Evaluating the ISM code using port state control statistics

Abstract: The history of modern maritime safety legislation at the international level is relatively young. Its beginnings are generally associated with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, a tragedy that resulted in the adoption by an international conference of the first of what was to become a series of versions (1914, 1929, 1948, 1960, 1974) of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Far from being an isolated incident, the Titanic was actually indicative of the unsatisfactory standards in vessel safety prevailing at the time. While the Titanic is best known for jump-starting the process of the global regulation of shipping, it was also symptomatic of many issues more popularly associated with later maritime accidents; issues that would not come into the forefront until the 1960s such as public outcry and the influence of the media over governments, management errors, the precedence of financial aspects over maritime safety, and absent or flawed routine procedures; issues that would eventually lead to a paradigm shift in maritime safety administration at the international level occurred starting from around the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The old or existing paradigm was characterized by heavy reliance on technological innovation and detailed rulemaking as solutions to the challenge of promoting safety at sea. However, the series of major casualties that occurred with what seemed to be increasing frequency, heavier loss of life, and greater harm to the marine environment gradually pushed world shipping closer to the edge of the old paradigm. The new paradigm is characterized by the following: a migration from the prescriptive to the discretionary variety of administrative control; an increased focus on the human element; a wider application of macroergonomic principles; the institutionalization of third-party control; and the enrolment of a broad range of actors. More than any other international maritime safety instrument adopted in the late 1980s, the International Safety Management (ISM) Code has come to symbolize the paradigm shift. The maritime community developed the ISM Code as an umbrella instrument to address maritime safety issues from a holistic perspective. The Code is a mandatory instrument that encourages the cultivation of a safety culture in the maritime industry by setting international standards for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. It is implemented by the shipping company through a safety management system (SMS), the functional requirements for which include, inter alia, instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships, defined levels of authority and lines of communication amongst shore and shipboard personnel, procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformities, procedures to respond to emergencies, and procedures for internal audits and management reviews. This thesis intends to contribute to that segment of ISM Code research that seeks to evaluate the Code’s performance as a regulatory framework. A great deal of time and financial resources has been allocated in drafting and implementing the ISM Code and the industry has high expectations on the Code’s beneficial effects on maritime safety. While it is too early for a conclusive judgment of failure or success, a study would be useful towards confirming whether the Code is indeed a workable and enforceable regulatory framework that has the potential to achieve concrete results.

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