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What is ISPS?

ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security Code) is an essential security measure put in place as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The code was implemented by the International Maritime Convention (IMO) as an amendment to the Safety of Life at Sea convention.

The main purpose of ISPS is to regulate and control the security and safety of the crew, ships, ports, and cargo as they travel through international waters. It accomplishes this by assigning levels of responsibility to governments, shipping companies, shipping personnel, and port operators to detect security threats and enact preventative measures as a result.

ISPS is a mandatory requirement for ships and ports. Therefore companies that operate ships or terminals charge customers an additional surcharge to cover the cost ISPS implementation. The party responsible for paying for the freight is also responsible for these surcharges. Typically, those charges are a part of the freight quote.

What measures does ISPS require?

  • The activity of cargo and personnel be monitored.

  • Detection of any and all security threats.

  • That there be a security authority on every ship, with a multitude of duties depending on the security level.

  • Established roles and responsibilities for port state officers and onboard officers to handle maritime security threats internationally.

  • Established roles and responsibilities for contracting government agencies, local administrations, and shipping and port representatives.

  • Collection of international data concerning security threats and develop solutions to each of these problems.

  • All security-related data shared with the general public, the international port, and ship owners.

  • Assessment of the flaws in the industry and 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): The standard level of security that ships and port facilities operate under. At this level, there are minimum protective measures that need to be maintained.

Level One Guidelines:

  • 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): 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 in place.

Level Two Guidelines:

  • All routine and cargo operations are carried out with increased security measures in ships and ports.

  • Ship and port authorities increase “Lookouts” in no access zones and waterside areas.

  • Access control is enforced 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): Incidents are almost unmissable so case-specific 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.

Level Three Guidelines:

  • Ship and port operations often stop and frequent security rounds and duties will be carried out by 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.

  • Port authority keeps the “No Access” areas under surveillance at all times and monitors the movement of people on the ship.

What is an ISPS charge? Who is responsible to pay 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 personnel. In turn, this 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 on ocean shipments. 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 are 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.

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