Safety in Workboat and the Safety Management System


According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), “Shipping is perhaps the most international of all the world’s greatest industries and one of the most dangerous.” Therefore, Safety is an important factor that affects all elements of the workboat industry. Today it is necessary to develop and maintain a safety culture as per the business and model and such safety culture is based on the essential elements which comprise people, process, and IT. The present-day maritime industry has several codes, conventions, and guidelines that set the boundaries of safety and efficiency in shipping. The development of the maritime industry has resulted in the great development of technology, design, size, propulsion, and safety of ships.

Regulations governing safety in maritime:

One of the most important players in the international maritime safety regulatory regime is the International Maritime Organization, International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The International Safety Management (ISM) Code is seen as one of the instruments that would enhance safety for ships that are certified to comply with it. Classification societies and IACS (the International Association of Classification Societies) are expected to play a critical role in that regard. Quality shipping campaigns regard the implementation of the ISM Code as their central pillar. In parallel to the IMO, IACS is influential in the development of standards that pertain to safety. In addition to the above, many other important players such as flag states, port states, international bodies such as the European Union (EU), labor organizations such as the International Labour Organisations (ILO), the shipping companies themselves, and other maritime related industries (port, shippers, shipyards) such as they have key roles in the development, implementation, and enforcement of the maritime safety regulations. IMOʹs first task when it came into being in 1959 was to adopt a new version of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the most important of all treaties dealing with maritime safety. IMO has also developed and adopted international collision regulations and global standards for seafarers, as well as international conventions and codes relating to search and rescue, the facilitation of international maritime traffic, load lines, the carriage of dangerous goods, and tonnage measurement. Navigation regulations such as the official regulations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are an essential instrument for safety in navigation.

Components of maritime safety:

Maritime Safety is sometimes defined as “such desirable conditions of human activity at sea that do not endanger human life and property, and are not harmful to the marine environment”. It is composed of dour components namely technological and operational ship’s safety, the safety of navigation, the safety of the person in distress, and prevention of pollution of the environment from ships.

Triangle of Safety:

The safety triangle is also known as the Heinrich Triangle, is a principal of industrial safety measures. The triangle was originally formulated by Herbert William Heinrich in 1931 and has since been revised and extended to others. It is also seen visually as a triangle or pyramid and has been described as the pillar of the theory of occupational health and safety of the 20th century.

Human Well Being / Personal Safety:

Personal safety or safety of life at sea comes at the top of the priority list as no loss is considered greater than the loss of human life. Shipping companies understand the importance of the safety of human life at the sea and thus rank it at the very top. It’s a known fact that without an efficient crew no shipping company can survive.

Clean Sea / Marine Environment Protection:

While operating in both domestic and international waters, no shipping company can exclude marine environment protection from its business plan. Safety of the marine ecosystem can be ensured by efficient operating conditions on ships to avoid pollution by oil spills, garbage dumping, etc.

Commercial Success:

Technically, a shipping company can achieve commercial success when the first two aspects of the “safety triangle” are taken care of. An efficient operation of the ship, without any kind of harm to human life or the environment, saves shipping companies a lot of time, money, and labor, which ensures growth and profitability in return.

Code of International Safety Management and its Implementation

The ISM guideline is in Chapter IX of SOLAS. It is mandatory for all vessels after 1st July 2002. There are two parts to ISM.

i) Part-A: Implementation.

ii) Part-B: Certification and Verification

The ISM Code is an international standard for the management and operation of the ship and pollution prevention. The objective of the code is to ensure safety at the sea, prevent human loss and injury, avoid damage to the environment, and improving the safety management skills of personnel ashore and onboard ships. These skills include the preparation for emergencies related to safety and environmental protection. The Code further provides for safety management objectives viz.

