[FAQ] How To Improve Security Measures Onboard


In order to assist operators in making an informed choice regarding security measures for their fleet, OCIMF has released the second edition of the security measures information paper “Guidelines to Harden Vessels.”


The latest edition has been revised to accord with Best Management Practice. The recommendations advocate a layered defence mechanism to help in the mitigation of the risks caused by recognised security threats.

First layer of defence

The first layer of defence is about controlling access to a vessel, whether it is at sea, waiting offshore, at anchor or berthed in a port. Access control falls into two main categories:

  • Managing access by legitimate visitors during normal operations.
  • Preventing unauthorised access by people who might want to board the vessel for criminal activity, e.g. theft, kidnap, hijack, terrorism, stowing away, etc.

It is important to adhere to the access control methods outlined in the ISPS Code.

Choosing access control mechanisms requires a careful examination of the vessel. Access control equipment comes in a variety of forms. Some are retrofittable. Others may only be appropriate for vessels that are brand-new; they are included in appendix A.

The capacity of the crew to abandon the ship or handle other situations must not be compromised by security measures to regulate access.

Controlling access to a vessel can be divided into:

  • Preventing access while at sea or offshore.
  • Managing access while in port or at anchor.

While preventing access at sea is mainly about installing physical barriers, managing access in port or at anchor is about combining stringently implemented on-board procedures with physical barriers.

Second layer of defence

#1 Door and door jambs: Doors and door frames should be hardened and extra locks should be fitted. It is always preferable to make securing and hardening arrangements integral to a vessel’s structure rather than using a temporary arrangement. Door jambs, wedge braces and other improvised arrangements can help secure doorways and access points in the absence of other measures.

#2 Windows: There is little point in preventing or slowing access to the accommodation block through the doors if intruders can get in by simply breaking a window or porthole. Consider fitting windows or portholes with deadlights or blank covers of the sort usually fitted on upper decks for use in heavy weather.

Windows and portholes can also be fitted with security bars. If fitted to the outside, they need to be welded in place. On some vessels it may be possible to bolt metal grills or bars to the inside of windows or portholes. Whether fitted inside or outside they should be close enough together to stop even the smallest person getting through. When deciding whether or not to fit permanent bars to windows or portholes, consider what effect they could have on crew morale when not in a piracy risk area.

#3 High strength glue: State-of-the-art bonding material able to withstand over 1.5 tonnes of pull is available for securing metal portholes and grills, and it is specifically designed to attach to any surface on the inside of the vessel superstructure. In an emergency, or when the vessel is out of high-risk areas, the crew can remove the cover from the bonded frame.

#4 Staircases, hatches, vents and ladders: Outside staircases and ladders can be made difficult to climb by fitting hinged metal plates, which obstruct the stairs and ladders where they pass through each deck. This is only recommended if it does not affect the crew’s safety under normal conditions or their ability to deal with non-security emergencies, e.g. accommodation fire.

#5 Pipework: The vessel’s scupper pipes and other external pipework, e.g. fire main or external cable runs, can be used by intruders to scale an accommodation block and gain access to the higher decks and wheelhouse. Two measures to prevent this are:

  • Fitting spikes to pipework or cable runs so they cannot be climbed. These spikes are usually made of galvanised steel and come in various lengths.
  • Installing angled baffle plates at strategic locations.

Third layer of defence

#1 Internal smoke cannon, strobe lights and noise makers: As a final barrier should intruders manage to enter the accommodation block, consider fitting distraction devices, such as internal smoke cannons, strobe lights and noise makers. These can be fitted in either a compartment or alleyway, and activated either remotely or automatically. Once activated, smoke cannons quickly fill the space with non-toxic smoke which, while safe to breath, disorientates everyone in the space. They can be supplemented with strobe lights and/or a loud horn that will increase disorientation.

#2 Lift shafts: If the vessel has a lift, consider preventing the lift trunking being used to access the engine room. Usually this can only be done by making sure the lift car is stopped and isolated, i.e. deactivated at the vessel’s upper deck level, preventing intruders from forcing the lift doors open and using the shaft to access the engine room from above.

Emergency escapes from any lift trunking must allow personnel to get out but stop intruders getting in.

#3 Safe muster points and/or citadels: A safe muster point is a designated area chosen to provide maximum physical protection to the crew and will be identified during the planning process. If the threat assessment identifies risks that may result in a breach of the hull on or below the waterline, a safe muster point must be identified above the waterline. In many ships, the central stairway may be a safe location as it is protected by the accommodation block and is above the waterline.


Did you subscribe to our daily Newsletter?

It’s Free! Click here to Subscribe

Source: OCIMF


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.