The ISM Code was legislated under SOLAS to meet the requirements set out in The Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997 No. 2962) (the Regulations) and the Code of Safe Working Practice for Merchant Seafarers (CoSWP).
It has been quoted by several studies done by various authorities that most of the accidents at sea occur due to Human Error.
Accidents at sea can be avoided with a proper training plan in place. All sea-going vessels have a safety management plan with a manager to look after it.
The Ship Safety Officer is appointed to look after the safety of the fellow crew on board and to promote a safety culture and preach safety awareness by means of training and motivation.
If there is no safety culture and supervisor on board ship, it can be a dangerous situation for the ship’s crew and the cargo.
Moreover, in case the ship is involved in an accident, it endangers the marine environment as well, and further increases downtime and financial losses.
Everyone is aware that during port state audits, ship survey etc. the first thing that is checked is how safe the ship is?
Hence the ship’s crew must understand the importance of a safer ship and inculcate a safety awareness culture which can be better done with a qualified safety officer on board ship.
Under the International Safety Management (ISM) code, every ship must appoint a ship safety officer (SSO) who has the knowledge, experience, and skills to look over the important safety issues related to the ship and its crew’s health.
The details of the training guidelines for the Ship Safety Officer is provided in STCW Code 2010 Table A-II/2 & A-III/2 and IMO Model Course 3.11 (Marine Accident & Incident Investigation).
According to the ISM code, a ship safety officer should have a minimum of two years of consecutive sea service. In the case of tanker ships, the safety officer should have six months of experience on tanker ships in addition to two years of consecutive sea service.
The responsibility for the position of the Ship safety officer is usually taken by one of the officers aboard ship. The officer with relevant experience needs to do a Ship Safety Officer Course before joining the ship, which allows him/her to take the responsibility of SSO when onboard.
It is a general practice to not have the Master acting as ship safety officer as the ship captain is already been burdened with several other responsibilities.
Officer of the watch is usually selected as Safety Officer and the responsibility is rotated on a regular basis.
The appointed ship service officer should have the necessary qualities to properly take the responsibilities imposed under the relevant provision of the ISM regulation. He should also help in the proper implementation of the ISM code on the ship.
Duties of Ship Safety Officer
The safety officer of the ship is entitled to look over all the duties related to the safety of the ship. Some of the important duties include:
- To survey the ship for all potential hazards directly affecting the health and safety of the crew
- Supervising and ensuring compliance with the SMS of the ship and its every aspect including the updates and amendments which involve liaising with the Master and the company safety representative
- Coordinating the safety measures to be maintained when cargo work is in progress by liaising with the port representative. Again, compliance with the SMS is important in this regard
- Pointing out deficiencies in any existing security plans/measures and bringing about changes by communicating the same to the Master
- To carry out a safety inspection at regular intervals (at least once in every three months for complete ship)
- Reporting to the Master on non-conformities to the SMS including deficiencies
- Enhancing the awareness with respect to the safety onboard and thereby taking substantial steps for enhancing the safety
- Ensuring the crew always carries their jobs with a safety-conscious attitude and know all the aspects of IMS code and relevant health and safety regulations
- Imparting training to the shipboard personnel if need be so that they may be kept updated with all the latest improvements and at the same time inform them of any deficiencies that might need to be addressed
- To look after and act on the complaints of the crew related to health and safety
- To provide information to ship master regarding the deficiencies and to approach ship Master for removal of any potential hazard from the ship which may lead to an accident
- If there is an accident involved, the SSO will lead the investigation and prepare a report
- To maintain the records all major and minor accidents
- To make sure that all equipment associated with the ISM Code and the SMS are tested, maintained and calibrated accordingly
- To stop the ship operation if it directly affects the safety of the crew or the ship
The ship safety officer is not required to perform any of the above-mentioned duties when an emergency action or response is being taken to safeguard life or safety of a ship. Moreover, he/she is also not in charge of any kind of medical treatment or first aid in case of an emergency.
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