The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) interest is safety at sea. Until 1982, it was called the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO). A United Nations conference in 1948 adopted a Convention that established IMO, making it the first ever international body devoted exclusively to maritime matters. IMO came into being in 1958. Four years prior to this an international convention dealing with the threat of marine pollution from ships (particularly from oil in tankers) was adopted. IMO took on the responsibility of upholding this convention, ensuring that from the start, “the improvement of maritime safety and the prevention of marine pollution have been IMO’s most important objectives.” IMO updated a number of existing treaties, notably the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) – a 1960 Convention superseded the 1948 version. Its measures include: machinery and electrical installations; the safety of navigation; the development of dangerous goods; and nuclear ships. The organisation is the only United Nations specialised agency to have its headquarters in the United Kingdom. It is based at 4 Albert Embankment, London. The governing body of IMO is the Assembly, which meets once every two years. It consists of all 132 Member States and one Associate Member. A Council (32 Member Governments elected by the Assembly) acts as IMO’s governing body between the Assembly sessions. IMO is a technical organisation and committees and sub-committees, such as the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) conduct most of its work. Such committees have contributed to promoting the adoption of some thirty conventions and protocols, and it has adopted well over 600 codes and recommendations concerning maritime safety, the prevention of pollution and related matters. Evidence would show that IMO measures have already proved beneficial in many areas. For example, the number of collisions between ships has been greatly reduced in are where IMO-approved traffic separation schemes have been introduced. More recently the IMO has been responsible for implementing the International Safety Management (ISM) Code for ships, imposing mandatory standards on safety procedures for all types of seagoing vessels and their operating companies. Updated information on the IMO’s conventions, codes, rules and publications can be
found on the organisations formidable website: The IMO itself has no direct power to enforce its conventions. When they have been adopted, it is required they be incorporated into the laws of flag states, who are then responsible for ensuring conformity. The actual work of surveying and the issuing of certificates of compliance is likely to be dealt with by Classification Societies. Inspection and enforcement is normally undertaken by Port State Control organisations operating under the direction of flag states and maritime nations.