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 the truly international industry.

This is because it serves more than 90% of the world’s trade by 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 at 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 in London, its headquarters.

Image Credits: imo.org

Purpose of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The main mission and responsibility of the International maritime organization are to develop and preserve a comprehensive framework of regulations and policies for the shipping industry and its activities like the maritime security, safety, technical cooperation, environmental concerns and legal matters.

IMO has been successfully disposing of 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.

Non-governmental organizations might be given consultive status if they demonstrate expertise and competence to contribute according to the requirements of IMO.

Structure of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)

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 workforce of over 300 headed by the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is elected by the Assembly and holds his post for a duration of 4 years.

Functions of IMO

The major areas of concern, which the International maritime organization has been able to bring under regulation, have been the 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 modern society’s progress towards a better and healthy commercial and transportation environment.

Events and Awards By IMO

The international maritime organisation also organizes several events and awards to increase awareness about the maritime industry and recognise those who have made a significant contribution.

Some of the main events and awards by the international maritime organisation (IMO) are:

  • World Maritime Day
  • Day of the Seafarer
  • IMO Awards – Award for exceptional bravery at sea and the international maritime prize
  • IMO Ministerial Conference
  • Women, Ports and Facilitation

The headquarters of IMO is in London, United Kingdom.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed are based on his own experience and that of others who have benefitted with his help. The author and Marine Insight shall not warrant or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information provided herein.


  1. Good day sir/maam,

    Im Graciano P. Espeja III a filipino seaman ive been repatraited last june 22,2019 due to ship work related accident,my problem is until now my company did not give my monthly basic salary and they did not send me to doctor for the surgery of my fractured left hand.Can i ask some advice what i will do thanks and more power.

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