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Developing Maritime Safety Culture

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Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
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Transport policies
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Growing maritime transport in the Finnish ports and particularly the transportation of oil and other dangerous goods in the Gulf of Finland increase the risk of a serious maritime accident. An international safety management code (ISM code) was established over a decade ago in order to improve maritime safety. The primary aim of the ISM code was to create a safety-oriented culture in the maritime community and to provide measures for a safety management system for shipping companies.


A new project that evaluates impacts of the ISM code to the maritime safety culture is being started at Kotka Maritime Research Centre in the first quarter of the year 2008. The project lasts for 2.5 years and its total budget is about 730,000 euros.

The purpose of the project is to study how the ISM Code has influenced the safety culture in the maritime industry.

The project attempts to find best practices for shipping companies when improving their operations by implementing and developing their safety management system.

In order to assess the effects of ISM code, the METKU project studies maritime safety culture and attempts to measure the prevailing safety level of the Finnish maritime sector. The specific aims of METKU project are to: 

  1. Study how the ISM Code has influenced the safety culture in the maritime industry, 
  2. Show how accident analysis can be used for developing risk indicators,
  3. Evaluate the use and usefulness of safety indicators in maritime and other domains to be able to give recommendations to safety development,
  4. Study safety management practices in Finnish maritime and port authorities, 
  5. Find observable degree of effort by which all organisational members direct their attention and actions toward improving safety on a daily basis, 
  6. Explain how visible safety management is in the multi-professional authority co-operation, and 
  7. Find the best practices for shipping companies to improve their operations by implementing and developing their safety management systems.

METKU consists of the following technical work packages:

  • WP1: Statistical measurements of maritime safety
  • WP2: Evaluation of the performance of Safety Management Systems in Finnish shipping companies
  • WP3: Comparing ISM –OHSAS practices in shipping companies and port operations
  • WP4: Exploring the Best Practises in shipping companies
  • WP5: Safety management practices in Finnish maritime and port authorities.


Other Programme
Funded by EU and the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme, City of Kotka and private companies
Funding Source
European Regional Development Fund


It was shown that the major safety risks are related to hazardous substances in the treatment. Other such groups are the internal transport and ship loading and unloading operations. There are many different management systems used in the ports, but typically no safety management systems or integrated management systems. The safety of the port sector is strongly influenced by the fragmentation of the legislation and regulatory monitoring. Safety monitoring is spread among several ministries and the overall picture has not really anyone. Ensuring safety is also complicated by the historical-bearing remnants of the port authority status.

The study gives clear indications for the need to develop for ports integrated safety management system, which would be consisted of all the safety aspects and also the current legislative requirements. The system should be developed together with co-actors and experts, and it should be important to create a model of functional system and also safety ensuring methods. Port legislation is currently under development, and in this work safety responsibilities and port safety ensuring generally should be considered. It would make sense if the safety requirements are assembled in the same legislation and under monitoring of the responsible authority.

The interview study showed that a safety culture has emerged and is developing in the Finnish maritime industry. The top management of the shipping companies included in the study consider safety as a value of the shipping business. The maritime personnel act in a more safety-oriented manner than before the implementation of the ISM Code.

The results of the study could be summed up in the words of one maritime inspector: “in the long run, the safety culture will establish itself, but it will take time.”

Policy implications

Vulnerable nature of the sea area needs active operations to prevent oil accidents continuously. Legislation and conventions are important instruments for the development of maritime safety and pollution prevention but often tardy when needed fast and up-to-date instructions and manoeuvre as on the Gulf of Finland.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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