What is International Maritime Organization (IMO)?

Every development in world history takes place because of a factor or factors that may come about with time and the establishment of the International maritime organization, IMO, was no different. Of the various industries that have been flourishing around the world ‘Shipping’ can be considered as truly an international industry. This is because it serves more than 90% of the world’s trade by the cargo transportation and other merchant ships that do so cleanly and cost effectively. As a result, any particular ship can be governed by a management chain that spans many countries, also these ships spend most of their times at sea between various jurisdictions. Therefore, it was felt in the beginning of the last century that there was a need of a universal governing body that in turn laid down rules and standards to regulate the shipping process and the industry worldwide. Thus the International maritime organization came into being.

The first international treaty of any kind between nations can be traced back to the treaty of ‘safety of life at sea’ – SOLAS, which was adopted by a few nations, post the disaster of Titanic. Though the IMO was established in 1948 in Geneva, it was not enforced until 1959 at a meeting held at London, its headquarters.

Flags and Logo of the IMO

Image Credits: imo.org


The main mission and responsibility of the International maritime organization, is to develop and preserve a comprehensive framework of regulations and policies for the shipping industry and its activities like maritime security, safety, technical co operation, environmental concerns and legal matters. IMO has been successfully disposing this task since its inception with the specialized committees and sub committees at the headquarters. The sessions of these committees are attended by numerous delegates and experts from the member countries and also by non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations.

The governing body of the IMO is an assembly that meets bi-yearly. The assembly comprises of all the member states. In the intervening time between the Assembly sessions a council acts as the governing body. This council comprises of 40 member states who are elected by the assembly for a specified period of time. The committees of various tasks and duties mentioned above are also governed and observed by these governing bodies. The secretariat has a work force of over 300 headed by the Secretary General. The Secretary General is elected by the Assembly and holds his post for duration of 4 years.

The major areas of concern which the International maritime organization, has been able to bring under regulation have been prevention of accidents, setting up safety standards for ships and other vessels (including design and materials) for the member states to abide by, maintaining adherence to the established treaties of safety and security, prevention of pollution and other avoidable human disasters. IMO also facilitates technical co-operation among member states, setting up an audition and monitoring scheme for these rules, standards and finally monitoring liabilities and compensation in case of breach of any of these regulations.

Thus, the International maritime organization is playing a very crucial role in the modern society’s progress towards a better and healthy commercial and transportation environment.

You may also like to read:  What is SOPEP

References: Imo, Nationsencyclopedia

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