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Following the tragic events of 11th September 2001, the twenty-second session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in November 2001, unanimously agreed to the development of new measures relating to the security of ships and of port facilities for adoption by a Conference of Contracting Governments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (known as the Diplomatic Conference on Maritime Security) in December 2002. Subsequently the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code is developed for the compliance of the contracting governments. The code is to be globally implemented on 1 July 2004.

The provision of Chapter XI-2 of SOLAS 74 and the ISPS Code apply to ships and to port facilities. The extension of SOLAS 74 to cover port facilities was agreed on the basis that SOLAS 74 offered the speediest means of ensuring the necessary security measures entered into force and given effect quickly. It was further agreed that the provisions relating to port facilities should relate solely to the ship/port interface. The wider issue of the security of port areas will be the subject of further joint work between the International Maritime Organization and the International Labour Organization.

Objectives of the ISPS Code

  • To establish an international framework involving co-operation between Contracting Governments, local administrations and the shipping and port industries to detect security threats and take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade;
  • To establish the respective roles and responsibilities of the Contracting Governments, Government agencies, local administrations and the shipping and port industries, at the national and international levels for ensuring maritime security;
  • To ensure the early and efficient collection and exchange of security-related information;
  • To provide a methodology for security assessments so as to have in place plans and procedures to react to changing security levels; and
  • To ensure confidence that adequate and proportionate maritime security measures are in place.

Application of the ISPS Code

The Code applies to:

  • The following types of ships engaged on international voyages:
    • Passenger ships, including high-speed passenger craft
    • Cargo ships, including high-speed craft, of 500 gross tonnage and upwards
    • Mobile offshore drilling units
  • Port facilities serving such ships engaged on international voyages.

Implementation in Hong Kong

Marine Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government has been appointed as the Designated Authority of Hong Kong to discharge the obligations under the ISPS Code for ensuring the security of the port as a whole.

The Port Area Security Advisory Committee (PASAC), chaired by the Deputy Director of Marine, composed of representatives from the port and shipping communities and other relevant government agencies was established on 3 July 2003. The PASAC is in essence a consultative body, which provides advice to the DA on all matters relating to the implementation of the IMO ISPS Code in HKSAR.  [PASAC disbanded on 3.7.2018]

A Port Facility Security Working Group (PFSWG), comprising of the Hong Kong Police, Customs and Excise Department and Immigration Department and chaired by Marine Department has been established. The WG is the DA's executive arm to discharge its obligations under the Code in relation to port security.  [PFSWG disbanded on 3.7.2018. Functions of PFSWG will be maintained by way of cooperation among concerned Departments including Hong Kong Police, Customs and Excise Department, Immigration Department and Marine Department.]