STCW Proficiency as Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course

Online MCA Approved [ISPS] SSO Course for the Cruise Ship Sector

Course Introduction

The fully online, UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency [STCW ISPS) Proficiency as Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course, also referred to a Vessel Security Officer [VSO] is a mandatory training requirement under STCW ISPS for members of a Ship’s Crew fulfilling the role of Ship Security Officer appointed by the Shipping Company. The course teaches the learner to ensure both the security of the ship, as well as the implementation and support of the Ship Security Plan. This course has been specifically tailored for potential Ship Security Officers for Cruise Ships.

Course Features

  • UK DfT MCA Approved
  • Fully STCW ISPS Recognised Course
  • Fully Compliant with IMO Model 3.19
  • This Course is IMO Whitelisted
  • No Expiry on the Official Course Certificate
  • 100% Online including Course Assessments
  • Full Set of Course Notes to Keep
  • Learning Confirmation Exercises Throughout
  • Interactive Learning Materials
  • Rapid Turnaround on Course Certification
  • Flexible Learning at Your Own Pace
  • Course Tailored for this Specific Sector
  • Take Online or Offline Using the APP

  • About the Ship Security Officer

    The Ship Security Officer [SSO], also referred to as a Vessel Security Officer [VSO] is responsible for the security measures implemented on board, in accordance with the Ship Security Plan [SSP] and the ISPS Code. The SSO is responsible for the security measures that are laid out within the Ship Security Plan and to ensure that all crew members, especially those tasked with Designated Security Duties fulfil their obligations to the security integrity of the vessel.

    The Aim of the Course

    The aim of the Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course, is to provide those seeking a certificate of proficiency as a Ship Security Officer the essential education and training meeting the Knowledge, Understanding and Proficiency (KUP) requirements set out which supports Chapter XI-2 of the annex to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974, as amended and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

    Regulations Addressed

    The SSO Course has been developed with the following considerations:

    • MNTB Security Courses Criteria [2nd Edition]
    • Regulation VI/5 of the STCW Convention and Code [2010]
    • IMO Model Course 3.19 [2012 Edition]
    • Chapter XI-2 of the annex to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea [SOLAS] Convention 1978 [as amended]
    • The International Ship & Port Security [ISPS] Code 2004 as amended [STCW Table A-VI/5]

    Vessel-Specific Tailored Courses 

    VIRSEC also offers the following tailored versions of the Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course for the following vessel types:

    • Commercial Cargo, Offshore & Ferry Potential Ship Security Officer
    • Superyacht & Mega Yacht Potential Ship Security Officer

    Awarding Body

    The Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course is fully Approved under the UK Department for Transport Maritime & Coastguard Agency [MCA] and meets with STCW Reg VI/5. paragraph 1 and Section A-VI/5, paragraphs 1 to 4 of the STCW Convention and Code 1978, as amended and incorporates both the Proficiency in Security Awareness [PSA] and Designated Security Duties [PDSD] Certification.

    Certification Renewal

    Under the Awarding Body [Maritime & Coastguard Agency], there are currently no expiry dates placed on the [STCW ISPS] Proficiency as Ship Security Officer course certificates. Learners do not currently have to undertake a refresher or re-certification of this course unless directed to do so by the company they are working for.

    Course Learning Outcomes

    The SSO Course meets with the following Learning Outcomes as set out by the Merchant Navy Training Board.

    • The learner understands the importance of ship security and the roles and responsibilities of organisations and individuals involved in it.
    • The learner knows how to assess security risk, threat and vulnerability to the ship, its personnel, cargo, and operations.
    • The learner understands the capabilities and limitations of security methods, equipment, and systems.
    • The learner knows how to implement a ship security plan and related regulatory requirements.
    • The learner knows how to determine the effectiveness of current security arrangements, procedures, and equipment.
    • The learner understands how to promote security awareness and vigilance on board ship.

    Course Duration

    The Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course duration is approximately 21 hours. A slight variation is allowed for individual reading speeds, but this minimum must be met in order to successfully pass this course. Learners may enter and exit the course as often as they require. Your licence allows you access to the course for up to 6 months to complete [if required] or upon successful completion of the course.


    Under the mandatory requirement of the UK Department for Transport Maritime & Coastguard Agency [MCA], learners wishing to undertake the course must possess 12 months sea service, or as at the discretion of the MCA, appropriate sea service (minimum of 3 months) and knowledge of ships operations to enable them to achieve the Objectives of the training provided. By taking this course, you are stating that you possess the relevant requirements.

