Security Compliance at Ports and Sea

Shipping is the most global of all major industries and approximately 90% of International trade is carried out by ships. It can be a dangerous environment to work if certain precautionary measures are not undertaken. International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the Governing body for shipping and has developed regulations to be followed by all countries in the International trade, to ensure safety and security of all personnel working in this trade. The first step taken towards this task was the adaptation of International Convention for The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Before the terrorism attack on the US, on 11th September, 2001, maritime security did not have high priority. The attacks brought about an immediate change in the way security measures were conducted. In November 2002, the Maritime Transport Security Act came into being. It empowered the US coast guard with matters related to planning, prevention and preparation for maritime security in US. Along with the Coast Guard, all federal, local and government agencies that played any role in maritime security, were incorporated into the act.

All these developments led to the establishment of International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, becoming a part of SOLAS in July 2004. It is has regulations that are mandatory to be followed by all ships and ports, to be certified fit for service in marine trade. The code is divided into two sections; Part A consist details of ship and port security regulations which are to be mandatorily followed. Part B is composed of guidelines to meet the requirements set out in Part A.

Under ISPS Code, there are three levels of security. These levels describe the current framework of security threat that the port or the ship might be facing. The national and International security conditions are taken into consideration and security level is determined by coordinating between the local government, ship and port authorities. The personnel on board as well those working at the ports are assigned with various security duties. A Ship Security Officer (SSO), Port Facility Security Officer (PFSO) and Company Security Officer (CSO), delegates the various duties, makes report and works together with other officials to ensure safety. The security level is always displayed prominently at the entrance to the ship.

The three levels of security under ISPS Code are as follows:

  • Security Level 1: Normal level – It is the general operating conditions of the ship and port. This level is maintained at all times. The Ship and Port Facility Security Plans are followed in this level. 24/7 surveillance of the restricted areas, entry and exit to ports and ship are common. Loading, unloading and storage operations are supervised by the ship and port authorities.
  • Security Level 2: Heightened Risk – The threat to security is higher at such times and supervision and surveillance are stepped up. Access to the restricted areas is mainly by escorting the visitors and with usage of safety equipments like metal detectors and baggage scanners. The ship and port authorities are in constant contact, reporting any suspicious activity with immediate effect. Search operations are carried out of partial or full ship along with the cargo. A declaration of security is undertaken between port state and ship administration.
  • Security Level 3: Imminent Danger – When a specific threat has been identified and an attack or breach of security is imminent, level 3 comes into the picture. All ship and port operations are suspended. Regular security checks and rounds are conducted by both the port and ship personnel. On the water front, patrol boats are put into action. Maintenance work that can hamper the movement of the ship in any way is denied and the main propulsion plant is kept on stand-by for moving the ship out of port with immediate effect. Special authorization from the port authorities is required to access the ship with only one access point maintained for boarding. A complete search operation is carried out of each ship along with an underwater hull search. Evacuations plans are put into place for all ship staff and a declaration of security is undertaken between port state and ship administration.

Prior to entering a port or while in a port, the security level of the ship changes to comply with requirements for the security level set by the Contracting Government, if the security level of the port is higher than the one set by the ship Administration. If for any reason, the ship is unable to do so, a notification is sent to the appropriate authority before entry into the port.

Several measures have been taken for enhancing safety and security. From here on we shall go into details of some of the important measures.

  • Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a program which promotes private sector to play a role in the security of the ports. This program is applicable to land, air and sea transportation. C-TPAT provides guidelines for self-assessment of the supply chain to the importers. Then, they develop a program to enhance the security of importer’s supply chain based on C-TPAT’s assessment of the model. It is led by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and is a voluntary program. As an exchange for participating in this program, CBP provides reduced inspections at the port of arrival, expedited processing at the border and penalty mitigation.
  • Container Security Initiative (CSI) is a program that was launched by US in the year 2001, as an aftermath to the terrorist threats to the country. Along with making the ports in US safer for containerized cargo, it also helps all other host countries who are a part of this initiative to improve their own security. It is bilateral system of information sharing where the containers which have already been inspected and found safe are given an easy passage moving forward. These containers will not be as severely scrutinized at the remaining ports, thus saving time and efforts of both the parties. The containers at the host port leaving for US are inspected using a non-intrusive Inspection (NII) technology using Gamma ray, X-ray and other radiation checks. Use of smarter, tamper-evident containers makes it easy for authorities to pass the shipment forward without hassles. One of the main aim of these tests is to prevent any nuclear weapon being smuggled into the country. This initiative offers greater global security, helping the shipping industry as a whole.

Planning for port security needs to be done from a fairly early stage. Ports cover large areas of land and patrolling or surveillance cannot be effective unless closely monitored. Apart from terrorist and armed robbery, smuggling and stowaways are also problems faced by ports across the globe. Maintaining proper coordination between supply chain, agents and port authorities, real-time exchange of security related information can go a big way to secure the massive area covered by ports. Emergency scenarios such as fires, explosion should be taken into account along with evacuation of large number of people in case of passenger vessels.

In another blog post, we will take a look at the security measures taken on board ships.