Ship Safety & Naval Architecture

Certification under ISM Code

ism code

ISM code and certificates under ISM code

ISM code certificates under ISM code – ISM Code applies to all passenger vessels and other vessels of 500 GT and above. The Directorate General of Shipping (For indian ship, Others by respective flag state) issues certification under ISM Code for Indian flag vessels on satisfactory verification of Safety Management System implementation in company and on board the vessel. The Directorate make arrangements for conduct of SMC and DOC Audits. Indian Register of Shipping, the recognised organisation has been authorized to conduct SMC audits on board the vessel on behalf of the Directorate.

As per ISM code under SOLAS chapter IX, a company shall be issued with Document of compliance (DOC) and its ships are issued with Safety Management Certificates (SMC) only after ensuring that the company has a Safety Management System (SMS) and all ships are operated as per the SMS.

DOC – Document of compliance

  • A Document of Compliance or DOC is issued to a company based on the types of ships the company operates with, therefore seperate DOCs are issued for every single type of ship the company operates.
  • DOC is issued by the authority of flag state government, (DGS in India) by positively auditing and reviewing companies SMS and its implementation.

Types of audits: 


  • Interim
  • Initial
  • Annual
  • Renewal
  • Additional audits.
  • Surveillance audits


  • Interim Audit
  • Initial audit
  • Intermediate audit
  • Renewal
  • Additional audit

Different types DOC’s

Interim DOC

  • An Interim Document of Compliance certificate may be issued to help set up a company’s safety management system when—
    • A company is newly set up or in transition from an existing company into a new company; or
    • A new type of vessel is added to an existing safety management system and Document of Compliance certificate for a company.
  • The company is required to submit SMS implementation plan and 12 months are given to the company for fulfilling the ISM requirements.
  • The company shall undergo initial audit, and in case of newly built shipping company within the validity period of interim DOC i.e. 12 months.
  • The company shall undergo additional audit in case new ship type is added to the shipping company within the validity period of interim DOC i.e. 12 months.
  • For a new company, further document review is conducted prior to the audit by administration.

Short Term DOC

  • A short term DOC is issued on the day of the audit by the administration auditor as a response or proof of completion of the initial, annual or renewal audit process.
  • Validity of short term DOC is 5 months.

Document of Compliance (DoC):

  • A Document of Compliance (DOC) is issued to a Company when the shore side aspects of the Safety Management System are found to comply with the requirements of the ISM Code.
  • The DOC is specific to the ship type(s) operated by the Company and for which the SMS is implemented at the time of the audit.
  • A copy of the relevant DOC should be placed on board each of the company’s ships, which may be accepted as evidence that the Company’s shore-side management structure complies with the requirements of the Code.
  • DOC is issued by the administration (DGS in india) following successful fulfilment of initial audit or Interim DOC requirements.
  • Issued after at least three months of implementation of SMS at the company and at least one ship in the fleet for which DOC is concerned.
  • The validity of DOC, after initial audit is 5 years from the next date of expiry and it is subjected to annual audit.
  • If a Major NON Conformity is found in the audit, the DOC is withdrawn.

Safety Management Certificate (SMC) Certification:

  • Company in possession of Interim DOC or DOC is eligible to apply for Interim SMC audit for ship when takes on responsibility for the operation of a ship (DOC should be relevant to the ship type) that is new to the company.
  • Subsequent to a successful audit, a Safety Management Certificate (SMC) will be issued to each individual ship provided that the company holds a valid DOC for the applicable type of ship. A copy of each SMC should be retained in the company’s office records, the original being placed on board and filed along with all other statutory certificates. Every individual ship must have a SMC which ensures that it complies with the onboard Safety Management Manual based on ISM.

Types of SMC

1.  Interim SMC – Valid for 6 Months

  • Interim SMC is issued to ships that are owned / Operated by company that posses Main DOC, Interim DOC or Short term DOC also Issued to the newly built ship added to the existing fleet of the shipping company OR Issued to a new ship with change in Management Company. OR Issued to a company with change in the flag state.
  • With Interim SMC ship undergoes initial audit which shall fulfill the requirements to comply the SMS based on ISM code to get the main SMC.

2.  Short Term SMC – Valid for 5 months

  • A short term SMC is issued on the day of the audit by the administration auditor as a response or proof of completion of the initial, annual or renewal audit process.

3.  Safety Management Certificate – SMC – Valid for 5 Years

  • It is issued by the administration after successful completion of initial audit or fulfilment or interim SMC requirements.
  • The validity of SMC, after initial audit is 5 years from the next date of expiry and it is subjected to intermediate audit.
  • The intermediate audit is carried out between the second and the third anniversary date of the ship.
  • If a Major NON Conformity is found in the audit, the SMC and DOC are withdrawn.
  • The original SMC is kept on the ship and copy is kept with the company.

Types of audits: 

1. Interim SMC Audits:

  • For Passenger/Special Trade Passenger Ships, the company which is holding passenger ship DOC is eligible for applying to Interim SMS audits.
  • For Cargo Ships, MODUs and Special Purpose Ships (SPS), the company which is holding DOC for the respective type of shipis eligible for applying to Interim SMS audits.
  • On satisfactory completion of the audit, RO may issue Interim SMC Certificate to the vessel for 6 months.

2. Initial, Intermediate, & Renewal SMC Audits

  • In all the above cases, the Company shall be in possession of a regular DoC (not Interim certification) and the vessel shall be capable of demonstrating:-
    • the satisfactory functioning of the SMS on board a ship for at least 3 months in the preceding 12 months
    • records of an internal audit carried out by the company, in this period;
    • the audit is performed under normal operating condition, ie. Not in dry-dock or lay-up.

3. Additional SMC Audits:

  • In case an Additional SMC audit is imposed by any RO or the Flag State surveyor, the concerned authority shall inform the same to the flag state promptly with clear reasons for the action. The FS may review the case and advise any RO or Administration auditor to undertake the additional audit based on the merit of the case.
  • In instances where the additional SMS assessment of a ship has been imposed by any Port State Control (PSC) authority, RO may board the said ship at the earliest opportunity to confirm that immediate corrective measures have been taken to facilitate prompt release of the vessel from the PSC intervention and thereafter shall forward a detailed report to the DGS, with clear recommendation for long term measures to avoid recurrence, viz. additional SMC audit, DoC audit, FSI inspection etc, as necessary.



About Ram Govindasamy

Ram Govindasamy is a sailing marine engineer working for a leading cruise company. Ram founded Dieselship to create an online platform for Marine engineers worldwide to bond, share knowledge & Resources. He is a computer enthusiast who loves creating web based activities, web pages & programs. He is also authoring technical articles, videos for Dieselship as well as for various other maritime websites. Ram is interested in Maritime Law and Technical Operations and looks forward to meeting new people especially those who are interested in creating web based platforms, Assets maintenance & inventory programs and Planned Maintenance software etc

One thought on “Certification under ISM Code

  1. Henri says:

    Which are cases of fall out of ISM code? Is it tru that the ism code fall out when on shipboard is change more than 70 percent of the crew?


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