Working at sea – guidance

Ship security

How ship security is managed in the UK, and how to comply with EU regulation on ship security.

Overview

The maritime community has a series of special measures to enhance maritime security. These are contained in the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter XI-2 and the International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code.

The EU regulation on enhancing ship and port facility security transposes SOLAS XI-2 and the ISPS Code into UK law and requires EU member states to introduce effective sanctions for breaching provisions of the regulation.

This guide explains how maritime security is managed in the UK, how security measures are applied and how you should comply with them. It also provides guidance on how to deal with stowaways and deter acts of violence against merchant ships, such as piracy and armed robbery.

You can find guidance on complying with European Commission (EC) inspections of ships and shipping companies, and information on maritime security training. It also explains how Ship Identification Numbers (SINs) and Continuous Synopsis Records (CSRs) work.

Maritime security management

The Security Policy Branch is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and co-ordinates a series of special measures to ensure security in the maritime community.

The MCA Security Policy Branch

The Security Policy Branch provides technical advice and guidance to make sure that SOLAS Chapter XI-2 and ISPS Code are consistently applied and maintained.

The Department for Transport and the MCA Security Policy Branch

DfT is responsible for security across all forms of transport, including maritime.

As policy leaders and advisers, DfT implements measures in UK ports and on UK-registered ships carrying more than 12 passengers to ensure that security arrangements meet UK standards.

The MCA is responsible to DfT for:

  • implementing the ISPS Code for all UK-registered cargo ships
  • undertaking security aspects of Port State Control (PSC) inspections of foreign vessels in UK ports, including passenger ships where this is a logical extension of the PSC inspection
  • receiving and handling ship security alerts in line with agreed standard operating procedures
  • approving and auditing training providers for Ship Security Officer (SSO) and Company Security Officer (CSO) courses

The ISPS Code is a comprehensive set of measures designed to strengthen the security of ships and port facilities.

It is implemented through the EU regulation on enhancing ship and port facility security (725/2004). The code has two parts, one mandatory (Part A) and one recommendatory (Part B). The EU regulation makes some of Part B of the ISPS Code mandatory.

The code takes the approach that ensuring the security of ships and port facilities is a risk management activity and that, to determine what security measures are appropriate, an assessment of the risks must be made in each particular case.

The purpose of the code is to provide a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk. This enables governments to counteract changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and port facilities by adopting the appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures.

For further information, you can call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

Ship Security Plans

To comply with the ISPS Code requirements, every company/ship must have a Ship Security Plan (SSP). As a minimum, this must address the requirements in paragraph A/9.4 and B/9.2 (made mandatory by EU regulation) of the code.

The purpose of an SSP is to:

  • help prevent illegal acts against the ship, crew and passengers
  • minimise damage to the marine environment and port facilities

SSPs for UK-registered vessels must be approved by the MCA, except for passenger ships, which are approved by the Department for Transport (DfT).

When you submit an SSP it must be accompanied by a Ship Security Assessment (SSA). The SSA is an essential and integral part of the process of developing and updating an SSP.

Cargo Ship Security Instructions show CSOs for UK-registered cargo ships what must be contained within SSPs. For a copy of the Cargo Ship Security Instructions, email the Security Policy Branch at hq_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

You should send your SSP to your assigned security liaison officer for approval. There is no charge applicable for approving SSPs at present.

Ship Security Alert Systems (SSAS)

The SSAS is part of the ISPS Code. It is a system that contributes to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) efforts to strengthen maritime security and suppress acts of terrorism and piracy against shipping.

The SSAS for UK-registered ships should be programmed to send an alert to the competent authority approved by the MCA, and to Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre Falmouth.

To apply for registration as a competent authority for the receipt of ship security alerts, or to notify MCA of changes in contact details of the competent authority or of the CSO, the CSO should complete Marine Safety Form (MSF) 5620 and send it the address detailed on the form.

