As from July 2010 shipping companies implemented risk assessment procedures in order to assess the risk in key shipboard operations. These procedures were implemented as part of the amended ISM (International Safety Management) code. The risk assessment should be performed before performing any key operation. If the risk is assessed to be high, then additional measures must be implemented in order to reduce the risk

Two UN agencies play a major part specifying the requirement for HSE management at sea:


Relevant rules, regulations, codes, guidelines and standards

Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006)

MLC Regulation 4.3 sets health and safety protection and accident prevention requirements. The purpose is to ensure that seafarers’ work environment on board ships promotes occupational safety and health.

Work on board ship shall be done in a safe and hygienic environment.

Management of occupational safety and health on board ships shall be developed and promulgated. Relevant international instruments and standards for occupational safety and health protection and accident prevention shall be taken into account.

MLC Standard A4.3 – Health and safety protection and accident prevention requires the implementation of the following:

occupational safety and health policies and programmes

  • risk evaluation
  • training and instruction of seafarers
  • prevention of occupational accidents, injuries and diseases on board ship
  • measures to reduce and prevent the risk of exposure to harmful levels of ambient factors and chemicals
  • measures to reduce and prevent the risk of injury or disease that may arise from the use of equipment and machinery
  • on-board programmes for the prevention of occupational accidents, injuries and diseases and for continuous improvement in occupational safety and health protection
  • engineering and design control
  • substitution of processes and procedures for collective and individual tasks
  • the use of personal protective equipment
  • requirements for inspecting, reporting and correcting unsafe conditions
  • investigation and reporting of on-board occupational accidents taking account of relevant international instruments dealing with occupational safety and health protection in general and with specific risks
  • addressing of  all matters relevant to the prevention of occupational accidents, injuries and diseases that may be applicable to the work of seafarers and particularly those which are specific to maritime employment• clearly specifying the obligation of shipowners, seafarers and others concerned to comply with the applicable standards and with the ship’s occupational safety and health policy and programme
  • taking into account changes in technology and research in order to facilitate continuous improvement in occupational safety and health policies and programmes


ISM Code and Guidelines on Implementation of the ISM Code

IMO has issued this code. The purpose of the Code is to provide an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. It gives the following important and fundamental principal statement:
“The cornerstone of good safety management is commitment from the top. In matters of safety and pollution prevention it is the commitment, competence, attitudes and motivation of individuals at all levels that determines the end result.”
The requirements are concise and are key elements for safe maritime operations and a safe working environment.

The objectives of the ISM Code are as follows:

1.2 Objectives

1.2.1 The objectives of the Code are to ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the environment, in particular to the marine environment and to property.

1.2.2 Safety management objectives of the Company should, inter alia:

.1 provide for safe practices in ship operation and a safe working environment;
.2 assess all identified risks to its ships, personnel and the environment and establish appropriate safeguards; and
.3 continuously improve safety management skills of personnel ashore and aboard ships, including preparing for emergencies related both to safety and environmental protection.

1.2.3 The safety management system should ensure:

.1 compliance with mandatory rules and regulations; and
.2 that applicable codes, guidelines and standards recommended by the Organization, Administrations, classification societies and maritime industry organizations are taken into account.


International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)

MARPOL (i.e. Marine Pollution) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships - both accidental pollution and that from routine operations. The following six Annexes are currently included:

  1. Prevention of Pollution by Oil
  2. Control of  Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
  3. Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
  4. Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
  5. Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
  6. Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships


International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code)

IMDG Code or International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code is the international guideline to the safe transportation or shipment of dangerous goods or hazardous materials by water on vessel. IMDG Code is intended to protect crew members and to prevent marine pollution in the safe transportation of hazardous materials. It is recommended to governments for adoption or for use as the basis for national regulations.

The implementation of the Code is mandatory in conjunction with the obligations of the members of united nation government under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). It is intended for use not only by the mariner but also by all those involved in industries and services connected with shipping. The Code contains advice on terminology, packaging, labeling, placarding, markings, stowage, segregation, handling, and emergency response.

The code is updated every 2 years.


International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS)

IPCS INCHEM is an invaluable tool for those concerned with chemical safety and the sound management of chemicals.Produced through cooperation between the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), part of the World Health Organization, and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS); IPCS INCHEM directly responds to one of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) priority actions to consolidate current, internationally peer-reviewed chemical safety-related publications and database records from international bodies, for public access.
IPCS INCHEM offers quick and easy electronic access to thousands of searchable full-text documents on chemical risks and the sound management of chemicals, helping countries fulfill their commitments under the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Agenda 21, Chapter 19.


IPCS INCHEM contains the following valuable sources of information (directly copied from the home page):


ISO 31000

ISO 3100 is intended to be a family of standards relating to risk management codified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The purpose of ISO 31000:2009 is to provide principles and generic guidelines on risk management. ISO 31000 seeks to provide a universally recognized paradigm for practitioners and companies employing risk management processes to replace the myriad of existing standards, methodologies and paradigms that differed between industries, subject matters and regions.


Conclusions of conventions and codes related to HSE risk management in maritime operations

HSE risk management in international shipping is of utmost importance for a variety of stakeholders

  • ILO and IMO are UN bodies that issues international conventions and codes to ensure HSE risk management in international shipping
  • MLC and the ISM Code 2010 are the key documents for the management of health and safety. They share the same philosophy and toolbox and are useful instruments in the process of improving maritime HSE.
  • ISO 3100 is a valuable reference to risk management.
  • Conventions and codes have to be ratified by the different states and must be included in existing or lead to the development and implementation of new national laws and regulations to come into force.
  • A number of other bodies provide technical data and standard which support maritime HSE.