    Invigilation Requirement

    Learners taking this Online MCA Approved STCW ISPS Proficiency as Ship Security Officer [SSO] Course are required to be invigilated by a Senior Officer on board the vessel, or if taking the invigilation at home they must have a person of good standing [police officer, lawyer, doctor, etc] act as their Invigilator. Please note that you cannot have a family member or friend act as your Invigilator. If you do not have access to either of the options above, please see below for Remote Invigilation Sessions.

    Taking the Course Online or Offline

    You are able to take the course fully online as expected, but we also have enabled an offline capability available through an APP (available via Googleplay or the Apple App Store). You may download the course to the APP and take the course whilst at sea, or in areas of poor internet quality. Once you have returned to land, or are in an area of good signal quality, you may then upload the course to the system, and sync it with your User area on the LMS []. To learn more about taking the course(s) offline, please contact us at

    Remote Invigilation Sessions [RIS] by VIRSEC

    Learners can also attend a free Remote Invigilation Session offered by VIRSEC whilst undertaking the Course Assessment(s). These are offered strictly Monday to Thursday [1400 to 1600 hrs BST/GMT] or Friday [1000 to 1200 hrs BST/GMT].

    • The Development of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code.
    • Understand the roles and responsibilities of relevant bodies and organisations.
    • The roles and responsibilities of Contracting Governments, Designated Authorities, and Recognised Security Organisations.
    • The Security Roles & Responsibilities of Crew and Port Security Personnel.
    • Measures and Procedures for Maritime Security [MARSEC] Levels.
    • Recognition of weapons, dangerous substances, and devices.
    • Recognition of persons who may pose a threat to the security of the ship.
    • Identifying techniques used to circumvent security measures.
    • The handling of Sensitive Security-Related Information [SSRI] and Communications.
    • Identifying security threats including Maritime Piracy & Armed Robbery against Shipping.
    • Declarations of Security [DoS].
    • The On-Scene Security Survey.
    • The Ship Security Assessment [SSA].
    • The Ship Security Plan [SSP].
    • The provisions for maintaining security.
    • Criteria for setting Maritime Security [MARSEC] levels under the ISPS Code.
    • Actions to prevent weapons, dangerous substances and devices being brought on board.
    • Guidance and measure for Anti-Piracy and Anti-Armed Robbery.
    • Responses to Emergency Situations including Maritime Piracy & Armed Robbery against Shipping.
    • Physical Searches & Non-Intrusive Inspections.
    • Crowd Management & Control Requirements.
    • Crew Training, Emergency Drills & Exercises.
    • European Commission [DG MOVE] and European Maritime Safety Agency.
    • Port and Flag States.
    • UK DfT Maritime Security and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
    • Recognised Security Organisations and limitations in their use.
    • The Shipping Company.
    • Masters Authority and Discretion for Ship Safety and Security.
    • Authority of the Duly Authorised Officer [DAO].
    • The legal implications for seafarers and security personnel.
    • The requirement for the provision of the ship identification number [SIN], Automatic Identification System [AIS], Ship Security Alert System [SSAS] and Long-Range Identification and Tracking [LRIT].
    • The purpose and control of the continuous synopsis record [CSR].
    • The purpose and use of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking [LRIT].
  • Official MCA Approved (STCW ISPS) Proficiency as Ship Security Officer Certification

    The online Ship Security Officers [SSO] Course is fully approved by the UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and is internationally recognised and accepted under STCW. It includes the 2010 Manila Amendments and conforms to Regulation VI/5, paragraph 1, and Section A-VI/5, paragraphs 1 to 4 of the STCW Convention and Code 1978, as amended, and incorporates the Proficiency in Designated Security Duties [PDSD] and the Proficiency in Security Awareness [PSA] as laid down in Regulation VI/6 and Section A-VI/6 of the STCW Convention and Code, applicable to the issue of this certificate.

    Security Encrypted PDF Certificate

    Upon successful completion of the online course, verification of Learner ID, and associated official Assessment, Learners will receive an electronic security-encrypted version of your official course certificate [in secure PDF format]. Certificates are usually emailed to the Learner within 24 to 48 hours of confirmation of the course results, or the next working day if complete on Friday.

    Expedited Course Certificate

    Should a Learner require the certificate to be expedited, either after office hours, at weekends, holidays, or other, a surcharge of £49.95 GBP [+VAT] will be charged and sent by Secure Payment Link. Please note that all payments must be made before the certificate is sent.

