Understanding SMC and DOC: Navigating Certifications

Bertine Kviteberg
February 13, 2024

In navigating the complexities of safety management within the maritime industry, understanding the distinctions between various certifications, systems, and codes is paramount. This article delves into the nuances between the Safety Management Certificate (SMC) and Document of Compliance (DOC), distinguishes between Safety Management Systems (SMS) and the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, elucidates the fundamental principles of the ISM Code, and outlines the four pillars of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Through this exploration, we underscore the critical importance of leveraging sophisticated software solutions, like Adonis HR, to ensure compliance and enhance safety operations onboard and ashore.

Understanding SMC and DOC: Navigating Certifications

SMC and DOC serve as the cornerstone certifications in maritime safety management, yet they cater to different aspects of maritime operations:

  • Safety Management Certificate (SMC): Issued to a specific ship, the SMC verifies that the vessel is operated according to the Safety Management System (SMS) that complies with the requirements of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. It is a ship-specific certification.
  • Document of Compliance (DOC): Granted to the company or ship operator, the DOC affirms that the company's management operates in accordance with the SMS that meets ISM Code requirements. It encompasses the entire fleet under the company’s management, not just a single vessel.

Distinguishing Between SMS and ISM

While closely related, SMS and ISM represent different but interconnected aspects of maritime safety:

  • Safety Management System (SMS): Refers to the systematic approach implemented by a shipping company to ensure the safety of the ship and the environment. The SMS includes procedures for operating ships safely, responding to emergencies, and preventing pollution. It is the practical application of the ISM Code on board and within the company.
  • International Safety Management (ISM) Code: Provides an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. The ISM Code is more about establishing standards and frameworks within which the SMS is developed and operated.

The 3 Basic Principles of ISM Code

The ISM Code is built around three fundamental principles aimed at ensuring safety at sea, preventing human injury or loss of life, and avoiding damage to the environment:

  1. Commitment from the Top: Emphasizes the necessity of management's commitment to safety and environmental protection.
  2. Human Factor: Recognizes the importance of human error in maritime accidents and the need for well-trained, qualified, and competent personnel.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Encourages companies to evaluate safety measures regularly and implement necessary improvements actively.

The 4 Pillars of IMO

The IMO stands on four main pillars that guide global maritime safety and environmental policies:

  1. Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS): Focuses on the safety of merchant ships, setting minimum safety standards in construction, equipment, and operation.
  2. Maritime Pollution (MARPOL): Aims to prevent and minimize pollution from ships - both accidental pollution and that from routine operations.
  3. Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW): Establishes basic requirements on training, certification, and watchkeeping for seafarers.
  4. International Safety Management (ISM) Code: Mandates a standardized management system for the safe operation of ships and pollution prevention

The Importance of the Right Tool: Adonis HR

In the regulatory landscape outlined above, the need for a comprehensive tool like Adonis HR becomes evident. Adonis HR provides a robust platform that simplifies compliance with these complex and varied requirements. By integrating safety management processes, automating compliance reporting, and facilitating the efficient management of crew qualifications and rest hours, Adonis HR ensures maritime operations not only meet but exceed safety and environmental standards.


The distinctions between SMC and DOC, SMS and ISM, alongside the principles of the ISM Code and the pillars of the IMO, form the framework of maritime safety management. Within this framework, Adonis HR stands out as an indispensable tool, streamlining compliance, and enhancing the overall safety and efficiency of maritime operations. As the industry continues to evolve, the integration of such advanced software solutions becomes not just beneficial but essential for ensuring the safety of life at sea and the protection of our marine environment.



Written By

Bertine Kviteberg
Marketing Manager

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