Future of ship safety is recently a core topic discussed in various platforms by maritime stakeholders. Regarding this issue, it is so significant task to achieve maritime regulatory compliances with ship operational requirements to ensure safe operations on-board ships. For instance, it is one of the most recently amendments to evaluate safety management system (SMS) effectiveness. The maritime research in this context focuses on promoting a hybrid decision-making approach to measure effectiveness of safety management system implementations on-board ships. The approach incorporates Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) and Technique for Order Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS). It determines the key performance indicators (KPIs) with tangible/intangible data in decision analysis which enhance shipboard safety conditions. The main findings highlight that number of detentions, crew injuries on-board ship, and major non-conformities are considered as assessment factors of ship SMS. The proposed approach enables to review the SMS practices systematically that is required by recent amendments of ISM Code. Thus, the proposed approach remedies the gap between safety science and maritime transportation industry in terms of adopting operational data in safety analysis. Consequently, the research outcomes encourage the maritime researchers, safety engineers and ship operators. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.