We recommend that you read the questions and answers below BEFORE embarking on your training.

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“Acronyms related to these FAQ’s”

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CRB                        Criminal Record Background

CSO                        Company Security Officer

ELC                         Enhanced Learning Credits

IMO                         International Maritime Organisation

ISPS                        International Ship and Port Facility Security Code

MCA                        Maritime and Coastguard Agency

MSO                        Maritime Security Operator/Officer

PCASP                    Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel

PDSD                      Proficiency in Designated Security Duties

PFSO                      Port Facility Security Officer

PMSC                     Private Maritime Security Company

PSA                        Proficiency in Security Awareness

SLC                        Standard Learning Credits

SSO                        Ship Security Officer

STCW                     Standards of Training and Certification for Watchkeepers

“I want to work for a maritime security company in an anti piracy role in the Indian Ocean. I have spoken to a number of people in the industry and have been given different advice on the experience and training required to get to a job, what do I need?”

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IMSA has gained a reputation in the Maritime Security Industry for honesty and integrity. If you are looking for a career in this industry these are the minimum requirements being asked for by the vast majority of the reputable PMSCs, but bear in mind each company can be different.

The criteria the potential candidate should hold;

  • Be over twenty five years of age
  • Have over five years military experience
  • Have an PDSD or SSO certificate (the PDSD certificate has superseded the SSO)
  • Have all 4 modules of the STCW95 basic;
  1. Personal survival techniques
  2. Fire prevention and fire fighting
  3. Elementary first aid
  4. Personal safety and social responsibility

(The PDSD and STCW95 basic are both MCA approved internationally recognised certificates)

  • Have an in date clear Criminal Record Background (CRB) check
  • Have an ENG1 (Seafarer medical examination)
  • An in date passport
  • An in date yellow fever certificate
  • Military discharge papers/testimonial
  • At least two references


It is advantageous to have a seaman’s book. You may need a potential employer to sign a certificate in order for the MCA to issue you one.

“I want to work in maritime security and I have heard that the SSO course has now been superceded. What is the training I need now?”

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Why a new course?

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) instructions 2012

Those carrying out personal close protection and/or ship protection duties on ISPS Code compliant ships do not need to hold SSO qualifications unless they are the designated SSO on the vessel on which they are serving.  However, as they will be carrying out ships security duties they will have to hold an MCA approved or recognized Certificate of Proficiency in Designated Security Duties. (MCA instructions)

The introduction of the PDSD course clarifies the situation regarding what security related training is required by a person looking to enter the Maritime Security industry. Up until now the vast majority of PMSC’s have insisted that amongst the minimum qualifications required in order to be considered for an appointment, the candidate must have attended an SSO course. The MCA were uncomfortable about this as the qualification should only be held by the appointed Ship Security Officer under the ISPS Code who has a minimum of 12 months sea service on a merchant vessel. Clearly most former military personnel do not fulfill these entry conditions. There is a requirement for the PCASP to understand the ISPS Code, the security regime on the ship and their security responsibilities under the code.

IMSA’s concern has always been that there are a number of irrelevant modules in the SSO course & that it has not been the correct course for a PCASP but until now there has been no MCA approved and certificated course that is applicable to the role of PCASP. The brand new PDSD course offered by IMSA will give the candidate the necessary knowledge to enable him to carry out his duties under the ISPS Code. This should simplify the whole process for anyone looking to enter the maritime security market.

IMSA’s PDSD course, a 1.5 day training course, consists of the MCA approved and certificated ten hour PDSD course. On successful completion of the course candidates will be issued the MCA approved STCW’78 , as amended, Regulation VI/6 paragraph 4 and STCW Code Section A-VI/6 paragraph 6 to 8 “Proficiency in Dedicated Security Duties” certificate.

“I am serving on a ship or looking to progress with a career to work at sea (including cruise ship/superyacht) and I have heard about some new security training that I have been told I need. I believe there are two courses,  “Proficiency in Designated Security Duties “ and “Proficiency in Security Awareness” Which one do I need to do ?”

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New Requirements for Security Training for Shipboard Personnel Maritime and Coastguard Agency Instructions Dated 31st July 2012

The STCW Convention and Code as amended by the Manila amendments (2010) contains new requirements regarding security training.  This training is required by all personnel employed or engaged onboard ships to which the ISPS Code applies.  These Regulations came into force on 1 January 2012. (MCA instructions)

IMSA have modified their training package in order to comply with the above amendments, and added two new courses which are MCA Approved

  • Proficiency in Security Awareness
  • Proficiency in Designated Security Duties

Training Requirements

In addition to the existing Ship Security Officer (SSO) training (which is unchanged) the amendments to the STCW Convention brings in two new levels of security training:

  • Proficiency in Security Awareness and
  • Proficiency in Designated Security Duties

Proficiency in Security Awareness

All seafarers employed or engaged in any capacity on ships that are required to comply with the ISPS Code must undertake training in Proficiency in Security Awareness. This training/instruction must meet the requirements of Section A-VI/6 paragraph 4 of the amended STCW code. This training leads to the issue of a STCW Certificate of Proficiency in Security Awareness.

