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What Does a Vessel Security Officer Do?

A vessel security officer may guard a container ship even when it is in port.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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A Vessel Security Officer (VSO) participates in security for a ship, including implementation of procedures and supervision of some personnel. In some nations, the equivalent role is the Ship Security Officer (SSO). Regulatory agencies may have specific standards for mariners who wish to qualify for such positions, which may require taking a training course and examination to receive a certification. It is important to confirm that a course is approved by regulators to ensure that the resulting certification will be valid, as employers cannot hire a vessel security officer who isn’t fully qualified.

Tasks that fall under the responsibility of a vessel security officer can be highly varied. One aspect of the work involves regular inspection of the ship and its security procedures. The officer walks through the ship, watches people while they are on shift, examines security monitors, and takes other measures to ensure security measures are being followed by all personnel. This can include discussing specific security issues with members of the crew to make sure they understand their role in the ship’s security.

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People who are new on board may need training and orientation from the vessel security officer. This member of the crew is also responsible for making sure the ship and crew members follow maritime regulations related to security, both at sea and in port. Specific issues may be brought up with a head security officer to determine if action needs to be taken. For example, the vessel security officer might request a change to company policy to clarify or address a security concern, or to make sure personnel are aware of a specific security issue so they can take appropriate precautions.

This job requires the ability to coordinate with a variety of people, including fellow security officers as well as personnel in higher and lower ranks. Good observational skills are useful, as they can help a security officer identify a situation that may be dangerous or questionable in nature. It is also critical to be familiar with all relevant maritime regulations, which may periodically change, requiring refresher courses and trainings to help a vessel security officer keep pace.

People preparing for careers in this field can take courses from maritime academies, community colleges, and technical schools. They may want to confirm that the course is accredited and will be accepted by regulators before they begin. The agency responsible for overseeing maritime safety and security can provide information about the requirements and training courses which meet them for the benefit of students preparing for security officer careers.

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