Cruise Ship Security


There are rules and regulations that cruise lines are required to comply with when it comes to security of the ship and its passengers. These rules and regulations govern such measures as controlling ship access, screening of goods and people, restricting access to specific areas of the ship, video surveillance and crew drills that simulate security threats. Here is what you need to know about cruise ship security when working on cruise ships.


Cruise Ship Security

An onboard security department, overseen by the Staff Captain but carried out by the onboard Security Officer, ensures that the cruise ship is following the policies and procedures of the cruise line as well as international and port regulations.

The Security Department onboard ensures that only authorized persons can board the vessel; all persons and their belongings will be screened upon boarding; only specific persons can enter sensitive areas such as the Bridge or the Engine Control Room; and video surveillance is watching at all times.

It is rare that crew members commit a crime on board, perhaps due to the pre-employment background screening. It is even rarer that a crewmember or passenger gets away with their crime. There are plenty of closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras around the ship, in the work place, in storerooms, in corridors, on the open decks and in secure areas. Security personnel are constantly monitoring the cameras for suspicious behaviour.

Although serious crime is uncommon onboard cruise ships, cruise ship officials are required to report all allegations to law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. The Security Officer follows procedures including securing a crime scene and preserving any evidence before law enforcement officials board the ship. In addition, in alleged crimes such as rape, medical personnel are trained and have appropriate evidence collection kits.


International Ship and Port Facility Security Code

The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is a set of rules and regulations intended to enhance the security of the ship and port facilities. It was developed post 911 and is implemented as a supplement to one of the chapters in Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), “The purpose of the Code is to provide a standardised, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling governments to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and port facilities.”

Essentially, the Code standardizes how cruise ships and port facilities work together to detect and deter acts that would be a threat to security of the ship. For example, the Code requires ships and their ports to each have their own security officers, security plans, and security equipment. In addition, the Code requires that both ships and ports must monitor and control access as well as monitor the activities of people and cargo.


Understanding Cruise Port Security

What does this all mean for crewmembers working on a cruise ship? All this security for the ship and the port equate to specific policies and procedures that crewmembers must adhere to. Crew must understand the importance of their ship issued crew id, how their belongings will be screened upon entry to the ship, rules about customs and immigration, and knowledge of security threats.

When going ashore, crewmembers must wear their ship issued ID (in the US, they must also carry their I-95 document). This confirms to the port authority and to the ship upon their return, that they are authorized to come onboard. Upon returning to the ship, either the ship’s security or the port security will screen all of the crewmember’s belongings for items that are not allowed onboard (such as weapons or drugs).

Crew should also be knowledgeable about security threats by understanding the three-tiered security system called, MARSEC (Maritime Security). MARSEC levels reflect the current security threat environment of the port and the ship. For example, the US Coast Guard states that MARSEC Level 1 means “the level for which minimum appropriate security measures shall be maintained at all times.”  Alternatively, MARSEC Level 3 means “the level for which further protective security measures shall be maintained when a security incident is probable or has occurred.”


The Security Officer on a Cruise Ship

The cruise ship job as a Security Officer is important to the ship as this is the person who oversees the security of the ship. The Security Officer’s responsibilities cover everything from screening passengers and crew to ensuring shipboard security on a daily basis. Here is a brief list of the Security Officer’s duties:

–  Prepare gangways and security systems for arrival into port.
–  Supervises the screening and search of all passenger’s luggage upon embarkation.
–  Supervises the screening and search of all belongings of crew and passengers upon re-boarding on port days.
–  Coordinates security measures with port authorities.
–  Supervises and trains shipboard security personnel.
–  Conducts routine inspections of the ship and monitors video surveillance.
–  Investigates accidents and suspicious incidents that occur on the ship.
–  Administers breathalyzers to passengers and crew when necessary.

To get hired as a cruise ship Security Officer, the person must possess skills and experience such as police training, crowd management experience and knowledge of the ISPS Code.


Personal Security While Working On Cruise Ships

Although there are security measures that you are required to comply with as a crewmember, there are also some things to do that affect your own personal security. From keeping yourself and your belongings safe to knowing what you cannot bring onboard or ashore, here are some tips.

For starters, when going ashore, besides your ship’s ID, it is also wise to bring an additional piece of identification such as a driver’s licence. Don’t call attention to yourself with expensive jewellery. Carry your valuable identification and money in a place that would be hard to access by a thief. Onboard, keep your valuables secure in your room safe.

When you finish your contract, don’t try to be clever and “smuggle” things that you purchased during your contract. Remember that customs form that you filled out when you joined the ship? Customs officials know what you initially came onboard with and therefore know what you should be paying duty on, if applicable. But, in the end, all of these rules and regulations make a cruise ship a very secure place to work and live.


We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.