What are the duties of a Ship Security Officer (SSO)?
Jaques Chirac once said,” Terrorism has become the systematic weapon of a war that knows no border or seldom has a face”. Rightly said. One cannot stop terrorism completely to its core, but what we can do is corroborate security. With the same thought process, after the 9/11 terror attack on the Twin Towers, International Maritime Organization developed The International Ship and Port facility security code which is also known shortly by the name ISPS Code. Since the safest route for the terrorist to enter any country is via sea, so the main objective of this code was to ensure the safety and to escalate the security of the ship, port facilities, seafarers and government authorities. Under the ISPS code for the vessels, we have a Company Security Officer (CSO) and Ship Security Officer (SSO).
An SSO controls to regulate and maintain all the safety and security protocols of the vessel. A ship Security Plan is also included under the ISPS Code for the vessels. The duty of an SSO is to perpetuate the plan. This officer is appointed by the shipmaster or by the company itself. An SSO works side by side with a CSO and a PFSO that is, Port Facility Security Officer. The roles, responsibilities, and duties of a Ship Security Officer are:
Implementation of the Ship Security Plan- Before giving headway to the Ship Security Plan, an assessment is carried out under the supervision of the CSO. This assessment, which is also called Ship Security Assessment, is conducted to identify the factors which could pose an ultimatum to the ship’s security. An SSO helps in organizing this assessment. After the completion of the SSA, a plan is developed which is approved by the organization. While the SSO is responsible for implementing the plan considering all the processes, the CSO develops the plan and indeed maintains it. The risk assessment of the SSA is also assured by CSO. Any ship which is registered under the ISPS Code must have an SSL whose violation can result in a legal action against the officer. This code also states that a ship must have an SSO.
An SSP contains preventive measures to restrict the entrance of any unauthorized person. It also includes the specifications of the equipment used in ship to prevent any sort of menace. Including this, this plan is scads of audits, training, actions to be taken, procedures, evaluations, maintenance, implementations, etc.
Pinpoint the threats to a ship and increase cognizance- Terrorism, piracy, and trafficking are some of the problems faced while dealing with sea routes. An SSO’s primary job is to take care of any illegal aspect existing in the ship. No unauthorized person should enter the ship. Examining the restricted areas of the ship to make certain that no one has entered without confirmation. Visiting all the areas of the ship to check for hazardous substances. All the crew should be aware so that no illegitimate work happens on the ship. In case of any threats detected, SSO must be called immediately who takes the process further and informs the shipmaster for the same.
Modify SSP when required- A SSO inspects the ship periodically. If any rule or procedure is not laid as per the security plan, then he supervises and ensures the happening of the same. But if some rules are not much effective for the ship then the security officer manages the condition by making changes in the plan itself. For this purpose, the SSO takes help from the CSO and the PFSO. They both also give their suggestions in revamping the plan. Not only this, but an SSO also helps a CSO in his duties, like arranging audits, making submissions, ensuring consistencies etc.
Train ship’s crew- Before becoming qualified as a Ship Security Officer, it is obligatory that a person should have had twelve months seagoing time. Along with this, since an SSO requires to maintain the security plan and implement it, thus he should be educated enough to do all this work. These all security personnel undergo training and a course to be qualified as a Ship Security Officer. The training encompasses giving knowledge about the ISPS Code. Thus, the work of an SSO is to ensure the proper training of every crew member and to guide them to establish impenetrable security. This guidance incorporates giving information to the crew about equipment, conducting drills to handle emergency situations, updating information on contemporaneous matters, identifying the weaknesses, etc.
Dealing with the ship’s security equipment- One of the main equipment is the Ship Security Alert System. Its maintaining work is also done by the security officer. An SSAS must be tested manually. All the equipment of a ship which is used for the safety purposes should be tested well enough by the SSO to avoid any discrepancies.
Must know hows- To maintain the security level at its best, a security officer should himself be aware of each and every part of the ship. He should know the restricted areas. He should have his own set of rules to follow in case if any baggage without an authorized person is found. He should also manage the details about the ship security alert system. Baggage check should also be the fidelity of an SSO.
Including these aspects, a ship security officer scrutinizes the ship on a timely basis, delineate every security deed to the ship’s master and ensure maximal security.
The major duties of a ship security officer are mentioned above, although they can vary from each other due to the difference in SSP made for different ships as per the requirements. Though we have machine dependent systems for the security of the ships like Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) and Ship Security Reporting System (SSRS), this has not caused degradation in the need of the security officers. As the attacks have soared up in recent times, so is the need of the officers. And thus, a great leap in employment in the field of SSO has been seen. More officers directly point to higher security and less vulnerable ships leading to a more secure state.