​IRCA Maritime Safety Management Systems Certification Scheme | CQI | IRCA Skip to main content

​IRCA Maritime Safety Management Systems Certification Scheme

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The IRCA Maritime Safety Management Systems Certification Scheme has been developed in line with the International Safety Management (ISM) Code for ships, to provide auditor training and certification for the marine industry.

The ISM code is designed to ensure safety at sea, prevent injury or loss of life and avoid damage to the marine environment. The code was created by the International Maritime Organization in 1993 and became mandatory in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).


You must already have successfully completed the QMS Lead Auditor training course to be eligible for certification in this scheme.

Maritime auditors are certified to operate only within the marine sector (and not as a general quality management systems auditor, or within any other sector environment).

Scheme specific (additional) requirements

Auditors are required to demonstrate the following knowledge and competencies:

  • Knowledge of ship management and/or ship operations
  • Related experience in quality assurance, marine safety or environmental management
  • Knowledge of relevant maritime legislation/documentation, e.g. SOLAS, MARPOL, IMDG and STCW to latest IMO amendments and resolutions
  • Understanding  of  methods  and  techniques  of  marine  management  that  enable the  auditor  to examine a maritime safety management code system, and to generate appropriate audit findings and conclusions.

Work experience

Auditors must have four years’ work experience in any of the positions below:

  • Master, chief engineer, first mate,  second  engineer,  superintendent  or manager  engaged  in organising, managing and operating ships, surveying ships, or providing specific marine consultancy
  • Deck and engineer officers sailing as chief mate or second engineer, having obtained their master and/or chief engineer certificates/qualifications
  • Principal or senior lecturer in a marine college, teaching the above relevant marine courses and with supporting records of sea service.

Note 1: Sea time is most important, and IRCA will not only review qualifications and work experience but also records of sea-time experience, so please make sure this is made clear in their application.

Note 2: Experience as a cargo surveyor, shipbuilder, ship designer, ship repairer or a ship inspector is not acceptable.

Academic qualifications

Applicants are expected to hold at least one of the following:

  • A degree in Nautical Science, Marine Engineering or Naval Architecture
  • Under STCW 95 basic training; Deck Officer Certificate II/2 or Engineering Officer Certificate III/2 or a recognised equivalent.

Auditor training

  • All applicants must have successfully completed a QMS Auditor/Lead Auditor training course and a two-day approved ISM Code training course OR an approved combined QMS Auditor/Lead Auditor/ISM Code training course, within a five-year period immediately prior to any application for certification.  Such training courses must meet the requirements of ISO 19011:2011.

Audit experience


A minimum of five audits, consisting of a maximum of four against the ISM code for the issue of the Ship’s Safety Management Certificate, and a maximum of two audits for the purpose of issuing the Document of Compliance for the shipping company.

Applicants shall state on their audit log which certificate has been issued for each audit, and further details of a minimum of five audits shall be included on the Supplementary Audit log form (IRCA/150).

Lead Auditor

A minimum of a further five audits (in addition to those specified above) as team leader, leading a team of two or more auditors. The overall total of 10 audits shall include one audit (as team leader) for issuing the Document of Compliance to a company managing a minimum of 10 vessels, or include  two  audits  (as  team  leader)  for  issuing  the  Document of  Compliance  for companies managing less than 10 vessels.

Renewal of certification

The generic requirements for renewal of certification apply, although all qualifying audits shall have been performed against a management system that includes all the elements of the ISM code. In addition to the IRCA audit log, all auditors are required to complete the IRCA/150 Supplementary Maritime (ISM) audit log form for each audit claimed.

The maritime scheme is based on the following key document:

ISM Code: The International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (latest issue).

Guidance on who this scheme is intended for

Maritime auditors, such as those employed by:

  • Flag administrations
  • Recognised organisations
  • Third-party certification bodies/classification bodies/registrars
  • Charterers, oil majors or P&I clubs.

Maritime practitioners, such as:

  • Marine consultants
  • Ship managers
  • Other marine personnel.

Employees conducting ISM code audits within their own organisation, i.e.:

  • Internal audits
  • Second-party audits.

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Applying for IRCA certification FAQs

Frequently asked questions about applying for IRCA certification – covering application requirements, training courses and how to record your audit experience.