2.1                  Land- or sea-marks

A1/3.2.2                  Drifting Objects

A1/3.2.3                  Electronic Navigational Aids

A1/3.2.4                  Sea-bottom Characteristics

A1/3.2.5                  Miscellaneous

A1/               Cable. Pipeline and seismic/hydrographic operations

A1/               Diving, Towing and dredging operations

A1/               Tanker transhipment

A1/               Offshore installations, rig moves

A1/               Defective locks or bridges

A1/               Military operations

A1/               Fishery


A1/3.3     Environmental Protection Communications


A1/4        Pilotage

A1/4.1     Pilot request

A1/4.2     Embarking/Disembarking pilot

A1/4.3     Tug request


A1/5        Specials

A1/5.1     Helicopter operations

A1/5.2     Ice-breaker operations

A1/5.2.1                  Ice-breaker request

A1/5.2.2                  Ice-breaker assistance for convoy

A1/5.2.3                  Ice-breaker assistance in close-coupled towing


A1/6        Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) standard phrases

A1/6.1     Phrases for acquiring and providing data for a traffic image

A1/6.1.1                  Acquiring and providing routine traffic data

A1/6.1.2                  Acquiring and providing distress traffic data


A1/6.2     Phrases for providing VTS Services

A1/6.2.1                  Information service

A1/               Navigational warnings

A1/               Navigational Information

A1/               Traffic Information  

A1/               Route Information

A1/               Hydrographic Information

A1/               Electronic navigational aids information

A1/               Meteorological warnings

A1/               Meteorological information

A1/               Meteorological questions and answers

A1/6.2.2                  Navigational assistance service

A1/               Request and identification

A1/               Position

A1/               Course

A1/6.2.3                  Traffic organization service

A1/               Clearance, forward planning

A1/               Anchoring

A1/               Arrival, berthing and departure

A1/               Enforcement

A1/               Avoiding dangerous situations, providing safe movements

A1/               Canal and lock operations


A1/6.3     Handling over to another VTS


A1/6.4     Phrases for communication with emergency services and allied services

A1/6.4.1                  Emergency services (SAR, fire fighting, pollution fighting)

