Major Differences between ISO 9001 and ISM Code

By Charles Nixon
The ISM Code is the International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention. It provides an international standard that all maritime companies must adhere to for the safe management and operation of their ships.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) mandates the application of the ISM Code to all vessels and is mandatory for vessels of 500 gross tonnages and upward including mobile offshore drilling units.

The ISM Code requires that companies establish safety objectives as per section 1.2 of the ISM Code and in addition the companies are required to develop, implement, and maintain a safety management system which includes functional requirements as per section 1.4 of the ISM Code.

While ISO 9001 is not mandatory, the ISM Code is a mandatory requirement for vessels trading internationally. For vessels trading in the domestic waters national governments may legislate to use the ISM Code. Section 1.3 of the Code states that the ISM Code may apply to all ships and is now being brought in for domestic vessels by most countries.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has been implementing portions of the Code, and is systematically considering applying the ISM Code to ferries. The application of the ISM Code is meant to support and encourage the development of a safety culture in shipping. Success factors for this safety culture are a commitment to values and beliefs.

Both ISO 9001 and the ISM Code specify a systematic approach to management by those responsible for management of the ships.

The ISM Code describes the responsibilities of the Master and the Designated Person (Management Representative). Job descriptions are required for these and other crew. When a company does not use an in-house crewing department, they use “Manning agents” who become subcontractors to the company and are required to provide trained sea farers. They specify training for the crew and personnel ashore.

Quality planning for shipping is a complex process. For example, cruising or sailing the high seas and inland waterways is risky enough to demand procedures that identify, describe, and respond to potential emergencies through out the voyage. Accidents and hazardous occurrences (near misses) are fed into the corrective action process.

As you should expect, maintenance of the ship and equipment goes way beyond the comparatively bland requirement of 7.5.1 in ISO 9001:2008.

ISM Code together with ISO 9001 provides a basis for ensuring management systems are also driven by customer needs for the continued success of shipping companies around the world.To register click here