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Risk Analysis of Ship Operations: Research and Case Studies of Shipboard AccidentsRisk Analysis of Ship Operations: Research and Case Studies of Shipboard Accidents

IMO what it is, how it works, how member states participate

Posted 10/14/2020

After World War II, the United Nations was established as an effort to resolve peacefully issues among states. The regulation of the maritime industry is a major issue and consequently, an agency was established with respect to safety, environmental and security issues at sea. The Convention establishing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was adopted in Geneva in 1948 and IMO first met in 1959. The IMO is a specialised agency of the United Nations with 167 Member States and three Associate Members. The IMO is based in the United Kingdom with around 300 international staff. The IMO is organised with the assembly, the council which is elected by the assembly and the Secretariat. The council is the IMO’s supreme governing body, and it consists of the representatives of forty states; Ten with the largest interest in providing international services, ten with the largest interest in international seaborne trade, twenty representative states for all major geographical areas of the world. The IMO is consistent with UNCLOS provisions that require States to “take account of”, “conform to”, “give effect to” or “implement” the relevant international rules and standards developed by or through the “competent international organisation” (i.e. IMO).


There are several committees which consist of all member states, which hold a meeting at least once per year and draft regulations. Every state is participating equally in these committees as a member with one vote. There is a variety of areas concerned by IMO the committees, the Technical, the Maritime Safety, The Legal, the Marine Environment Protection, the Technical Cooperation and The Facilitation. The regulations are in form of:

  1. Conventions
  2. Codes
  3. Resolutions
  4. Recommendations
  5. Guidelines
  6. Circulars


An IMO committee is entitled only to draft a regulation. Then the IMO Council will submit the regulation to its member states in a conference. For each state that ratifies a regulation, it becomes national law and is compulsory for ships flying its flag and foreign ships calling at its ports. The IMO is concerned about internal trade and this applicability is stated in every convention or codes. The usual standards are a ship to be above certain size such as 500 gross tonnes and involved in international voyages.


Apart from the states, there is an interest in future maritime regulations to most of the stakeholders of the maritime industry. As a result, in the IMO, the participation in committees of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with no voting rights is allowed. Their opinions are often appreciated and considered due to their expertise in certain areas. Examples of such NGO are listed below where a significant number of environmental organisations are mentioned:


  1. Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea (ACOPS)
  2. International Association of Producers of Insurance and Reinsurance (BIPAR)
  3. European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC)
  4. Community of European Shipyards' Associations (CESA)
  5. (formerly AWES)
  6. International Radio-Maritime Committee (CIRM)
  7. Dangerous Goods Advisory Council (DGAC)
  8. Committee Maritime International (CMI)
  9. Association of European Manufacturers of Internal Combustion Engines (EUROMOT)
  10. Friends of the Earth International (FOEI)
  11. Greenpeace International (GREENPEACE)
  12. International Association of Classification Societies(IACS)
  13. International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH)
  14. International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA)
  15. International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
  16. International Lifesaving Appliances Manufacturers' Association (ILAMA)
  17. World Nuclear Transport Institute (WNTI)
  18. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
  19. The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO)
  20. International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF)
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