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Maritime Consultative Organization

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United Nations Portal

Formely Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), formerly known as the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), was established in Geneva in 1948,[1] and came into force ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959. The IMCO name was changed to IMO in 1982.[2] Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, the IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations with 168 Member States and three Associate Members.[2] 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 organizations of the UN organizational family may observe the proceedings of the IMO. Observer status is granted to qualified non-governmental organizations. The 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.


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.[2] 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. 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 Code (ISPS) and the IMO has increased its focus on air emissions from ships.

Legal instruments

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). 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

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 defenses 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). [3] The IMO has also served as a key partner and enabler of U.S. international and interagency efforts to establish Maritime Domain Awareness.

Member states

The list of member and associate member states is followed by the year of joining the IMO.[4]



Albania 1993 Algeria 1963 Angola 1977 Antigua and Barbuda 1986 Argentina 1953 Australia 1952 Austria 1975 Azerbaijan 1995 Bahamas 1976 Bahrain 1976 Bangladesh 1976 Barbados 1970 Belgium 1951 Belize 1990 Benin 1980 Bolivia 1987 Bosnia and Herzegovina 1993 Brazil 1963 Brunei 1984 Bulgaria 1960 Burma 1951 Cambodia 1961 Cameroon 1961 Canada 1948 Cape Verde 1976 Chile 1972 China 1973 Colombia 1974 Comoros 2001 Congo 1975 Cook Islands 2008 Costa Rica 1981 Côte d'Ivoire 1960 Croatia 1992 Cuba 1966 Cyprus 1973 Czech Republic 1993 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1973[5] Denmark 1959 Djibouti 1979 Dominica 1979 Dominican Republic 1953 Ecuador 1956 Egypt 1958 El Salvador 1981 Equatorial Guinea 1972 Eritrea 1993 Estonia 1992 Ethiopia 1975 Fiji 1983 Finland 1959 France 1952 Gabon 1976 Gambia 1979 Georgia 1993 Germany 1959 Ghana 1959 Greece 1958 Grenada 1998 Guatemala 1983 Guinea 1975 Guinea-Bissau 1977 Guyana 1980 Haiti 1953 Honduras 1954 Hungary 1970 Iceland 1960 India 1959 Indonesia 1961 Iran 1958 Iraq 1973 Ireland 1951 Israel 1952 Italy 1957 Jamaica 1976 Japan 1958 Jordan 1973 Kazakhstan 1994 Kenya 1973 Kiribati 2003 Kuwait 1960 Latvia 1993 Lebanon 1966 Liberia 1959 Libya 1970 Lithuania 1995 Luxembourg 1991 Madagascar 1961 Malawi 1989 Malaysia 1971 Maldives 1967 Malta 1966 Marshall Islands 1998 Mauritania 1961 Mauritius 1978 Mexico 1954 Moldova 2001 Monaco 1989 Mongolia 1996 Montenegro 2006 Morocco 1962 Mozambique 1979 Namibia 1994 Nepal 1979 Netherlands 1949 New Zealand 1960 Nicaragua 1982 Nigeria 1962 North Korea 1986 Norway 1958 Oman 1974 Pakistan 1958 Panama 1958 Papua New Guinea 1976 Paraguay 1993 Peru 1968 Philippines 1964 Poland 1960 Portugal 1976 Qatar 1977 Macedonia 1993 Romania 1965 Russia 1958 Saint Kitts and Nevis 2001 Saint Lucia 1980 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1981 Samoa 1996 San Marino 2002 São Tomé and Príncipe 1990 Saudi Arabia 1969 Senegal 1960 Serbia 2000 Seychelles 1978 Sierra Leone 1973 Singapore 1966 Slovakia 1993 Slovenia 1993 Solomon Islands 1988 Somalia 1978 South Africa 1995 South Korea 1962 Spain 1962 Sri Lanka 1972 Sudan 1974 Suriname 1976 Sweden 1959 Switzerland 1955 Syria 1963 Tanzania 1974 Thailand 1973 Timor-Leste 2005 Togo 1983 Tonga 2000 Trinidad and Tobago 1965 Tunisia 1963 Turkey 1958 Turkmenistan 1993 Tuvalu 2004 Ukraine 1994 United Arab Emirates 1980 United Kingdom 1949 United States 1950 Uruguay 1968 Vanuatu 1986 Venezuela 1975 Vietnam 1984 Yemen 1979 Zimbabwe 2005

Associate members



Hong Kong, China 1967 Macau, China 1990 Faroe Islands, Denmark 2002
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