International Maritime Organization

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International Maritime Organization
Flag of the International Maritime Organization.svg
The IMO flag
Abbreviation IMO
Formation 1959
Type Specialized Agency
Legal status Active
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Head Koji Sekimizu[1][2]
Website www.imo.org
Formerly Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization
IMO headquarters in London

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) until 1982,[3] was established in Geneva in 1948[4] and came into force ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959.

Headquartered in London, England, the IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations with 171 Member States and three Associate Members.[3] The IMO's primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping. IMO is governed by an Assembly of members and is financially administered by a Council of members elected from the Assembly. The work of IMO is conducted through five committees and these are supported by technical subcommittees. Member organisations of the UN organizational family may observe the proceedings of the IMO. Observer status is granted to qualified non-governmental organisations.

IMO is supported by a permanent secretariat of employees who are representative of its members. The secretariat is composed of a Secretary-General who is periodically elected by the Assembly, and various divisions such as those for marine safety, environmental protection, and a conference section.

History[edit]

Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) was formed to fulfill a desire to bring the regulation of the safety of shipping into an international framework, for which the creation of the United Nations provided an opportunity. Hitherto such international conventions had been initiated piecemeal, notably the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), first adopted in 1914 following the Titanic disaster.[3] IMCO's first task was to update that Convention; the resulting 1960 Convention was subsequently recast and updated in 1974 and it is that Convention that has been subsequently modified and updated to adapt to changes in safety requirements and technology.

According to Master Mariner John Christianson of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, when IMCO began its operations in 1958 certain other pre-existing instruments were brought under its aegis, most notable the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL) 1954. Throughout its existence IMCO, renamed the IMO in 1982, has continued to produce new and updated instruments across a wide range of maritime issues covering not only safety of life and marine pollution but also encompassing safe navigation, search and rescue, wreck removal, tonnage measurement, liability and compensation, ship recycling, the training and certification of seafarers, and piracy. More recently SOLAS has been amended to bring an increased focus on maritime security through the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code. The IMO has also increased its focus on air emissions from ships.

In 1983 the IMO established the World Maritime University in Malmö, Sweden.

Membership[edit]

International Maritime Organization:
  member states
  associate members

To become a member of the IMO, a state ratifies a multilateral treaty known as the Convention on the International Maritime Organization. As of 2014, there are 171 member states of the IMO, which includes 170 of the UN members and the Cook Islands. The first state to ratify the convention was the United Kingdom in 1949. The most recent member to join was Zambia, which became an IMO member in 2014.[5]

Associate members: Faroe Islands, Hong Kong and Macao.

UN member states that are not members of IMO are generally landlocked countries, including: Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Mali, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niger, Rwanda, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Structure[edit]

The Organization consists of an Assembly, a Council and five main Committees: the Maritime Safety Committee; the Marine Environment Protection Committee; the Legal Committee; the Technical Co-operation Committee and the Facilitation Committee and a number of Sub-Committees support the work of the main technical committees.[6]

Legal instruments[edit]

IMO is the source of approximately 60 legal instruments that guide the regulatory development of its member states to improve safety at sea, facilitate trade among seafaring states and protect the maritime environment. The most well known is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), as well as International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation (OPRC). Others include the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds. It also functions as a depository of yet to be ratified treaties, such as the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996 (HNS Convention) and Nairobi International Convention of Removal of Wrecks (2007).[7]

IMO regularly enacts regulations, which are broadly enforced by national and local maritime authorities in member countries, such as the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG). The IMO has also enacted a Port State Control (PSC) authority, allowing domestic maritime authorities such as coast guards to inspect foreign-flag ships calling at ports of the many port states. Memoranda of Understanding (protocols) were signed by some countries unifying Port State Control procedures among the signatories.

Current issues[edit]

Recent initiatives at the IMO have included amendments to SOLAS, which upgraded fire protection standards on passenger ships, the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) which establishes basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers and to the Convention on the Prevention of Maritime Pollution (MARPOL 73/78), which required double hulls on all tankers.

In December 2002, new amendments to the 1974 SOLAS Convention were enacted. These amendments gave rise to the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which went into effect on 1 July 2004. The concept of the code is to provide layered and redundant defences against smuggling, terrorism, piracy, stowaways, etc. The ISPS Code required most ships and port facilities engaged in international trade to establish and maintain strict security procedures as specified in ship and port specific Ship Security Plans and Port Facility Security Plans.