    Hardcopy, Embossed Stamped Certificate

    Learners may also request an embossed stamped, hardcopy certificate to be posted to their home address. This is a free of charge service for Learners attending the SSO Course. Please note that VIRSEC is not responsible for any loss or delay of the certificate once it has been dispatched to Royal Mail. Should a Carrier Service be requested, then the relevant charges will be applied and all payments must be made before the certificate is posted.

    • Is this course Approved by a Flag State?

      Yes, the fully online Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course, also referred to as Vessel Security Officer (VSO) is fully Approved under the UK Department for Transport, Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA). The course complies with the requirements placed upon it by the STCW Convention & Code, the International Ship & Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, and meets with the Knowledge, Understanding & Proficiency (KUP) requirements laid out by the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB).

    • Is this course Internationally recognised?

      Yes, this course is fully compliant with the Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping (STCW). Any country that is signed up to the ISPS Code and STCW Convention should accept our certification. We have to date provided our courses into 130 countries worldwide.

    • Do I need to take notes on the course?

      No, VIRSEC provides you with a comprehensive set of Course Notes that you can download at the start of each of the Learning Outcomes. You can also use these notes to research any answers when taking the Official Assessment at the end of the course.

    • Is there an Official Assessment after the course?

      On the Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course, there is an Assessment on completion of the six Learning Outcomes. You must achieve a minimum score of 70% to successfully complete the Assessment.

    • What happens if I fail the Assessment?

      If you fail the Assessment, you may retake it again straight away, or whenever you wish within the 6-month licence applicable to your course [licences commence the day the course is purchased, not the date they are accessed].

    • Do I need to attend a Test Centre to take my assessment?

      No, the course is 100% online and you are required to adhere to the strict requirements outlined in the course explanation as well as any requests made of you during the course such as completing and submitting your online Learner Verification.

    • Do I need to submit any documentation?

      Yes, you are required to submit an official form of ID such as a scan of your passport, driving licence, or other official photo ID. This is to ensure you are who you state yourself to be, and so we can use this ID to collect the relevant information that will populate your official course certificate. It is very easy to do and will only take you around five (5) minutes to do.

    • Do I need an Invigilator when taking my Official Assessment?

      Yes, for the Ship Security Officer there is a requirement for an invigilator to be present during your Assessment only. This can be the Master, Ship Security officer or other Officer ranked member of the crew. They will be required to complete the Online Invigilator Verification Form on our website [also linked from the course itself]. They must complete this form and be present at your Assessment. If you do not have access to an invigilator, please see the following question.

    • What happens if I don’t have access to an Invigilator?

      If you do not have access to an Invigilator, you must inform VIRSEC, and we will arrange for you to attend an online Remote Invigilation Session. This is currently a free of charge service we offer our learners, but you must make yourself available for the relevant session. You can arrange a Remote Invigilation Session by completing the online form accessed from the menu on the VIRSEC website under Online Forms. Please note that failing to attend an arranged Remote Invigilation Session may result in a charge for any subsequent requests.

    • How do I receive my certificate when I pass?

      When you complete the course correctly and pass the Official Assessment, we will verify your time spent on the course, your submitted ID, and your Official Assessment. Once we are satisfied, we will email you a secure, encrypted PDF of your certificate that you must print off and sign. These PDFs are security encrypted to prevent any tampering with information placed on them, and so you must print them off to sign with as black pen.

    • Is there a minimal time limit I must spend on this course?

      Yes, under the relevant Agencies and Conventions, the Security Awareness is an 21-hour course. This excludes any video content we have included [for interest], viewing of any websites linked from the course or documents also linked from the course.

      We are allowed a slight variation in timings due to individual reading speeds, but we will fail you if you exceed the allowed variance. Please note that the Course Notes are purely there for reference and revision, and any time spent reading these do not count towards your time spent on the course. This is also covered in the course itself, so make sure you spend the time necessary to study properly.

    • Can I take breaks, or do I need to complete the course in one sitting?

      You can take a break from the course at any time of your choosing. We also recommend that you have regular breaks and often build reminders into our courses. It is strongly recommended that if you are going to take a significant break, we recommend that you log out. The system will remember your progress so you may continue from that point when you log back in.

    • What happens if I don’t take long enough on the course?

      If you complete the course in an unrealistic time (too quickly) we will have no alternative but to fail you. It is important that you treat this like you would any officially Approved course taught in a classroom environment. The fact that it is online is not reason to abuse the requirements. As stated in other FAQs, we do allow a slight variance in timings due to individual reading speeds.

    • I am an experienced mariner and/or an officer, does this make a difference?

      No, we do not take into consideration your time served, nor your rank. This is an ISPS Course, and there is an acceptable minimum time set by the relevant Awarding Body and Governing Bodies. If you abuse this, or do not meet with any of these requirements, you will fail the course regardless of the score achieved in the Assessment(s). You will be required to re-take the course and associated assessments.

    • I have left it to the last minute to take my course and need my certificate out of hours, what happens next?

      VIRSEC are not responsible for you leaving your course until the last minute, and you run the risk of not receiving your certificate in the time needed. Certificates take up to 48 hours during the working week to turn around, and should this fall over a weekend, you may not receive the certificate until the next working day [holidays excluded]. If you require your certificate to be expedited, you may request this from VIRSEC, but we are under absolutely no obligation to do this and there will be an additional charge applied.

    • Is VIRSEC open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for Support?

      Learners are able to purchase courses and take them 365 days a year, 24 hours a day as we are an online company, with access to both our e-Commerce website and Learning Management System [LMS]. However, the company is open during the hours listed on its website [0900 to 1700 hrs GMT/BST Monday to Thursday, 0900 to 1500 hrs Friday, Closed Saturday & Sunday and Bank Holidays]. Support requests may be made but will be managed during these listed office hours.

    • Is there an Online Chat Facility for Support Requests?

      VIRSEC do have a Chat Facility on their website and you may make a request for support. However, this is only manned during the hours listed on its website [0900 to 1700 hrs GMT/BST Monday to Thursday, 0900 to 1500 hrs Friday, Closed Saturday & Sunday and Bank Holidays]. Responses to comments or enquiries may take up to 24 hours, or until the next working day as detailed.

  • SSO Testimonial Reference by: Hamish B.

    Very good course. Very thorough and really expanded my knowledge. Extremely helpful to have this course online. Thank you.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Paul T.

    Brilliant course and structure with variations in learning material. The combination of videos and running assessments through each module help to keep the focus and information retention. Will thoroughly recommend this course to other crew in the future.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Gary H.

    I was originally booked in to complete the Proficiency as a Ship Security Officer course, with a different provider, in a class based environment. Due to the Covid-19 Lock Down the original course was cancelled and I found VIRSEC. The International Cruise Company I work for confirmed that VIRSEC met all the requirements to provide this course to MCA Standards. I found this course to be extremely easy to work through, with well set out objectives and knowledge modules. Exams are completed at the end of each learning module with questions relating to that module. This makes the whole learning and testing process very effective. In addition at the end of each objective there is additional reference material simply set out and easy to find in a reference slide. Throughout the process the team at VIRSEC have been available and they have quickly responded to any questions. Overall I have found the course provided to be excellent and I would fully recommend it.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Peter H.

    Excellent course. The software worked really well with no technical issues at all. The ability to stop/start the course made it very manageable to complete the course without stress or urgency. Taking away travel time and accommodation costs of having to go to a college made the experience even more worthwhile.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Duncan M.

    The VIRSEC ISPS SSO is a thorough and comprehensive online course which fits the requirements of MCA training. I was surprised by the depth and clarity of the content within the course. It has opened my eyes to the possibilities of online course programmes.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Mike S.

    This course was fantastically laid out with great resources on a super platform. It was easy to navigate, understand and learn and would use this company again for other short courses.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Moctar F.

    I couldn’t ask for more about this course. It provided me with the right knowledge. I am now more than confident to perform my duty as a security officer.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Fraser R.

    The online SSO course is a brilliant way to gain your SSO cert. I didn’t have to travel away from my home on my leave and sit listening to a man with a PowerPoint clicker for the best part of a week. You can do it at your own pace, at your own desk with a nice cup of tea in between modules. The video sections and reading material are very specific. The download links and hyperlink “keep for reference” reminders, I am sure will come in handy in the future.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Thomas M.

    Overall the course was extremely helpful in outlining the regulatory, legal, and practical elements of the SSO role. The course information at times containing multiple dates, names, regulations, sub parts was slightly overwhelming but then expected in an online course when there is so much to take in. I did however enjoy the course overall and found the interface easy to use. Also the staff (Liv) was very helpful and quick to respond to any queries I had. Thank you.

    SSO Testimonial Reference by: Lewis M-A.

    A lot of great stuff in here and accompanied by all the relevant documents and where to find other supporting information. Even better that it is available to download to keep as reference material later after the course. My only criticism is the amount of information for me is potentially too much and can be overwhelming to see it all in lengthy slides. I am glad I have the reference material though to keep me in check later down the line. Thank you.

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