The maritime transportation industry has traditionally been conservative in terms of regulating its activities. Vessels conduct most of their operations at sea, making it easier for owners to bypass regulations (Chauvin et al. 2013). During the 1980s and 1990s there were several accidents, followed by investigations into the causes (Batalden and Sydnes 2013). As a response the IMO adopted the International Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention (ISM Code) (IMO 2010). The ISM Code has been designed to provide a framework for companies to establish integrated Safety Management Systems (SMS) (Rodriguez 1998/1999).
Audits and certification procedures, both internal and external, constitute an integral part of the safety management regime (Hale et al. 1997), intended to improve the effectiveness of SMS by enabling the organization to amend or improve the content (Bhattacharya 2009). They provide a way of ensuring that organizations or industries are acting in line with established standards and /or the public good (Power 2000; Hale 2003).