UK-based manufacturer and distributer of marine equipment Martek Marine has called for a review of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code amid concerns about the threats to security caused by drones.

The lack of regulation on aerial drones is at the centre of debate in the shipping sector, as companies fear international terrorist organisations could use them to deploy explosives on oil and gas tankers or on passenger ships.

Martek said that vessels in port, at anchor or on coastal transits are potential ‘sitting ducks’ and could be targeted by terrorist drones, since they are unable to detect or defend against unmanned aerial vehicles. Although one section of the ISPS Code mandates requirements ‘preventing the introduction of unauthorised weapons, incendiary devices or explosive to ships’, the Ship Security Plan has so far failed to consider the impact of aerial drones.

The company further said that the absence of countermeasures for aerial drones in the ISPS Code requirements for Ship Security Assessments (SSA) & Ship Security Plans (SSP) has alarmed several company security officers and ship security officers within its client base, most of which were unaware of these risks in their periodic reviews of the SSA and SSP.

In a letter published on Monday, Martek urged all maritime government organisations, classification societies and flag administrations to raise the issue and collaborate to update the code with new safety measures against drones.

The company pledged its support to the industry to ensure the fulfilment of the mandatory objectives of ISPS to ‘detect security threats and take preventive measures against security incidents affecting ships or port facilities used in international trade’.

Martek CEO Paul Luen said: “ISPS needs an urgent update to address the growing threat that drones pose to safety and security of commercial shipping. It’s critical that awareness is urgently raised, and procedures updated to counter the growing threat before it’s too late.”

The firm recently launched its D-FENCE maritime drone detection and defeat system in a bid to combat this rising threat. The system is capable of recognising the presence of an approaching drone and creating an electronic ‘exclusion zone’ around a vessel, which will drop the drone’s control and video signal, forcing it to return to its operator.