International Safety Management (ISM) Code

This section highlights the International Safety Management (ISM) Code verification and certification for Singapore-registered ships and their Companies.

The ISM Code is an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention.

Who it applies to

The provisions of Chapter IX of the SOLAS Convention and the ISM Code apply to the following with effect from 1 July 2002:

  • Singapore-registered ships of 500 gross tonnage and above, engaged on international voyages and propelled by mechanical means;

  • Passenger ships engaged on international voyages;

  • The Companies* of the above 

* Company means the owner of the ship or any other organisation or person such as the manager, or the bareboat charterer, who has assumed the responsibility for operation of the ship from the shipowner, and who on assuming such responsibility, has agreed to take over all duties and responsibility imposed by the ISM Code.


The objectives of the ISM Code are to:

  • Ensure safety at sea;

  • Prevent human injury or loss of life; and

  • Avoid damage to the environment with focus on the marine environment and on property The ISM Code establishes the following safety management objectives of the company:

  • Provide safe practices in ship operation and working environment;

  • Establish safeguards against all identified risks; and

  • Continuously improve safety management skills of personnel ashore and onboard ships. These skills include the preparation for emergencies related to safety and environmental protection.


The ISM Code requires every Company to develop, implement and maintain a safety management system (SMS) which includes these functional requirements:

  • A safety and environmental protection policy;

  • Instructions and procedures to ensure safe operation of ships, and protection of the environment, in compliance with relevant international and flag State legislation;

  • Defined levels of authority and lines of communication between, and amongst, shore and shipboard personnel;

  • Procedures for reporting accidents and non-conformities with the provisions of this Code;

  • Procedures to prepare and respond to emergency situations; and

  • Procedures for internal audits and management reviews

Documents and certificates

A Company that operates a Singapore-registered ship to which the ISM code is applicable needs to have a Document of Compliance (DOC) or an Interim DOC. A Company will receive a DOC or Interim DOC after it has been verified that it complies with the relevant requirements of the ISM Code. An up-to-date copy of the DOC should be placed on board the ships operated by the company.
A Singapore-registered ship to which the ISM code is applicable will receive a Safety Management Certificate (SMC) or Interim SMC after it has been verified that its shipboard management and its Company operate in accordance with the approved safety management system.

Recognised Organisations

Owners or Companies of Singapore-registered ships may apply to these recognised organisations directly for company and shipboard ISM verification and certification:

MPA audits

MPA retains the right to participate in the ISM audits of any Singapore-registered ship and the Company to fulfill its duties as a flag Administration. MPA surveyors will verify the effectiveness of the safety management system during flag State inspections. The shipowner must report to the MPA if the company that operates a Singapore-registered ship is not the shipowner. The details of the report include:

  • Full name and details of the Company; and
  • The particulars and contact details of the Designated Persons (DPA)