Internal ISM audits are mandatory, and should be performed under annual basis as per ISM Code, Clause 12.1: “Internal safety audits are now required to be carried out on board and ashore at intervals not exceeding 12 months, in extreme exceptional cases it can be extended to 3 months.”
The Objectives of the Code:
- It acts as a tool to monitor how well the SMS system is implemented on board regarding the safety practices and pollution prevention activities.
- It helps in checking whether company safety and environmental policy is continually in compliance with the requirement of this code. Provides an opportunity to possible changes in the SMS system
- Shows the evidence of the SMS working and that the procedures are being followed
- To determine compliance with regulatory requirement
Schedule the internal audit.
Internal audits should be carried out on month before the anniversary, obviously, you will not always have time for following this recommendation. Due to different reasons, internal audits must be postponed, for instance: vessel is under navigation, vessel is berthed at a non-convenient port, lack of qualified auditor at the port where the vessel is planning to conduct the audit, and vessel is stationary at anchorage area waiting for instructions, among others.
Internal audits are more than a legal requirement, they are, indeed, a powerful tool for management and helps to improve and to get better the company management system detecting, not only non-conformities, but also specific area where company must focus specific attention
Internal audits must be conducting per internal procedures and following all guidelines of the maritime industry as pertinent.
Internal auditors commissioned to perform these tasks
Commissioned auditors to perform this duty must be qualified as internal ISM auditors and they should have a relevant knowledge in the Safety Management System. Usually skills required for carrying and managing the audit includes knowledge and understanding of terms, standards, and audits techniques as recommended by IMO and other auditing bodies as ISO (ISO 19011:2011). Auditors are recommended to have experience and formation on maritime careers as well.