Safety Management System

The process for accessing Safety Management System (SMS) documents, for developing and implementing voluntary SMS until the proposed Marine Safety Management Regulations (MSMSR) come into force, has changed recently. To request these documents from the Transport Canada, please contact:

What is a Safety Management System (SMS)?

A SMS is a set of documents that a vessel owner/authorized representative prepare with their Masters and their crew. It contains 12 sections that set out how you operate your vessel safely.  For example:

  • how your company and vessel(s) operate on a day-to-day basis;
  • vessel details, what she does, and where she operates;
  • how you do things on your vessel, who does what, how they do it, and when;
  • how you identify hazards, assess, and manage risk;
  • emergency procedures;
  • how you record what happens on your vessel;
  • how you do drills and train your crew;
  • how you keep a record of drills and training.

Do I need one?

At this time, three types of vessels that operate on international voyages/waters MUST adopt a SMS that complies with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code:

  1. Passenger ships including passenger high-speed craft;
  2. Oil tankers, chemical tankers, gas carriers, bulk carriers and cargo high-speed craft of 500 gross tonnage and upwards; and
  3. Other cargo ships and mobile offshore drilling units of 500 gross tonnage and upwards.

Transport Canada is currently in the process of amending the Safety Management Regulations. The regulatory proposal currently applies to Canadian non-Convention vessels. When these proposed amended regulations come into force, the following vessels and the companies that operate them will be required to adopt a SMS in compliance with the ISM Code:

  • A Canadian vessel subject to Chapter IX of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)Footnote 1 ;
  • A Canadian vessel of 500 gross tonnage and upwards;
  • A Canadian vessel that is certified to carry more than 50 passengers; and
  • A Canadian vessel that is more than 24 meters in length and less than 500 gross tonnageFootnote 2

The proposed regulations are based on the International Safety Management (ISM) Code but incorporate existing acts, regulations, and standards that are consistent with the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. Until this work is completed, vessel owners and operators are encouraged to voluntarily develop a SMS in compliance with the ISM Code.

Developing a SMS for your company/vessels, will help you to:

  • keep your operation safe
  • reduce the risk of accidents in your operation
  • save money
  • train your personnel
  • comply with regulations

A SMS will provide an operator with the flexibility to develop and tailor its safety system to its operations while complying with regulatory requirements. Responsibility for this is placed firmly on the companies charged with the ship’s management.

How do I develop an SMS?

Developing an SMS is straightforward. Everyone who works on the vessel, both ashore and onboard should be involved. Remember that an SMS should be tailored to reflect what happens on a particular vessel.
To assist operators to comply with SMS requirements, Transport Canada has developed plain English Safety Management Systems Guidelines, sample SMS documents and a number of sample forms and checklists that can be tailored to individual vessels. Templates for flip charts that cover Operational and Emergency Procedures are also available. These documents are in the format of a word document and can be downloaded from the Transport Canada File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server


Footnote 1

Canadian vessel subject to Chapter IX of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) are currently required to comply with the existing Safety Management Regulations.

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Footnote 2

A vessel that is more than 24 meters in length and less than 500 gross tonnage would be required to comply with the safety management requirements, but would not be subject to the audit and certification requirements.

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