What is the definition of a seafarer?

A seafarer means any person, including the master, who is employed or engaged or works in any capacity on board a seagoing ship on the business of the ship. As well as the master, deck & engine crew of a seagoing ship, this includes persons such as shopkeepers, resident entertainers, hairdressers, beauty therapists, waiters, chefs, pursers etc who are employed by a franchise company to work on board. It may also include self-employed persons who work on board the ship. On completion of this training a seafarer will at least be able to:

  • Contribute to the enhancement of maritime security through heightened awareness;
  • Recognise security threats; and
  • Understand the need for, and methods of, maintaining security awareness and vigilance.

Proficiency in Designated Security Duties

Training in designated security duties must be undertaken by seafarers engaged on ships which are required to comply with the provisions of the ISPS Code, who have designated duties under the ships security plan. This training leads to the issue of an STCW Certificate of Proficiency in Designated Security Duties. If you have watch keeping duties, act as a lookout, enforce access control or carry out any regular security duties onboard the ship you will have to attend this course. On completion of this training a seafarer will at least be able to:

  • Maintain the conditions set out in a ship security plan;
  • Recognise security risk and threats;
  • Undertake regular security inspections; and
  • Properly use security equipment and systems

Still Unsure?

If you are still unsure which course you should undertake, contact IMSA for guidance, and we will advise you on which is the right course for you

“What other training is available and what are the pitfalls I should look out for?”

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Firearms Training:

The IMO requires  “That personnel have been trained to operate the specific firearms and other security equipment that will be used on ships on which they will be deployed

There are three ways PMSC can demonstrate this:

  1. The PMSC trains and tests its PCASPs at its own cost
  2. The PMSC requires that its PCASPs attend a firearms competency course at a choice of third party training providers prior to employment, at the PCASPs own cost
  3. The PMSC requires that potential PCASPs attend its own firearms training course at the PCASPs own cost prior to potential employment

This can be a minefield for men looking to gain employment in this industry. IMSA Ltd’s advice is to see what response you get to your CV prior to investing in this type of training, what works for one PMSC may not work for another. If a PMSC gives you a firm offer of employment on successful completion of option 2 or 3 follow their guidance and invest in yourself, but ensure it is a firm offer.

MSO/Anti Piracy Training  :

There are a number of these types of courses available. Some of the courses will be very well constructed and presented & they will give invaluable advice to men looking for employment. The difficulty with these courses is that none of them have any internationally recognised certification and will only be recognised by certain PMSCs.  You will find that if you invest in an MSO/Anti Piracy course you will also require the mandatory PDSD certificate.  It is best to check which MSO course will be the most suitable for your career intentions if one is required.

Combined Courses :

There are a number of these courses available. Normally they will consist of CSO/SSO/PFSO training, STCW95 basic (which should be all four modules), MSO/Anti Piracy course. There might be other elements such as Radar and VHF radio on these courses. Most of these courses will accept ELC funding. However, the important thing to note is these courses are designed to use your ELC entitlement and potentially you will undertake a large amount of unnecessary training, which is not only a waste of your education allowance but more importantly your time. At a later stage you may want to progress within the industry and use your ELC funding for Management level qualifications.

“What should I do before investing in training and spending my money?”

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Prior to booking on to any course, do your own due diligence; check that any training you undertake meets the employable criteria as set out above (age/experience/certification). It is important that you only do the training necessary for this industry. Beware of being sold a course that seems to offer you the world, but in fact offers very little. Use an experienced training provider. Beware of companies that intimate “do our training and we will/may offer you a job”. Last but not least, spend your money wisely and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

A reputable company (such as IMSA) will always be willing to talk to you at length about your future plans and ask you plenty of questions to understand what it is you wish to achieve and then advise accordingly. Be careful if a company only seems interested in offering you the courses they are selling without asking any relevant questions about your future plans

“What is ISPS?”

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The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is a set of internationally agreed measures aimed at enhancing the security of ships and port facilities. The Code was developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

The Code takes the approach that ensuring the security of ships and port facilities is a risk management activity and that to determine what security measures and security levels are appropriate, an assessment of the risks must be made for every ship and port:

  • To detect security threats and implement security measures
  • To establish roles and responsibilities concerning maritime security for governments, local administrations, ship and port industries at national and international level
  • To collate and promulgate security-related information
  • To provide a methodology for security assessments so as to have in place plans and procedures to react to changing security levels

All IMSA Associates have extensive experience across all aspects of the ISPS Code.

Associates are qualified to conduct Ship and Port Facility Security Surveys and produce Assessments and Plans; lead Verification and Implementation Inspections; and train Port Facility, Ship and Company Security Officer worldwide.

Many are also able to conduct Technical Security Surveys to assist with equipment procurement decisions. Trainers are accredited by TRANSEC/MCA and DNV.