The safety and security of life at sea, protection of the marine environment and over 90% of the world's trade depends on the professionalism and competence of seafarers.
The IMO's International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978 was the first internationally-agreed Convention to address the issue of minimum standards of competence for seafarers. In 1995 the STCW Convention was completely revised and updated to clarify the standards of competence required and provide effective mechanisms for enforcement of its provisions.
A comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and the STCW Code commenced in January 2006, and culminated in a Conference of Parties to the STCW Convention which was held in Manila, Philippines from 21 to 25 June 2010, that adopted a significant number of amendments to the STCW Convention and STCW Code. These amendments, now referred to as the Manila amendments, that will provide enhanced standards of training for seafarers now and for years to come, will enter into force on 1 January 2012.
In 1997, IMO adopted a resolution setting out its vision, principles and goals for the human element. The human element is a complex multi-dimensional issue that affects maritime safety, security and marine environmental protection involving the entire spectrum of human activities performed by ships' crews, shore based management, regulatory bodies and others. All need to co-operate to address human element issues effectively.
Since the 1980s IMO has increasingly addressed the people involved in shipping in its work. In 1989, IMO adopted Guidelines on management for the safe operation of ships and for pollution prevention - the forerunner of what became the International Safety Management (ISM) Code which was made mandatory through the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS).
The ISM Code is intended to improve the safety of international shipping and to reduce pollution from ships by impacting on the way ships are managed and operated. The ISM Code establishes an international standard for the safe management and operation of ships and for the implementation of a safety management system (SMS).
Effective implementation of the ISM Code should lead to a move away from a culture of "unthinking" compliance with external rules towards a culture of "thinking" self-regulation of safety - the development of a 'safety culture'. The safety culture involves moving to a culture of self regulation, with every individual - from the top to the bottom - feeling responsible for actions taken to improve safety and performance. Application of the ISM Code should support and encourage the development of a safety culture in shipping.
In 1995, the IMO Assembly, adopted the Guidelines on implementation of the International Safety Management (ISM) Code by Administrations by resolution A.788(19). These Guidelines were revised and adopted as resolution A.913(22) in 2001. The Guidelines were further revised and adopted as resolution A.1022(26) in 2009 and entered into force on 1 July 2010.
The safety and security of life at sea for fishing vessel personnel are also a matter of concern of IMO which recognises the need for a response to the safety crisis of the fishing industry and has a number of instruments addressing the issue. One of those instruments are the International Convention for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), which was adopted by IMO in 1995, and is expected to bring considerable benefits and advantages to the fishing industry and enhancing the standard of safety in the fishing vessel fleets.
The Convention will apply to crews of sea going vessels, generally of 24 meters in length and above. It was originally intended that requirements for crews on fisihing vessels should be developed as a protocol to the main STCW Convention, but after careful consideration, it was agreed that it would be better to adopt a completely separate Convention. The Convention is the first attempt to make standards of safety for crews of fishing vessels mandatory internationally and is not yet in force.