International Maritime Organisation

Category: Maritime, Safety
Last Updated: 25 Jul 2021
Pages: 5 Views: 102
Table of contents

Transportation of goods over the world can be done by four modes which are railway, road, air and sea. Sea transportation is the one of the oldest transportation mode for many centuries. The number of ships and types increased rapidly in the last two centuries. For instance, the number of passenger fleets was 106 in 1972 but it is reached to 226 in 1998 (Alderton, 2004). This growth leads sea traffic busy with various types of ships carrying million tons of cargoes and passengers. As a consequence of this, unexpected accidents started to come out with fatal casualties.

Some safety regulations must be taken both onshore or offshore to state the responsibilities and safety measures for the marine industry. Regarding to this, countries needed to establish an organization to promote Marine safety. IMO is the first international maritime organization and was established in 1948 (IMO, 20/10/2005). It was first entered into force in 1958 and its aim is to ensure safety, to prevent human injury or loss of life and to avoid damage to the environment (IMO, 1992). This essay will explore the IMO conventions and the effectiveness of IMO to the marine industry.

IMO is concerned with the three important points: safety, prevention and control. In order to be effective in these areas, rules and regulations must be applied within the conventions. IMO has adopted various conventions but most significant are

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  • SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea),
  • ISM (International Safety Management),
  • COLREG (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea),
  • MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships),
  • STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers)
  • ILLC (International Convention on Load Lines).

Adoptions of these conventions need to follow some procedures and long time to become valid. Six main bodies are involved within IMO to design, decide and offer the conventions and followed by a government acceptance to put into force. In addition to this, due to the rapid changes in shipping industry, conventions must be keeping updated to satisfy the conditions.


The main objective of the SOLAS Convention is to specify minimum standards for the construction, equipment and operation of ships (SOLAS, 2001). It was adopted in 1974 and was entered into force in 1980. It was divided into 12 chapters, all requirements and certificates are controlled by the flag states. It is highly focused on

  • construction; stability, subdivision, fire protection and detection of vessels
  • life-saving appliances and arrangements; lifeboats and liferats
  • radiotelegraphy and radiotelephony
  • safety of navigation; radars, navigational aids, routeing of ships
  • safety management of ships operations which is ISM Code
  • Carriage of goods.


It is known as the one of the most significant IMO invention which is a management system that controls work processes from the top level to lower, to stimulate safety organization both ashore and onboard. It is applied with quality management techniques to determine the responsibilities and principles of each action. System must provide safe working environment, to overcome against identified risks and continuous improvement of management and personal skills ashore and aboard (ISM, 2002).


It was adopted in 1972 and entered into force in 1977. COLREG determines vessels speed, risks and conducts of vessels operating in or near traffic separation schemes. The vessels which are navigating on the high seas or going to connect to the high seas must obey these rules. The other important areas of COLREG are; visibility of vessels, lights and shapes, sound and lights.


It was adopted in 1977 and entered into force in 1984. Examination of the past accidents reports state that the majority of the accidents are caused by watchkeeping officers. This convention is concerned with the basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping. It is divided into six chapters which are; general provisions, navigational watch keeping, keeping an engineering watch, radio department, special requirements for tankers and proficiency in survival craft (IMO,20/10/2005).


It was adopted in 1966 and entered into force in 1968. Its aim is to reserve buoyancy, freeboard stability and avoid excess stress on the ship's hull (IMO, 20/10/2005).


There was a tremendous increase in tanker production after Second World War II. These tankers were really complex to built and operate. According to this, some accidents occurred with thousands tons of oil split into water and damaged marine environment. MARPOL was established to prevent the marine pollution from oil splits, sewages, chemicals and other dangerous products. It introduces some measures, for instance;

In addition to these improvements, there is a reasonable reduction of oil spill to the environment. According to the IMO, total oil spill in 2004 was 15000 tons comparison to the year 1975 was 2.13 million tons.

Comparison to the 1950's, by the help of improvements, marine industry becomes safer but needs continuous improvement. Everybody who involves in this industry must always seek for zero defects. Although IMO has made great effort and reduced the rate of accidents in marine industry, casualties and pollution can still happen and remain constant. The reasons for these are

Implementation of IMO Rules

In order to put the IMO rules into force effectively, all parties such as governments, shipping companies, flag states and port states have to make a reasonable effort. The mentioned parties have different responsibilities according to their positions while adapting and controlling these rules. These parties must have continuous collaboration and communication with each other but generally they can not. Lack of collaboration leads to misunderstandings and difficulties to put these rules into practice.

Continuous Revision of Rules and Regulations:

The rules and regulations are updated periodically to keep up with the modern conditions. Although some rules have convenient level of safety, changed several times and become more complicated. The more complexity means the more problems.

The Gap Between Developed and Developing Countries:

Developing countries have an important place in shipping industry. They own a reasonable percentage of world merchant fleet. Comparison to the developed countries, it is difficult to adapt the rules immediately because of their government procedures and financial situations. It is not just the IMO problem; it is one of the biggest problems in our world. Instead of offering temporary solutions such as loans; investments, guidance and assistance will be more effective.

Human Side

To manage marine safety, there must be an excellent co-operation between the people who are on board and ashore. Continuous improvement is needed for both management level and crew. Training and certification must be compulsory under the quality procedures. As mentioned before, ISM Code and STCW are established for this purpose but in the last hundred years, owners decided to flag out and wanted to work with low cost crew to get more profits. As a result of this, accidents appeared because of untalented crew. For this particular purpose, maritime training centres are highly important for safety.

Application Costs of Regulations

It is not easy to implement the rules and regulations because they need powerful financial situation. In addition to this, the average age of world vessel fleet is going old. Instead of investing money to these old vessels, owners prefer doing small improvements to the existing systems. Low cost high profit concept leads danger in this industry. At this point, new buildings come out and take an important part. Owners are now investing more money on technological improvements under construction phase with the societies control for safer life. Newly designed ships includes easily operated navigation techniques such as AIS, GPS and radars, stability calculations, tank cleaning systems, fire systems and etc. .

In conclusion, mentioned conventions within IMO concept reached to a reasonable success in marine industry. On the other hand, continuous improvement by taking advantage of technology, collaboration and communication of involved parties are still needed to achieve zero accident targets and clean seas.

Cite this Page

International Maritime Organisation. (2018, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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