For further information, you can call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

Ships that must comply with maritime security requirements

The SOLAS Chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code apply to the following types of ships engaged on international voyages:

  • passenger ships, including high-speed passenger craft
  • cargo ships, including high-speed craft, of 500 gross tonnage and upwards
  • mobile offshore drilling units

European Commission Regulation 725/2004 extends the scope of compliance to include:

  • domestic ‘Class A’ passenger ships (domestic ships which travel more than 20 miles from a place of refuge)
  • domestic ships required to comply by an EU member state’s risk assessment - for the UK this covers ships certified to carry more than 250 passengers and tankers
  • port facilities serving any of the types of ships detailed above

For further information, you can call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

EC inspections for marine security

Under European Commission Regulation 324/2008, the Commission has powers to inspect UK-registered ships while in a port of an EU member state. A ship may be selected by the Commission for inspection when it is berthed in a port that is undergoing a security inspection. Download the Commission’s Regulation 324/2008 from the MCA website (PDF, 55KB) 

The MCA or DfT normally notify ships or shipping companies of any inspection. Sometimes notification comes from the maritime administration of the EU member state of the port the ship is located in.

It is a legal requirement to help the Commission conduct these inspections, and they have the same right to inspect all aspects of the ship’s maritime security compliance as UK flag inspectors.

The Merchant Shipping (Ship Inspection and Survey Organisations) Regulations 1996 (contained in Merchant Shipping Notice No. M.1672) contains information on common rules and standards for ship inspection and survey organisations. Download Merchant Shipping Notice (MSN) 1672 (M) The Merchant Shipping (Ship Inspection and Survey Organisations) Regulations 1996 from the MCA website (PDF, 153KB).

Council Directive 94/57/EC

Council Directive 94/57/EC establishes measures to be followed by the EU member states and organisations concerned with the inspection, survey and certification of ships. This complies with the international conventions on safety at sea and prevention of marine pollution.

Find information about Directive 94/57/EC on the EUR-lex website.

Applying to the MCA for an ISPS Code verification

Your application for ISPS Code verification (survey of ship security system) will usually be undertaken at the same time as an International Safety Management Code audit and International Labour Organization inspection.

To apply for an ISPS Code verification, you should complete and send an application form to your local Marine Office.

There is no fee for undertaking the verification.

Download an application form for survey and inspection of ships and fishing vessels from the MCA website (PDF, 35KB).

Find contact details for Marine Offices.

For further information, you can call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

Deter piracy, armed robbery and other acts of violence against merchant ships

The DfT has responsibility for policy on counter piracy.

Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 440 (M) aims to help ship owners, operators (companies), masters and seafarers understand the risks posed by piracy, armed robbery and other acts of violence against merchant shipping. DfT has identified steps you can take to reduce the risk of such acts and advises on how to deal with and report them if they occur.

MGN 420 (M) covers the following:

  • specific guidance for Somalia, Northwest Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden
  • recommended practices to deter acts of piracy
  • recommended practices to deter acts of armed robbery
  • jurisdiction and intervention
  • role of the port and coastal state
  • reporting incidents

Key points include:

  • planning the voyage - carry out a risk assessment and make an assessment of the measures required when transiting high risk areas
  • training and planning - many attempted piracy and armed robbery ‘attacks’ are unsuccessful, countered by ships’ crew who have planned and trained in advance
  • being vigilant
  • maintaining a high speed where possible in high-risk areas
  • using good communications with relevant authorities - report to the relevant authorities before, during or after an attack

To read the full notice, download MGN 420 (M) Measure to counter piracy, armed robbery.

High threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia

There is a growing need for CSOs to remain aware of high threats of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. If your vessel will be passing through the area, you should:

UKMTO Dubai can provide advice and information on other maritime security issues in the Gulf of Aden, Straits of Hormuz and general Gulf area, including information on known naval operations and exercises, and possible interaction between them and vessels on passage.

For further information, call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

Stowaways

The UK Border Agency has responsibility for dealing with stowaways.

Maritime Guidance Note (MGN) 70 (M) offers guidelines to ship owners, operators, charterers, managers, shipping agents, port authorities, masters and ship’s officers on how to deal with stowaways on vessels. It also provides practical advice on the procedures to follow if you find a stowaway on board.

MGN 70 (M) reminds you of the need:

  • for continuous vigilance against stowaways
  • to carry out adequate searches, especially when a hold is to be sealed and/or fumigated
  • to provide feedback on the guidelines’ practical effectiveness

You can download MGN 70 (M) Guidelines on the allocation of responsibilities for successful resolution of stowaway cases.

You can also download fully revised guidelines in the Annex to MGN 70 (M).