The IMO is also responsible for publishing the International Code of Signals for use between merchant and naval vessels.

The First Intersessional Meeting of IMO's Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ships took place in Oslo, Norway (23–27 June 2008), tasked with developing the technical basis for the reduction mechanisms that may form part of a future IMO regime to control greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, and a draft of the actual reduction mechanisms themselves, for further consideration by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).[8]

IMO is harmonising information available to seafarers and shore-side traffic services called e-Navigation. An e-Navigation strategy was ratified in 2005, and an implementation plan is being developed through three IMO sub-committees. The plan is expected to be completed in 2012.[9]

IMO has also served as a key partner and enabler of US international and interagency efforts to establish Maritime Domain Awareness.

Governance of IMO[edit]

The governing body of the International Maritime Organization is the Assembly which meets every two years. In between Assembly sessions a Council, consisting of 40 Member States elected by the Assembly, acts as the governing body. The technical work of the International Maritime Organization is carried out by a series of Committees. The Secretariat consists of some 300 international civil servants headed by a Secretary-General.[10]

Secretary-General[edit]

The current Secretary-General is Koji Sekimizu (Japan), elected for a four-year term at the 106th session of the IMO Council in June 2011 and at the 27th session of the IMO's Assembly in November 2011. His mandate started on 1 January 2012.[1][2]

Previous Secretaries-General:

  • 1959 Ove Nielsen (Denmark)
  • 1961 William Graham (United Kingdom; acting, following death of Mr Nielsen)
  • 1963 Jean Roulier (France)
  • 1968 Colin Goad (United Kingdom)
  • 1974 Chandrika Prasad Srivastava (India)
  • 1990 William O'Neil (Canada)
  • 2003 Efthimios E. Mitropoulos (Greece)
  • 2011 Koji Sekimizu (Japan)

Technical committees[edit]

The technical work of the International Maritime Organisation is carried out by a series of Committees. This includes:[10]

Maritime Safety Committee[edit]

It is regulated in the Article 28(a) of the Convention on the IMO:

ARTICLE 28

(a) The Maritime Safety Committee shall consider any matter within the scope of the Organization concerned with aids to navigation, construction and equipment of vessels, manning from a safety standpoint, rules for the prevention of collisions, handling of dangerous cargoes, maritime safety procedures and requirements, hydrographic information, log-books and navigational records, marine casualty investigation, salvage and rescue, and any other matters directly affecting maritime safety.

(b) The Maritime Safety Committee shall provide machinery for performing any duties assigned to it by this Convention, the Assembly or the Council, or any duty within the scope of this Article which may be assigned to it by or under any other international instrument and accepted by the Organization.

(c) Having regard to the provisions of Article 25, the Maritime Safety Committee, upon request by the Assembly or the Council or, if it deems such action useful in the interests of its own work, shall maintain such close relationship with other bodies as may further the purposes of the Organization

The Maritime Safety Committee is the most senior of these and is the main Technical Committee; it oversees the work of its nine sub-committees and initiates new topics. One broad topic it deals with is the effect of the human element on casualties; this work has been put to all of the sub-committees, but meanwhile, the Maritime Safety Committee has developed a code for the management of ships which will ensure that agreed operational procedures are in place and followed by the ship and shore-side staff.[10]

Sub-Committees[edit]

The MSC and MEPC are assisted in their work by a number of sub-committees which are open to all Member States:

  • Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW)
  • Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III)
  • Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR)
  • Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR)
  • Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC)
  • Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE)
  • Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC)

Until 2013 there were nine Sub-Committees as follows:

  • Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG)
  • Carriage of Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers(DSC)
  • Fire Protection (FP)
  • Radio-communications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR)
  • Safety of Navigation (NAV)
  • Ship Design and Equipment (DE)
  • Stability and Load Lines and Fishing Vessels Safety (SLF)
  • Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW)
  • Flag State Implementation (FSI)

[11]

Resolutions[edit]

Resolution MSC.255(84), of 16 May 2008, adopts the Code of the International Standards and Recommended Practices for a Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident. It is also known as the Casualty Investigation Code.[12]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]