Your technology partner

Search for:

IMO III Code – What is it? and why is it important?

Tuesday February 2nd 2021

Written by PDMS Advisor Dick Welsh


What is it?

The IMO Instruments Implementation Code (aka III Code or IIIC) is the key instrument behind the IMO Member State Audit Scheme. It provides a Code that all Member States are audited against to assess capability and resources to satisfy international obligations in terms of Port State, Coastal State and Flag State.

The IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS) replaces the old voluntary audit scheme (VIMSAS) by bringing forward a mandatory audit scheme for Member States. The new mandatory scheme is wider in its remit whereas the voluntary scheme only assessed their Flag State capability.

Audits take place every seven years and are probably one of the greatest challenges facing all flag states requiring a great deal of effort and time to prepare.

For Flag States, there are three main sections that the III Code applies to:

Section 42:

A Flag State should, on a periodic basis, evaluate its performance with respect to the implementation of administrative processes, procedures and resources necessary to meet its obligations.

Section 43:

Measures to evaluate the performance of Flag States should include: port state control detention rates, flag state inspection results, casualty statistics, communication and information processes, annual loss statistics, and other performance indicators as may be appropriate, to determine whether staffing, resources and administrative procedures are adequate to meet its obligations.

Section 44:

Areas recommended to be regularly reviewed may include:

  1. Fleet loss and accident ratios to identify trends over selected time periods
  2. The number of verified cases of detained ships in relation to the numbers of inspections and the size of the fleet
  3. The number of verified cases of incompetence or wrongdoing by individuals holding certificates or endorsements issued under its authority
  4. Responses to port state deficiency reports or interventions
  5. Investigations into very serious and serious casualties, lessons learned from them and time taken to publish
  6. Technical and other resources committed
  7. Results of inspections, surveys and controls of the ships in the fleet
  8. Investigation of occupational accidents
  9. The number of incidents and violations that occur under the applicable international maritime pollution prevention regulations
  10. The number of suspensions or withdrawals of certificates, endorsements, approvals, etc.

Container ships in port

Why is it important?

IMSAS is an initiative by IMO to ensure that all of its Member States can fulfil their international obligations. It came about in response to criticisms that Flag States could facilitate sub-standard shipping by not playing their part in safety, pollution prevention, and welfare of seafarers. IMSAS is intended to get all states to perform at an equal level that allows for them to operate effectively and uphold IMO’s reputation and leadership role as the global regulator of shipping.

Any Flag State Administration that cannot demonstrate to auditors how they comply by having the data and management information available will not do well in the audit. Where Flag States have a decentralised operation, it is likely that the audit will take place in one location but will require consistent data from all office locations to be available. For those states that cannot pass the audit, the ultimate sanction by the IMO is to close down the Flag State.

About the IMSAS Audit

The period of audits is still not fully determined but more will be known after the initial round of the 174 Member states has been completed. It is expected that the audit scheme will be every 5-7 years which should provide the IMO with a method to identify poorly performing states and take necessary action.

Flag States will be busy preparing for their first audit (which may be some years away) but resourcing and prioritisation may be an issue. It can also be hard to secure government buy-in into the the importance of the first audit and the commitment they need to maritime obligations. Some will have some areas of concern but should know where the gaps are and consider them to be minor or at least not fundamental to their operation. In these cases, as long as they have a gap analysis and detailed plans in place to close them, they will pass the audit with a list of findings from which they will agree remedial measures and a timeline for implementation. To present well at audit – comprehensive systems to record everything and be able to review and measure their performance will go a long way.

Using technology to help with the IMSAS Audit

All states must have high level policies in place to demonstrate their government’s commitment to the international obligations of all IMO instruments. This will fall into the different areas of responsibility covering flag, port and coastal state obligations, often with different departments, agencies, or contracted organisations. From a Flag State perspective, any Chief Marine Surveyor or Ship Registry Director needs to be able to uphold their part of the State’s commitments by running an efficient, effective flag administration by being able to demonstrate its performance against the IIIC criteria during the IMSAS audit. As well as this, their colleagues responsible for Port State (Port State Control Inspections, Reception facilities etc.) and Coastal State (Seabed mapping, Search and Rescue, Buoys and Markers etc.) must play their part too.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need for administrations to be able to operate remotely. This means that they must be able to perform all of their functions without physically manning the office(s). Digitisation plays a key part in achieving this – electronic certification, online applications, and even remote surveys using technology have allowed ship registries to operate close to normal throughout the pandemic and are expected to continue well into the future.

MARIS our ship registry solution helps when preparing for a IMSAS Audit – it provides one single point of data entry, storage, and provision. MARIS ensures the accuracy and repeatability of all data while providing management information for any required reports, it is accessible to a number of other organisations and can be used 24/7 from anywhere in the world.