Maritime Security

and Piracy

Maritime Security & Piracy

  • Maritime Security & Piracy
    • SOLAS XI-2 and the ISPS Code
    • Guidance
    • Cyber security
    • Counter Terrorism
    • FAQ
  • Piracy & Robbery
    • Private Armed Security
    • LRIT IDF
    • Guidance
    • Reports
  • Djibouti Code of Conduct
    • Content and Evolution of the Djibouti Code of Conduct
  • Assistance & Training
  • Port Security Project

Maritime Security & Piracy

The IMO has within its mandate to make trade and travel by sea as safe and secure as possible. To manage and mitigate any threats with the potential to compromise maritime security the Organization develops suitable regulations and guidance through the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and with input from the Organization's Facilitation Committee (FAL) and Legal Committee (LEG). For background information on IMO's involvement with Maritime Security click here.

International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code

The IMO's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974, as amended, includes provisions adopted to address maritime security matters. Within SOLAS's chapter XI-2 on Special Measures to enhance maritime security is the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which is a mandatory instrument for all countries Party to the Convention. The aim of the ISPS Code is to ensure that the applicable ocean going ships and port facilities of IMO Member States are implementing the highest possible standards of security.Divided into two sections, the ISPS code contains detailed security-related requirements for Governments, port authorities and shipping companies in mandatory Part A, and a series of guidelines on how to meet those requirements in a non-mandatory Part B.The Organization, through its maritime security capacity building and technical cooperation programme, conducts various national and regional activities, to ensure that the ISPS Code is implemented effectively by Member States. Such activities are available to Member States if and when required. Read more

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

The threat posed by piracy and armed robbery against ships has been on the IMO's agenda since the early 1980s. In the late 1990s and the early 2000s the focus was on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. More recently, since 2005, IMO has focused on piracy off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean, and is currently implementing a strategy for enhancing maritime security in West and Central Africa, in line with the region's maritime security agreements. The Organization, with support and cooperation from the shipping industry, has through the years developed and adopted a number of antipiracy measures, which have contributed towards the mitigation of the negative impact posed by piracy worldwide. Information regarding acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships is publicly available (subject to registration) in IMO's Piracy and Armed Robbery module within the Organization's Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).In addition, IMO provides assistance, to Member States seeking to develop their own national or regional measures to address the threat of piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activities, if and when requested. This was the case of the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (Djibouti Code of Conduct), agreed between countries in and around the western Indian Ocean and the case of the Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships, and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa in the Gulf of Guinea region of West Africa.

IMO guidance and best management practices

IMO has adopted appropriate guidance aimed at addressing maritime security, as well as piracy and armed robbery against ships. For piracy and armed robbery, this includes Guidance to Governments, shipowners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; investigation of offences and the use of armed personnel on board ships. Best Management Practices (BMP), which were developed by the shipping industry, outline the appropriate procedures to be employed when responding to acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in specific regions. The IMO supports the Best Management Practices, which have been disseminated publicly by the Organization. For the latest guidance adopted by IMO regarding BMP and other piracy related matters click here.

Armed security on board ships

IMO does not take a position on the carriage of arms on board ships. It is the responsibility of individual flag states and coastal states to determine if the use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) is appropriate, legal and under what conditions. The Organization has issued guidance to flag, port and coastal States; as well as to shipowners, ship operators and shipmasters on the use of PCASP on board ships in the High Risk area of the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, in addition to guidance for private maritime security companies. For the latest guidance adopted by IMO regarding PCASP and other piracy related matters click here.

Cyber security

Recognizing that a ship's onboard information technology and operational technology systems can be hacked just as easily as systems ashore, and that such security breaches have the potential to do considerable harm to the safety and security of ships, ports, marine facilities and other elements of the maritime transportation system, IMO has taken the initiative to raise awareness across the industry on how to tackle risks by promoting a maritime cyber risk management approach. The overall goal is to support safe and secure shipping, which is operationally resilient to cyber risks.