  1. providing for safe practices in ship operation and working environment.
  2. Establishing safeguards against all identified risks that the companies are required to adhere

The Code obliges the Company to develop, implement and maintain a safety management system in place by having the following requirements:

  1. A safety and environmental protection policy
  2. Instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships and protection of the environment in compliance with the relevant international and flag state legislation.
  3. Defined levels of authority and lines of communication between, and amongst, shore and shipboard personnel;
  4. Procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformities with the provisions of this Code;
  5. Procedures to prepare and respond to emergencies; and
  6. Procedures for internal audits and management reviews

The Code aims to support and encourage the development of a safety culture within the shipping industry whilst improving compliance with the requirements of international conventions. The Code requires that Companies establish safety and pollution prevention objectives and develop, implement and maintain an SMS and a systematic approach to the safe management of ships by those responsible ashore and afloat.

The objective of the SMS is to ensure compliance with mandatory rules and regulations; and that applicable codes, guidelines, and standards recommended by the International Maritime Organisations, classification societies, and maritime industrial standards are taken into account.

For implementing the code of international safety management on the ship, it is important to:

  1. Develop plans for shipboard operations, instructions, and checklists for key shipboard operations concerning the safety of the ship and pollution prevention.
  2. Tasks involved should be defined and assigned to qualified personnel.
  3. Establishment of programs for drills and exercises to prepare for emergency actions.
  4. Reports and analysis of non-conformities, accidents, and hazardous occurrences. All incidents are to be investigated to improve the safety and pollution prevention record. Procedures are established for the implementation of corrective action.
  5. Maintenance of the ship and equipment.
  6. Holding inspections at appropriate intervals;
  7. Testing all equipment and systems regularly.

Definition and Responsibility of Company as per the ISM Code

Company men’s the owner of the ship or any other organization or person such as the manager, or the bareboat charterer, who has assumed the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the shipowner and who, on assuming such responsibility, has agreed to take over all duties and responsibility imposed by the Code.

The ISM code has not just made the company responsible for shipboard operations but it also its implications in the shipping business. Broadly there are two main responsibilities.

  • To define and document the responsibilities and authority of the persons involved in work relating to and affecting safety and pollution prevention
  • provide support and resources to the persons to carry out their functions effectively

The first point means that company need to provide the instructions to the ship in form of SMS manual. Second, the company need to provide all the support a ship may need for running the ship safely.


Proper application of the code will lead to the grant of two certificates.

  1. DOC (Document of Compliance):- A ship can only be operational with a valid DOC (Document of Compliance) issued to a company. DOC is issued by the FSA (Formal Safety Assessment) and valid for 5 years, with annual verification by FSA within 3 months before or after the anniversary date. A copy of the DOC must be kept on board and need not be authenticated or certified.
  2. Safety Management Certificate:- DOC can be withdrawn if the annual verification is not requested or there is a reported major non-conformity. If a DOC is withdrawn, all associated SMC (Safety Management Certificate) or ISMC (Interim Safety Management Certificate) will be withdrawn. SMC (Safety Management Certificate) is issued to ship by the FSA. The period of validity for SMC is 5 years with annual verification within 3 months before or after the anniversary date. Interim verification is done between the 2nd and 3rd-anniversary dates. SMC can be withdrawn if the annual verification is not requested or there is a reported major non-conformity. IDOC (Interim Document of Compliance) is issued to a company newly established or a new type of ship is added to an existing DOC.  IDOC is issued by the FSA and valid for not more than 12 months.

    Requirements for adherence with ISM:

To adhere to the obligations of the ISM, the company is required to maintain proofs that a vessel is being maintained in a satisfactory condition at all times, and not only at the time of surveys-objective evidence in the form of no overdue survey, but no overdue recommendations from the port or flag state inspections and that planned maintenance is also being carried out and records kept.

Ensure that the applicable codes and guidelines are being taken into consideration when operating the vessel. Vessels staff must be able to demonstrate that operations are carried out in a controlled manner utilizing the information contained in these codes, guidelines, and standards.

That emergencies have been identified and drills are conducted to ensure the vessel and company are ready to respond to emergencies.

The master is expected to be fully conversant with the Company’s safety management system. Officers and crew would be expected to be familiar with the parts of the system relevant to their safety responsibilities as well as a thorough understanding of their operational responsibilities- auditors will ensure compliance.

The company is obligated to maintain the following documents to furnish to the auditor demonstrating its compliance with the ISM.