A1/6.4.2                  Tug services

A1/6.4.3                  Pilot request

A1/6.4.4                  Embarking/disembarking pilot


Appendix to A1 – External communication phrases


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



A2/1        Standard wheel orders

A2/2        Standard engine orders

A2/3        Pilot on bridge

A2/3.1     Propulsion system

A2/3.2     Manoeuvring

A2/3.3     Radar

A2/3.4     Draught and Air draught

A2/3.5     Anchoring

A2/3.5.1                  Going to anchor

A2/3.5.2                  Leaving the anchorage

A2/3.6     Tug assistance

A2/3.7     Berthing and unberthing

A2/3.7.1                  General

A2/3.7.2                  Berthing

A2/3.7.3                  Unberthing







B1/1         Handling over the watch

B1/1.1      Briefing on position, movement and draught

B1/1.1.1                   Position

B1/1.1.2                   Movements

B1/1.1.3                   Draught

B1/1.2      Briefing on traffic situation in the area

B1/1.3      Briefing on navigational aids and equipment status

B1/1.4      Briefing on radio communications

B1/1.5      Briefing on meteorological conditions

B1/1.6      Briefing on standing orders and bridge procedures

B1/1.7      Briefing on special navigational events

B1/1.8      Briefing on temperatures, pressures and soundings

B1/1.9      Briefing on operation of main engine and auxiliary equipment

B1/1.10    Briefing on pumping of fuel, ballast water, etc

B1/1.11    Briefing on special machinery events

B1/1.12    Briefing on record keeping

B1/1.13    Handling and taking over the watch

B1/1.14    Trim list and stability



B2/1         General activities

B2/1.1      Raising alarm

B2/1.2      Briefing crew and passengers

B2/1.3      Checking status of escape routes

B2/1.4      Checking status of lifeboats/liferafts

B2/1.5      Ordering evacuation

B2/1.6      Roll call

B2/1.7      Ordering abandon vessel

B2/1.8      In-boat procedures


B2/2         Occupational safety

B2/2.1      Instruction

B2/2.2      Practical operational safety

B2/2.3      Occupational accidents


B2/3         Fire protection and fire fighting

B2/3.1      Fire protection

B2/3.1.1                   Checking status of equipment

B2/3.2      Fire fighting and drills

B2/3.2.1                   Reporting fire

B2/3.2.2                   Reporting readiness for action

B2/3.2.3                   Orders for fire fighting

B2/3.2.4                   Cancellation of alarm


B2/4         Damage control

B2/4.1      Checking equipment status and drills

B2/4.2      Damage control activities

B2/4.2.1                   Reporting flooding

B2/4.2.2                   Reporting readiness for action

B2/4.2.3                   Orders for damage control

B2/4.2.4                   Cancellation of alarm


B2/5         Grounding

B2/5.1      Reporting grounding and ordering actions

B2/5.2      Reporting damage

B2/5.3      Orders for refloating

B2/5.4      Checking seaworthiness


B2/6         Search and rescue on-board activities

B2/6.1      Checking equipment status

B2/6.2      Person-overboard activities

B2/6.3      Rescue operation – reporting readiness for assistance

B2/6.4      Conducting search

B2/6.5      Rescue activities

B2/6.6      Finishing with search and rescue operations



B3/1         Cargo handling

B3/1.1      Loading and unloading

B3/1.1.1                   Loading capacities and quantities

B3/1.1.2                   Dockside/shipboard cargo handling gear and equipment

B3/1.1.3                   Preparing for loading/unloading

B3/1.1.4                   Operating cargo handling equipment and hatches

B3/1.1.5                   Maintaining/repairing cargo handling equipment

B3/1.1.6                   Briefing on stowage and securing

B3/1.2      Handling dangerous goods

B3/1.2.1                   Briefing on nature of dangerous goods

B3/1.2.2                   Instructions on compatibility and stowage

B3/1.2.3                   Reporting incidents

B3/1.2.4                   Action in case of incidents

B3/1.3      Handling liquid goods, bunkers and ballast – pollution prevention

B3/1.3.1                   Preparing safety measurements

B3/1.3.2                   Operating pumping equipment

B3/1.3.3                   Reporting and cleaning up spillage

B3/1.3.4                   Ballast Handling

B3/1.3.5                   Cleaning tanks

B3/1.4      Preparing for sea


B3/2         Cargo Care

B3/2.1      Operating shipboard equipment for cargo care

B3/2.2      Taking measures for cargo care

B3/2.2.1                   Carrying out inspections

B3/2.2.2                   Describing damage to the cargo

B3/2.2.3                   Taking action



B4/1         Briefing and instruction

B4/1.1      Conduct of passengers on board

B4/1.1.1                   General information on conduct of passengers

B4/1.1.2                   Briefing on safety regulations, preventative measures and communications

B4/1.2      Briefing on safety regulations, preventive measures and communications

B4/1.2.1                   Drills

B4/1.2.2                   The general emergency alarm

B4/1.2.3                   Preventing/reporting fire

B4/1.2.4                   PA Announcements on emergency

B4/1.2.5                   Person overboard

B4/1.2.6                   Protective measures for children


B4/2         Evacuation and boat drill

B4/2.1      Allowing/directing to assembly stations, describing how to escape

B4/2.2      Briefing on how to dress and what to take to assembly stations

B4/2.3      Performing roll call

B4/2.4      Briefing on how to put on lifejackets

B4/2.5      Instructions on how to embark and behave in lifeboats/liferafts


B4/3         Attending to passengers in an emergency

B4/3.1      Informing on present situation

B4/3.2      Escorting helpless passengers


Procedure for amending the IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases


Resolution A.918 (22)



A​​s 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. And 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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