1998 – 50 years since adoption of IMO convention
IMO's 50th anniversary: a record of success
Maritime safety, Marine pollution, Liability and compensation, Other subjects, Related conventions
Ships travel faster through water and consume less fuel when their hulls are clean and smooth - free from fouling organisms, such as barnacles, algae or molluscs.
Most human activities are regulated, either by precedent, convention or regulation. Most regulations are essential - but sometimes they come to be regarded not only as unnecessary but as a positive burden on the activities they are supposed to control. Few activities have been more subject to over-regulation than international maritime transport.
The evolution of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (LC), 1972
Since the Convention creating IMO was adopted fifty years ago, shipping has changed more than in any similar period in history. IMO has responded by adopting and amending international treaties, codes and recommendations dealing with maritime safety, marine pollution and other subjects. At the same time, the Organization has continually examined its own institutions and working practices. As a result, the Organization that exists today is very different from the one that was created in 1948. This paper looks at some of the changes that have occurred - and why they were so necessary.
The transport by sea of dangerous and harmful goods, including
marine pollutants and wastes.
Bulk cargo carriers are often described as the “workhorses” of the world merchant fleet. There are about 5,500 of them operating in the world today, forming about 33% of the world fleet in tonnage terms. They include some of the world’s biggest ships (only some crude oil carriers are bigger) and without them world trade and industry would be paralysed.
The Lloyd's Register of Shipping Casualty Returns for 1958 - the year before the IMO Assembly met for the first time - showed that 16 per cent of the merchant shipping tonnage lost that year (56,000 gt) resulted from collisions and a further 32 per cent (115,000 gt) from groundings or striking wrecks. The vast majority of these casualties - nearly half the total for that year - were thus caused or contributed to by navigational error or deficiency. This proportion was by no means uncommon and indeed many of the worst disasters in shipping history have resulted from collisions and other accidents which can be attributed to navigational errors.
IMO is primarily concerned with the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution, but the Organization has also introduced regulations covering liability and compensation for damage, such as pollution, caused by ships.
The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was adopted on 2 November 1973 following a conference at the London headquarters of the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency responsible for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution.
The adoption of the Convention, 25 years ago, was a crucial stage in an ambitious project to deal with vessel-source pollution. The convention adopted in 1973 covered pollution by oil, chemicals, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage and garbage.
Oil pollution of the sea - especially in ports and harbours - was first recognized as a problem before the First World War and, during the 1920s and 1930s, various countries introduced measures to control discharges of oil within
their territorial waters and provide deterrents in the form of fines for illegal discharges. International measures were considered, but no agreement had been reached before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1954, the United Kingdom organized a conference on the subject which resulted in the adoption of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil.
Following entry into force of the IMO Convention in 1958, the depository and Secretariat functions in relation to the
Convention were transferred from the United Kingdom Government to IMO.
What is piracy? The following definition of piracy is contained in article
101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS):
Piracy consists of any of the following acts:
(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation,
committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship
or a private aircraft, and directed:
on the high seas, against another ship
or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or
against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside
the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an
aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c ) any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in
sub-paragraph (a) or (b).
During the last few decades the pollution of the
world's oceans has become a matter of increasing
international concern. Most of it comes from
land-based sources and includes the by-products
of industry, run-off from agricultural pesticides
and herbicides and effluents discharged from
Nevertheless, a significant amount of
pollution is caused by shipping and maritime
activities generally. In tonnage terms, the most
important pollutant resulting from shipping
operations is oil.
When maritime nations gathered together in 1914 to develop the first international shipping safety convention,
following the loss of the Titanic two years earlier, the focus was not just on preventing shipping accidents but
also improving the chances of survival if one should occur. That conference resulted in the adoption of the
International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS),which included regulations on provision of lifesaving
equipment and the safety of navigation. While accident prevention is a major goal of the Organization, IMO has also
concentrated efforts on developing world-wide, integrated systems to respond to shipping emergencies. The
most significant of these are the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) and
the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
Of all international conventions dealing with maritime safety, the most important is the International
Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
It is also one of the oldest, the first version having been adopted at a conference held in London in 1914.
Since then there have been four other SOLAS conventions: the second was adopted in 1929 and entered
into force in 1933; the third was adopted in 1948 and entered into force in 1952; the fourth was adopted
(under the auspices of IMO) in 1960 and entered into force in 1965; and the present version was adopted in
1974 and entered into force in 1980.
There will always be a risk that maritime accidents
will happen, but preparing for such eventualities
can mean the difference between lives lost and
lives saved. Life-saving appliances and procedures
for abandoning ship are covered by the
International Convention for the Safety of Life at
Sea (SOLAS) - the first version of which was
adopted in 1914 when maritime nations gathered to
develop international ship safety regulations
following the loss of the Titanic two years earlier.
Oil pollution from ships was first recognized as a problem during World War I, but it was not until 1954 that
the United Kingdom arranged a conference which resulted in the adoption of the first international treaty to
prevent oil pollution of the seas from ships. The Convention itself was concerned only with operational oil
pollution from merchant ships - there was no attempt to introduce measures concerning accidental pollution,
nor to deal with pollution by other substances. But the fact that the Convention was adopted at all was
something of an achievement, since only eight of 32 countries attending said they regarded oil pollution as a
problem and some did not want a convention at all.
The 1995 amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training,
Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978