  • Logbooks
  • Safety and management meeting minutes and follow up actions
  • Medical log
  • Company circular letters
  • Planned maintenance records
  • Records of verification
  • Records of master’s review of the system
  • Records of internal audits and follow up
  • Records of chart corrections
  • Class quarterly listings
  • Records of passage planning
  • Oil record books
  • Garbage logs
  • Company manual and forms

The Personal Safety Checklist

While working on a ship, it is essential to maintain a certain level of safety to ensure the right course towards personal safety.

Awareness of Surrounding:

The first and most important step towards personal safety on ships is to be aware of the surroundings. Awareness of surroundings includes knowing the working space, risks, and hazards present and assessing the number of efforts the job would require.

Work on Risks before Working on the Job:

It is always better to find out the amount of risk involved with the job before getting into it. Eliminate or minimize as many hazards as possible from the workplace before carrying out any assigned job.

Checking Your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

Personal protective equipment on ships provides you with tools to enhance your safety on board. One must always use the right personal safety equipment as required by the job. It is also imperative that the operation and working of all safety tools onboard ships is understood properly.

Escape route:

An escape route is the last resort one would seek in case all measures to curtail an accident fail. Several machines, pipelines, and complex systems (Pneumatic, hydraulic, electrical, and electronics) running at extremely high working parameters make the ship an extremely hazardous environment to work in.  Sometimes, despite following all the safety measures, things might go wrong. For such situations, always pre-plan the exit strategy from the workplace through the easiest and fastest route possible.


Now the organizations in the workboat industry are moving towards developing their safety module. They have started creating such tactics in terms of policies, processes, procedures, and new IT solutions to encourage a safe culture. People play an important role in creating a safe culture as it is their habits, beliefs, attitudes, and expectations that are the essence of a company’s culture. The Triangle which consists of IT, people and process which creates a foundation in creating a better safety culture.

The application of the ISM Code should support and motivate the development of a safety culture in shipping. The purpose of the ISM Code is to ensure safety at sea, to prevent accidents or loss of life, and to avoid damage to the marine environment and property

The organization must develop such a culture design where the employees wilfully perform safely. They must examine that the employees are not forced to perform safely, because such cultures are less successful compared to where the employee consciously performs safely.

Each employee must contribute to the organization in creating the organization’s safety culture. It the behavior of the employees, consciously or unconsciously, which contributes to the safety of an organization. The organizational goals must match with the employee goals for developing a safety culture.

Moreover, IT and processes are an integral part of creating such a safety design. After considering all such aspects, an organization can create a safety module in the most basic terms and would help to create such a safety culture that can permeate every level of the organization.

Read Limitation Of Liability Of Workboats In Marine Industry


What is maritime safety?

Maritime safety is defined as the safety of life, health, and property against environmental and operational risks associated with navigation.

What things to do before boarding a ship?

One must always ensure that he/she is stepping on board healthy, is physically fit, trained adequately, knows the shipping route, aware of the local laws, vaccinated, and has valid insurance.

How will you ensure from your Office that the ship you are joining is safe in the context of ISM code?

By checking DOC, SMC, SMS Manuals, Internal / External audits reports, PSC & Flag state deficiency reports.

How does the company ensure compliance with ISM Code?

By conducting Internal / External Audits.

What is SMM or Safety Management Manual?

It is the documentation used to describe and implement the Safety Management System (SMS).

Who is an Auditor?

“Auditor” means a person who is qualified and authorized to carry out ISM audits following the requirements of the ISM Code.

What are “Internal” and “External” Audits?

Internal Audit: Carried out by the company itself. This is to ensure that all the onboard practices and methods are following the SMS.

External Audit: Carried out by the classification bureau and a DOC is granted only if the conditions are met satisfactorily.

Can an SMC audit be carried out whilst the vessel is in Dry-Dock?

No, since the vessel is not considered operational at that time.

 What are the bare-bones of an S.M.S?

The Code of Safe Working Practice.

What are the benefits gained from ISM?

  • Safety Consciousness
  • Safety Culture
  • Greater Confidence
  • Cost Saving

What is the Objective of ISM?

  1. Safety at sea.
  2. Prevention of human injury or loss of life.
  3. Avoidance of damage to the environment & to the property.