Ship Security Alert System

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The Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) is part of the ISPS code and is a system that contributes to the International Maritime Organization's (IMO)'s efforts to strengthen maritime security and suppress acts of terrorism and piracy against shipping. The system is a joint project between Cospas-Sarsat and the IMO. In case of attempted piracy or terrorism, the ship's SSAS beacon can be activated, and appropriate law-enforcement or military forces can be dispatched. An SSAS beacon operates with similar principles to the aircraft transponder emergency code 7700.

When an SSAS alert is triggered: [1]

  • the Rescue Coordination Centres (RCCs) or SAR Points of Contact (SPOCs) for the country code the beacon is transmitting is notified discreetly
  • national authorities dispatch appropriate forces to deal with the terrorist or pirate threat

How SSAS works? When the maritime security staffs comprehend probable danger from pirates or terrorists a Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) alert is triggered. The beacon transmits a specific country code, reacting to which the Rescue Coordination Centres (RCCs) or SAR Points of Contact (SPOCs) of that particular region is notified discreetly. Once receiving the signal the national authorities of the area notified dispatch appropriate military or law-enforcement forces to deal with the terrorist or pirate menace.

Legislation on Ship Security Alert System (SSAS)

In December 2002, International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted some changes within which Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), as was determined in Regulation 6. It also required IMO to produce guidance on the implementation and instructions on the handling of covert alerts from SSAS instrumentation.

The SSAS alerts are to be sent by the security staff, necessarily at routine priority, from the ship to its Administration directly or other proper recipient designated by the Administration.

These routine priority SSAS alerts might be chosen by Administrations to have from their flag ships addressed to Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres in their own region or to other targets such as ship owners or managers.

Satellite service of Inmarsat C, mini-C and D+ would help affirm the full accessibility of processing the messages of Ship Security Alert System (SSAS), while the existing outdated GMDSS would require an update provided by its manufacturers or agents.

SSAS solutions which are available on the Inmarsat network inevitably render more flexibility in the routing of SSAS alerts. In accordance with the requirements of the IMO, these alerts could be sent to any destination, which might be a rescue co-ordination centre, or a national security organisation or the ship owner or any other third-party organisation but necessarily selected by the flag administration.

The security staff can deliver the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) to fax, email, telex, GSM phone, or even to other Inmarsat terminals for the sake of ship security complying with the legislation specified in Regulation 6.

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