IMO – 70 years of international safety and security in shipping

Because of the international nature of the shipping industry, it has long been recognized that action to improve safety in maritime operations is more effective if carried out at the international level rather than by individual countries acting unilaterally and without co-ordination.The IMO is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

The Convention on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was adopted on 6 March 1948 at the United Nations Maritime Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland. It entered into force ten years later on 17 March 1958 when the 21st State ratified the treaty. Since then, IMO Member States have pursued their mission to develop the global regulatory framework for international shipping.

The purposes of the Organization, as summarized by Article 1(a) of the Convention, are “to provide machinery for cooperation among Governments in the field of governmental regulation and practices relating to technical matters of all kinds affecting shipping engaged in international trade; to encourage and facilitate the general adoption of the highest practicable standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships”. The Organization is also empowered to deal with administrative and legal matters related to these purposes.

IMO’s first task was to adopt a new version of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the most important of all treaties dealing with maritime safety. This was achieved in 1960 and IMO then turned its attention to such matters as the facilitation of international maritime traffic, load lines and the carriage of dangerous goods, while the system of measuring the tonnage of ships was revised.

Today, IMO continues its work to improve maritime safety and security, the efficiency of navigation and the prevention and control of pollution from ships, as well as the fair and effective implementation of its regulations.

One of the latest items put into practice is the  International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (http://www.imo.org/en/MediaCentre/HotTopics/polar/Pages/default.aspx) . The Polar Code entered into force in January 2017 and sets out mandatory standards covering the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training and environmental protection matters that apply to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles.