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STCW Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course

Online MCA Approved Maritime Security (ISPS) Ship Security Officer Course for Potential SSO’s of Cargo Vessels, Offshore Mobile Drilling Platforms, Wind Farms & Ferries (IMO Model 3.19)

Course Introduction

The aim of this Online Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course or Vessel Security Officer (VSO) Course, is to provide potential Ship Security Officers with essential education and training aligning with the Knowledge, Understanding, and Proficiency (KUP) requirements outlined in the 2010 Manila Amendments, for crew who will be assigned the position of Ship Security Officer under the relevant ISPS Code requirements.

Course Features

  • 100% Online Course & Assessments
  • Maritime & Coastguard Agency (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
  • Comprehensive 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 (See Brochure)

About the Course

The fully online UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (STCW ISPS) Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course is a mandatory training requirement under STCW ISPS for members of a ship’s crew who aspire to assume the role of Ship Security Officer. The SSO bears responsibility for implementing security measures aboard the ship in accordance with the Ship Security Plan (SSP) and the ISPS Code. Among various duties, SSOs oversee the implementation of security measures outlined in the Ship Security Plan whenever the ship is in motion or docked.

Moreover, they are entrusted with maintaining the Ship Security Plan and ensuring that all crew members and staff, particularly those assigned Designated Security Duties, fulfill their security obligations onboard. The course equips learners with the necessary instruction to meet mandated requirements under STCW, the MNTB KUPs, IMO Model Course 3.19, and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA).

Customised Ship Security Officer Training for Other Vessel Types

Please Note: This Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course is customised exclusively for crew operating aboard Cargo Vessels, Offshore Mobile Drilling Platforms, & Ferries. Additionally, we offer tailored versions of the Ship Security Officer Course designed for specific sectors. Therefore, if you belong to one of these vessel categories mentioned below, we recommend selecting the appropriate course version from the provided links below.

Awarding Body

The Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course is fully approved by the UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and holds international recognition and acceptance. It encompasses the 2010 Manila Amendments and aligns with the requirements of Section A-VI/5, paragraphs 1 to 4 of the STCW Convention and Code, while considering the guidance provided in Section B-VI/5 of the Code, and Table A-VI/5.

Course Learning Outcomes

The Proficiency as Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course Approved by the UK DfT MCA aligns with the Learning Outcomes established by the Merchant Navy Training Board [MNTB].

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

Course Duration

The online Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course duration is approximately 16.5 to 21 hours depending on the learner’s varying reading and learning speeds. This minimum time must be met along with the relevant assessment in order to successfully complete this course. This is a mandatory requirement of the MCA if taking this course.

Official Assessment

Upon completion of the six Learning Outcomes within this online Ship Security Officer (SSO) Course, there is an official assessment that must be passed. This is a requirement under the UK DfT Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) to demonstrate your understanding and learning of the course subjects. Learners must achieve a minimum score of 70% to successfully complete and pass the course. The assessment  is made up of multiple choice questions, and true or false response questions that are randomly selected from two banks of questions. There is more information provided on assessments within the FAQs section of this page. This is an ‘open book’ assessment, and it is permissible to use any notes made, or the official course notes downloads available to you during the assessment to research the correct responses.

Taking Online or Offline

You have the option to complete the course entirely online, as expected. Additionally, we offer an offline capability through an app, accessible via Google Play or the Apple App Store. You can download the course to the app and study even while at sea or in areas with poor internet connectivity. Once you return to land or a location with good signal quality, you can upload the course to the system and synchronise it with your user area on the LMS []. For further information on accessing the course(s) offline, please reach out to us at

Pre-Requisites of Attendance

In accordance with the mandatory regulations of the UK Department for Transport Maritime & Coastguard Agency [MCA], individuals interested in enrolling in the course must have either 12 months of sea service or, at the discretion of the MCA, suitable sea service (minimum of 3 months) and familiarity with ship operations to effectively meet the learning objectives. By enrolling in this course, you confirm that you meet the specified pre-requisites.

Course Brochure

You can download a copy of the course brochure using the button in the top banner area.

Bulk Purchases

To make enquiries regarding bulk purchasing and associated discounts, please contact us at

  • 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

Security Encrypted PDF Certificate

Upon successful completion of the online course, all associated verifications, and the associated official Assessment, learners will receive an electronic, security-encrypted official course certificate (in PDF format). These certificates are typically emailed to learners within 24 to 48 hours of VIRSEC confirming the course results, or on the next working day if the course is successfully completed on a Friday, or over a Bank Holiday period.

Additional Hardcopy, Embossed Stamped Certificate (Optional)

Learners may also request an embossed stamped, hardcopy certificate to be posted to their home address. This service is provided free of charge for SSO Candidates. It is important to note that VIRSEC bears no responsibility for any loss or delay of the certificate once it has been dispatched to Royal Mail. If a Carrier Service is requested, the relevant charges will apply, and all payments must be made before the certificate is dispatched.

Certification Renewal

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

Expedited Course Certificate Service

In cases where learners require expedited certificate processing, such as after office hours, on weekends, during holidays, or under other circumstances, a surcharge of £49.95 GBP (+VAT) will be applied and sent via Secure Payment Link to you. Please note that all payments must be settled before an expedited certificate is dispatched.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

    Yes, under the relevant Agencies and Conventions, the Security Awareness is a 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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].

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 Course Testimonial – Harvey F.

Very easy to complete via online delivery. Extremely informative.


VIRSEC's Online (STCW ISPS) Proficiency as Ship Security Officer course exceeded my expectations in every aspect. The user-friendly platform allowed for effortless navigation, providing flexibility in learning at my own pace. Communication from Virsec was outstanding, with a support team promptly addressing queries, fostering a reliable and trusting learning environment. The course content was not only comprehensive but also highly relevant, presented in a clear and digestible manner. Real-world scenarios and practical assessments enhanced its applicability. The well-balanced pacing ensured a thorough understanding without overwhelming the learner. VIRSEC's commitment to a holistic learning experience, combining theoretical knowledge with practical skills, sets it apart. I wholeheartedly recommend this course for its accessibility, excellent communication, and thoughtfully crafted content. It's a standout choice for maritime security education, providing an enriching and rewarding experience.

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.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 Course Testimonial – Patrick X.

Well set course - highly recommend.