Time to tighten up on ISPS

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

26 January 2016


It is more than ten years since the IMO formulated the ISPS Code in response to the 9/11 attacks in New York some years previously. Since then many measures have been enacted to enhance ship security although they appear to have been of little use in foiling the pirate attacks which reached epidemic proportions well after the ISPS Code came into full effect. ISPS was designed to combat terrorism which fortunately has had little effect on shipping although probably more because terrorists did not see shipping as a target in the way that aircraft and city centres were. Even so the Code is there and is aimed equally at ports terminals as well as ships so the fact that 500 or more migrants were able to break into the port of Calais and board a ferry there last weekend is extremely disconcerting especially as this was not a one-off incident but something that was long predicted. It is easy to dismiss the Calais incident as being more a political or social protest rather than a terrorist incident but on Monday, Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency unveiled a report that said more than 5,000 EU nationals had been radicalised fighting abroad and many had since returned home. Many of these would have joined the ranks of migrants that have been flooding into Europe over the last 18 months and may be secreted among them. Another recent news programme report suggested that some migrants were travelling illegally on false seafarer documents on board ferries bound to the UK. There was no question of the ferry operators being party to the deception but the false documents would allow the holders to easily pass border control checks. It would appear that ports and ship operators may need to tighten up on their ISPS procedures which may have become lax due to years of complacency.