The issue of water safety management in the marine and offshore industry is of high priority in light of pending guidance and legislation, public awareness and high profile potable water-related issues within the industry. The marine industry, generally, has been exposed to cases of legionella in recent years and with the increased awareness of the issues related to legionella, Pseudomonas etc., together with the realization that incorrect diagnosis has probably reduced the number of reported cases, has led to much greater public and regulatory scrutiny.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality – 4th Edition, 2011 advocates the implementation of WSPs.   It states: “The most effective means of consistently ensuring the safety of drinking water supply is through the use of a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach that encompasses all steps in water supply from catchment to consumer. In these Guidelines, such approaches are called water safety plans (WSPs)”.

WSPs are a risk-based approach to most effectively protect drinking-water safety. The Guidelines explicitly state the importance of WSPs, and the International Water Association (IWA, Bonn Charter 2004) also advocates the use of WSPs as the best way of ensuring good, safe drinking-water.

The WHO Guide to Ship Sanitation, 2011 advises that WSPs are an effective overarching management approach for ensuring the safety of a drinking-water supply.

The EU is currently in the process of developing European-wide maritime hygiene standards, likely to become legislative within 2-3 years. The European Manual for Hygiene Standards and Communicable Diseases Surveillance on Passenger Ships, 2011 includes comprehensive requirements for the management of potable and recreational water. It includes specific requirements that, in line with the WHO and International Water Association (IWA) guidance, the systems and controls for the provision of safe water on passenger ships should be included within an overall Water Safety Plan (WSP). This plan to be based upon a systematic risk assessment-based approach to water safety management, similar to that used in HACCP systems in food operations.

The UK Marine & Coastguard Agency (MCA) Merchant Shipping Notice 1845 (MSN 1845(M)) states that “…the most effective means of ensuring the safety of the fresh water supply is through the use of a risk assessment and management approach that covers the whole process from loading to delivery at the tap and includes a planned maintenance system. All of the information gathered should be used to develop a Fresh Water Safety Plan (FWSP), particularly for ships with a complex system, which could be incorporated into the ship’s planned maintenance system.”

The Maritime and Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC 2006): Food and Catering: Provision of Food and Fresh Water requires the supply of drinking water and fresh water to be such as to prevent any risk of contamination.   In Regulation 3.2 it states that its purpose is “To ensure that seafarers have access to good quality food and drinking water provided under regulated hygienic conditions.”