The International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (ISM Code) became mandatory for most ships trading internationally on 1 July 2002. Compliance with the Code has been mandatory for tankers, passenger ships and bulk carriers since July 1998, under the first phase of ISM implementation, and now all other vessels covered by the SOLAS Convention, which includes all but the smallest internationally-trading vessels, must comply. It has been estimated that some 12,000 ships had to comply by the first deadline with the second phase of implementation bringing in another 13,000 ships.
The mandatory ISM Code provides an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. It places direct responsibility on shoreside management to ensure that its ships operate to the prescribed level of safety. Evidence so far suggests that the impact of ISM implementation has had a positive effect and the Code is beginning to achieve its aim of creating a culture of safety within shipping companies throughout the world. Commercially, there are indications that ISM certification proves its worth. Studies have shown that the implementation of the ISM Code has already had a positive effect on safety.
In fact, companies which have safety management systems in place have reported a reduction in casualties and spills, as well as a downward trend in detention rates while companies which have fully embraced the ISM Code have a better approach to safety management. A claims analysis by The Swedish Club, which provides both hull and Protection and Indemnity cover, showed that in 2000 vessels required to comply with the ISM Code by 1 July 1998 were having around 30 percent fewer claims than vessels covered by the second deadline of 2002.