For further information, you can call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

Ship Identification Numbers and Continuous Synopsis Records

SINs and CSRs are special measures to ensure maritime safety contained in the SOLAS Chapter XI-1. They are also closely associated with the application of the ISPS Code.

SOLAS Chapter XI-1 Regulation 3/4.1 requires that a SIN be permanently marked in a visible place on the vessel, eg:

  • on the stern
  • on either side of the hull, amidships port and starboard, above the deepest assigned load line
  • on either side of the superstructure, port and starboard
  • on the front of the superstructure
  • in the case of passenger ships, on a horizontal surface visible from the air

Identification for large commercial yachts

UK-registered large commercial yachts are authorised to display the SIN on a ‘horizontal surface visible from the air’, in the same way as passenger ships.

Read about large commercial yachts’ SINs and markings on the MCA website.

Continuous Synopsis Record

The CSR is intended to provide an on-board record of the history of the ship. Every ship that SOLAS Chapter I applies to must have an updated CSR containing specified information, including:

  • name of the state for which the ship is entitled to fly the flag
  • date of ship registration
  • SIN
  • port it is registered at
  • name, registered address and unique identification number of owner

The Registry of Seamen and Shipping issues CSRs. Read about vessel registration on the MCA website.

For further information, you can call the MCA Security Policy Branch on 023 8032 9478 or email them at HQ_maritimesecurity@mcga.gov.uk.

Training for Company Security Officers and Ship Security Officers

Shipping companies are required to designate a CSO to co-ordinate the security activities of the company and its ships, and to liaise with port facilities and governments. All ships must have a properly trained SSO on board.

CSO training and duties

The ISPS Code defines the CSO as the person designated by the company to make sure that:

  • a Ship Security Assessment is carried out
  • a SSP is developed, submitted for approval and thereafter implemented and maintained
  • liaison with port facility security officers and the SSO is upheld

There is no requirement for these duties to be included in the SSP, but evidence of the activities having taken place will be sought during verification visits.

A key requirement of the ISPS Code is for the people with security responsibilities to be appropriately trained to carry out their duties. The government requires that CSOs and SSOs associated with UK-registered ships undergo approved training, in accordance with Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)/Circular 1154. Download MSC/Circular 1154 from the MCA website (PDF, 161KB).

For companies with more than 50 per cent of ships registered in the UK, the training provider must have been approved by the MCA. Find contact details for MCA-approved colleges on the MCA website.

For information on colleges and training associations, see the guide on maritime training schemes and providers.

SSO training and duties

You should designate a SSO on each ship, and include the SSO’s duties in the SSP.

A key requirement of the ISPS Code is for the people with security responsibilities to be appropriately trained to carry out their duties. The government requires that CSO and SSOs associated with UK-registered ships undergo approved training.

An SSO requires a certificate of competency. See the guide seafarer Certificates of Competency.

An SSO on a UK-registered ship can take one of two routes for a certificate of competency as required by STCW VI/5:

Approval of training providers

If you are a training provider and want to get your SSO or CSO courses approved by the MCA, you can read information about approval of security training courses on the MCA website.

For further information, you can call the MCA Training and Certification Helpline on 023 8032 9231 or email them at exams@mcga.gov.uk.

Further information

MCA Navigational Safety Branch

023 8032 9437

MCA Security Policy Branch

023 8032 9478

DfT Maritime Helpdesk

0300 330 3000

MCA Training and Certification Helpline

023 8032 9231

Download European Commission Regulation 324/2008 from the MCA website (PDF, 55KB)

Download MSN 1672 (M) The Merchant Shipping (Ship Inspection and Survey Organisations) Regulations 1996

Download an application form for survey and inspection of ships and fishing vessels from the MCA website (PDF, 34K

Marine Office contact details on the MCA website

Directive 94/57/EC information on the EUR-lex website

Download MGN 440 (M) Measure to counter piracy, armed robbery

European Naval Force registration information on the MSCHOA website

Download MGN 70 (M) Guidelines on the allocation of responsibilities for successful resolution of stowaway cases

Download the Annex to MGN 70 (M)

SIN guidance on marking on large commercial yachts on the MCA website

Security training course approval information on the MCA website

Download MSC/Circular 1154 from the MCA website (PDF, 161KB)

Download MIN 379(M) Ship security officer certification: recognition from the MCA website (PDF, 87KB)

MCA-approved colleges contact details on the MCA website