In order to safeguard a coordinated response to counter-terrorism, the IMO is an active participant in some of the work and activities conducted under the auspices of the UN Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee's Executive Directorate and the UN General Assembly's Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force , through joint country assessment visits, capacity building coordination and exchange of policy developments with other UN and partner entities involved in, among others, Border Management and Law Enforcement. Read more

SUA Treaties and unlawful acts

IMO's SUA Treaties were adopted in 1988 and underwent a comprehensive revision in 2005. The SUA Treaties provide the international legal framework which ensures that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships (and fixed platforms on the continental shelf). These unlawful acts listed in the treaties include the seizure of ships by force; acts of violence against persons on board ships; and the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it.


As defined by the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965, as amended, (FAL Convention), a stowaway is "A person who is secreted on a ship, or in cargo which is subsequently loaded on the ship, without the consent of the shipowner or the Master or any other responsible person and who is detected on board the ship after it has departed from a port, or in the cargo while unloading it in the port of arrival, and is reported as a stowaway by the master to the appropriate authorities".The IMO is continuously working on appropriate measures be taken to reduce risks of unauthorized persons boarding ships, which may have serious consequences for ships and, by extension, to the shipping industry as a whole. Supporting the Organization's work on stowaways is the IMO sub-Division for Maritime Security and Facilitation (MSF). For additional information regarding the Organization's work on stowaways click here.

Drug smuggling

The IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and Facilitation Committee (FAL) work in close cooperation on matters related to the prevention and suppression of drug smuggling on ships engaged in international maritime traffic.On 27 November 1997 the Organization adopted Resolution A.872(20), which contained Guidelines for the Prevention and Suppression of the Smuggling of Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals on Ships engaged in International Maritime Traffic. That Assembly resolution was subsequently revoked and replaced by the Revised Guidelines for the Prevention and Suppression of the Smuggling of Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals on Ships engaged in International Maritime Traffic. The revised guidelines were adopted by MSC through resolution MSC.228(82), on 7 December 2006; and by FAL through resolution FAL.9(34), on 30 March 2007.IMO works closely with other international Organizations, such as the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), on matters concerning drug smuggling on board ships.

Capacity building - Overview

Through capacity-building activities the Organization aims to enhance maritime security worldwide, with particular focus on developing countries. These activities are conducted at national and regional levels, by the IMO sub-Division for Maritime Security and Facilitation (MSF) that operates under the auspices of the Maritime Safety Division (MSD), which in turn functions under the purview of MSC. For IMO's maritime security technical cooperation (assistance and training) initiatives click here.Among other sources of funding, to support specific technical co-operation programmes conducted globally by IMO, the Organization possesses a number of Multi-donor Trust Funds (MDTFs). Within those MDTFs the International Maritime Security Trust (IMST) Fund is designated specifically for Maritime Security projects and activities conducted worldwide by the Organization, through MSF. The primary aim of the activities is to enhance the capacity of IMO Member States to individually and at times collectively, manage and respond to potential security threats. In addition to this global Security Trust Fund, the Organization also oversees other security trust funds which are region specific in nature and support its work in the Gulf of Guinea - West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund, and in the western Indian Ocean - Djibouti Code of Conduct Trust Fund.

Capacity building - Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden

In 2009, the IMO convened and facilitated the"Djibouti meeting", which led to the adoption of the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC), by countries in and around the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. DCoC was adopted to address the then-growing problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia.Since then, through the IMO Djibouti Code Trust Fund, several projects and activities have been designed, coordinated and implemented by the IMO Secretariat's Project Implementation Unit, to improve regional capacity to counter piracy by promoting and enhancing regional cooperation and coordination, based on four pillars: Training, Capacity Building, Legal and Information Sharing.

Capacity building - Gulf of Guinea

Developed by the West Africa and Central Africa Sub-region with technical support from IMO, the Yaoundé Code of Conduct was adopted formally in Yaoundé (Cameroon), in June 2013 by Heads of State or their representatives from 25 West and Central African countries. The Code's primary objective is to manage and reduce considerably the adverse impacts derived from piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activities, such as Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.Consequently, IMO's strategy and initiatives to enhance maritime security in West Africa are aligned to the provisions of the Yaoundé Code and helps to safeguard that the process of implementation is adequate, being cognizant of the fact that effective implementation should translate into sustainable development for the region's maritime sector.In particular, the IMO assists Member Countries in and around the Gulf of Guinea in, among others, revising national legislation to criminalize piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activities; developing and coordinating relevant structures and procedures; as well as ensuring that operational, technical and logistical personnel are adequately trained.IMO supports the Save Our Seafarers campaign.