What is maritime safety?

Nearly all world industries rely heavily on maritime shipping. It is also considered one of the safest and most environmentally-friendly modes of goods transportation.


Due to the vastness of the oceans, safety has always been foundational to the shipping industry. The shipping industry was one of the first industries to implement comprehensive international safety standards set forth by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

This maritime safety guide condenses the many rules and regulations ensuring safety across marine waterways.

What is maritime safety?

Maritime safety is the collection of measures to protect life and property at sea. Specifically, the guidelines come from the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). SOLAS provisions range from setting the frequency of ship inspections to implementing approved life-saving appliances.

Crewmember training and certifications also ensure that sailors follow best practices and protocols at sea. IMO generally oversees international shipping safety matters, but the organization is also responsible for preventing marine and atmospheric pollution.

Risks faced by maritime workers

Maritime workers are exposed to many risks while on duty. According to the CDC, the marine transportation industry recorded 87 fatal injuries between 2011-2017, almost six times the rate of all U.S. workers. During the same period, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows 11,000 non-fatal maritime injuries.

The main risks faced by maritime workers include:


| Life at sea is unpredictable and often dangerous. Maritime workers can have life-threatening accidents every day while at work. Poorly placed objects on the ship’s decks can cause obstruction or slip and fall injuries.

Respiratory diseases and cancer

| Maritime workers are often exposed to fumes, asbestos, heavy metals, and solvents, leaving them vulnerable to respiratory diseases. Shipyard workers and welders are also at high risk for cancer due to airborne hazardous materials in their workplace.

Fires and explosions

| Fires and explosions can cripple a vessel, causing the loss of life, property, and goods. In the enclosed spaces of a ship, fire can spread rapidly. Fire prevention, detection, and extinction regulations seek to avoid total devastation, but accidents can still happen.

Falling objects

| Loose objects like wrenches can fall from elevated platforms and pose a danger to the people below. Given the unpredictability of a rolling ship, any unsecured item can be a hazard.

Extreme temperatures

| Exposure to extreme temperatures on a ship can cause fatigue, dehydration, high body temperature, and hypothermia.


    Common Security Issues 

    Common current maritime security issues include:

    • Trespassing: Ships might enter a foreign country or territory without prior permission.
    • Terror attacks: Terrorism can destroy valuable property and poses a significant security threat.
    • Illegal maritime trade like fishing: Illegal fishing has led to considerable property destruction when the associated parties clash.
    • Piracy: Maritime piracy is a major threat in the industry, leading to economic loss, lost time, transport delays, and high insurance rates.
    • Human trafficking: Human trafficking can involve children, women, and men who have been exposed to hardships, sexual violence, and trauma.
    • Environmental pollution: Oil spills affect maritime species. Air pollution from gas emissions poses a substantial risk to all living things.
    • Thievery: Cargo theft can cost millions of dollars, resulting in poor economic growth.

    Future security threats in the maritime industry

    Maritime security is constantly changing. In the future, the industry faces risks like:

    • Cyberattacks: Most companies increasingly rely on technology, leaving vessels vulnerable to remote attacks at sea.
    • Poor equipment: International maritime organizations need modern weapons to deal with potential terror attacks.
    • Global warming: Just as extreme temperatures affect maritime personnel, global warming will also affect maritime industry staff, potentially causing severe health issues.
    • Smart contract hacking: As hacking technology evolves, cases of contract hacking might increase.
    • Maritime cloud vulnerability: Cloud vulnerability can cause insufficient integration, maintenance, and design of cyber-related systems.
    • Social engineering attacks: Malicious activity can pose significant risks to the maritime industry. Staff can engage in dangerous social activity, make security mistakes, or give away sensitive information.

    Safety tips for workers

    To ensure a safe sail, here are some helpful tips:

    1. Encourage situational awareness, staying alert to the ship environment.
    2. Ensure good visibility and be attentive when moving cargo or when lifting equipment.
    3. Report any mechanical malfunctions, electrical breakdowns, spills, or other abnormal incidents.
    4. Always follow safety procedures. Wear recommended safety equipment, including helmets, shoes, goggles, etc.
    5. Always ready yourself for work.
    6. Report any illness. Do not work while injured, tired, or nauseous.
    7. Learn maritime safety information from relevant training sessions.


    Maritime Safety Rules and Standards

    The STCW Standard of Training, certification, and watch-keeping regulates the level of competence crew members need to join merchant vessels. The STCW entails training and certification, adherence to standard hours of work and rest, medical requirements, and more. The convention is a must-read for all maritime personnel. Its maritime safety rules and standards include:

    • International Safety Management Code
    • Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)
    • Life-Saving Appliance Code ( LSA)
    • Procedure For Port State Control
    • Fire Test Procedures
    • Cargo Security and Storage Code

    Read more about each of them and other safety rules on:


    This article is shared by courtesy of The Lanier Law Firm. With more than 60 attorneys, their firm represents a broad array of clients. The Lanier Law Firm offers Maritime Safety Guidelines Consultation. The maritime lawyers at Lanier Law are well-versed in maritime law. Whether you want to consult about your maritime business or need representation in a maritime case, look no further. Contact them today.

    Read more educational articles about the maritime industry HERE. 


    Narjiss Ghajour

    Editor-in-Chief of Maritime Professionals

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Back to top button