Strict new UNsponsored maritime antiterrorism measures come into force

The measures, which require detailed security plans for ships and ports as well as such steps as regular and intensive individual or joint patrolling in vulnerable sea areas and the exchange of real-time intelligence, were developed and adopted by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) in response to the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.”IMO has repeatedly urged governments and the industry to take steps to increase awareness of the potential dangers and to encourage ships’ crews to be vigilant and alert to any security threat they may encounter,” the agency’s chief, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, said of the new International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code).”Great emphasis has been placed on the entry-into-force date, but the real challenge is to ensure that, now that date has passed, we do not allow ourselves to relax and adopt any complacent attitude,” he added.The measures, adopted in December 2002 by a Conference on Maritime Security, represent the first-ever internationally agreed regulatory framework addressing the crucial issue of maritime security, but IMO stressed that they should not be seen in isolation but as part of the wider UN battle against terrorism.”In effect we are talking about establishing an entirely new culture amongst those involved in the day-to-day running of the shipping and port industry,” IMO said in a release on the ISPS Code, which requires governments to gather and assess information with respect to security threats and exchange such data with other governments. Shipboard and port facility personnel must be aware of security threats and report concerns to the appropriate authorities, while governments need to communicate security related information to ships and port facilities.The measures take the form of amendments to the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, which has 148 contracting governments and applies to 98.4 per cent of the world’s merchant ships by gross tonnage.Security experts have identified a number of terrorist scenarios regarding loaded oil tankers, including their being hijacked and grounded at environmentally sensitive areas to cause pollution, being run aground in narrow channels to block navigation, and being used as potential incendiary devices near ports and large anchorage areas.

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