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What is ISPS?


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What is ISPS?

ISPS, or International Ship and Port Facility Security Code is an essential security measure that was put into place as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. This was put in place by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in order to regulate and control the security and safety of the crew, ships, ports, and cargo while traveling through international waters. 

The ISPS program is a part of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention. 

What is the main goal of ISPS?

The main goal of the ISPS is to provide security for the ship, seafarers, as well as ports and port workers. This is done to enact preventative measures if and when a security threat presents itself, both at sea and in the port. Here are some detailed measures that the ISPS takes: 

  • Monitor the activity of cargo operation and people.
  • Detect any and all security threats on the vessel, ship, and port.
  • Implement preventative and proactive solutions to any threat.
  • Provide a security authority on the ship, consisting of a multitude of duties at each level of security.
  • Establish roles and responsibilities for port state officers and onboard officers of varying levels, to handle maritime security threat internationally. 
  • Establish roles and responsibilities for each contracting government, agency, local administration, as well as the shipping and port representative.
  • Collect international data concerning security threats and develop solutions to each of these problems.
  • Share any and all security-related data with the general public, the international port, and ship owners. 
  • Assess the flaws of the industry and design the necessary solutions for each issue. 

What are the levels of security within the ISPS code? 

The ISPS code consists of three security levels, and they are: 

Security Level One - Normal: This is the level at which the ships and port facilities operate under normal conditions without increased supervision. At this time, there are minimum protective measures that need to be maintained. 

  • Ship and port operations are carried out in a general/normal manner.
  • Ship and port operations and security are carried out according to their facility security plan.
  • Ship and port authority equally divide and supervise the loading and unloading process.
  • Port authority keeps the “no access” areas under surveillance at all times. 

Security Level Two- Heightened: This level is applied whenever there’s a higher risk of a security incident during transport. At this time, additional security measures are implemented and maintained for a given period of time. Security experts on the ship and port facility will indicate how long ‘heightened’ security measures need to be implemented. 

  • All routine and cargo operations are carried out with increased security measures in ships and ports. 
  • “Lookouts” are increased in no access zone and waterside areas are increased by ship and port authorities. 
  • Access control is enforced at all times with the use of escorts aboard and the implementation of security cameras, and metal detectors. 
  • Ship and port authorities prepare full or partial search operations of the ship.

Security Level Three- Exceptional: At this level of security, incidents are almost unmissable so specifically-designed security measures will be put into place. The security experts on the ship and port will work closely with government agencies and follow specific protocols to avoid any issues.

  • Ship and port operations often stop and frequent security rounds and duties will be carried out by the staff of both parties.
  • The treat of the incident or its target may not be possible to identify right away.
  • There is limited access to a single, controlled access point.
  • Access is only granted to those who are authorized personnel or responders of a security incident.
  • During this time, there can be a suspension of embarkation or disembarkation, as well as suspension of cargo operations and stores. 
  • Closely monitored the movement of people on the ship.
  • Port authority keeps the “no access” areas under surveillance at all times. 

What are the parts of the ISPS code?

Part A: Here we have mandatory provisions that discuss the employment of security officers in shipping companies and port facilities. In addition to that, Part A also covers various security measures and matters that need to be considered in the preparation of security plans that are mandated to be included in the port and ship operations. 

Part B: These provisions are recommended to provide further guidance and recommendation on how the security plans in Part A can be prepared and implemented. 

Why is ISPS charged, who charges it and who pays for it?

The ISPS code is a mandatory implementation to ensure the safety of all concerned parties and goods. This results in monetary expenses for the employment of trained and capable personnel. This, in turn, requires a lot of manpower, equipment, and planning to ensure that the ISPS code is correctly implemented.

To make sure of this, companies charge an ISPS surcharge. A customer may get surcharged in the form of Carrier Security Fee (CSF) and/or Terminal Security Charge (TSC). 

Typically, the ISPS charges are a part of the freight quote and is required to be paid along with the freight. This means that whoever pays for the freight (the shipper or the consignee) will also have to pay the ISPS surcharge.


What is a Carrier Security Fee? 

This is charged by the carrier to cover the cost of the incurred fees spent on the implementation of the ISPS code. 

What is a Terminal Security Charge?

This is charged by the port to the carrier to cover their cost incurred in implementing the ISPS code at the port or terminal. 




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