Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme

The Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme is intended to provide an audited Member State with a comprehensive and objective assessment of how effectively it administers and implements those mandatory IMO instruments which are covered by the Scheme.

It is reasonably expected that the audit scheme will bring about many benefits, such as identifying where capacity-building activities (for example, the provision of technical assistance by IMO to Member States) would have the greatest effect. Targeting of appropriate action to improve performance would be greatly improved. The Member States themselves would receive valuable feedback, intended to assist them in improving their own capacity to put the applicable instruments into practice; and generic lessons learnt from audits could be provided to all Member States so that the benefits could be widely shared.

Moreover, the results of the audits could be systematically fed back into the regulatory process at IMO to help make measurable improvements in the effectiveness of the international regulatory framework of shipping.

Hand in hand with the audit scheme was the adoption and constant review of the Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments (resolution A.973(24)) which includes the consideration of general human resource issues in the implementation of IMO instruments, i.e. surveyors, managers and other technical support personnel.

The Scheme was approved by the IMO Assembly, at its twenty-third in November 2003 when it adopted resolution A.946(23) Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme. The resolution also mandated the further development of the scheme, to be implemented on a voluntary basis, and requested the IMO Council to develop, as a matter of high priority, procedures and other modalities for the implementation of the scheme.

The twenty-fourth Assembly in November-December 2005 adopted resolutions A.974(24) Framework and Procedures for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme and A.973(24) Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments which provides the audit standard.

The adoption of the framework and procedures for the scheme heralded a new era for IMO, in which the Organization has at its disposal a tool to achieve harmonized and consistent global implementation of IMO standards, which is key to realizing the IMO objectives of safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans.

The scheme addresses issues such as conformance in enacting appropriate legislation for the IMO instruments to which a Member State is a Party; the implementation and enforcement of the applicable laws and regulations by the Member State; the delegation of authority to recognized organizations (ROs); the related control and monitoring mechanism of the survey and certification processes by the Member States.

A further resolution A.975(24) Future development of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme requests the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to review the future feasibility of including, within the scope of the audit scheme, maritime security-related matters and other functions not presently covered and also to identify any implications of broadening the scope of the audit scheme. The IMO Council was requested to develop suitable provisions for the possible future inclusion of other issues (relating to safety, environmental protection and security) in the audit scheme, taking into account the experience gained from the implementation of the scheme.

Following the adoption of the above-referred resolutions, a number of auditors have been trained and the audits of Member States have begun.

Upon receiving a request for audit from a Member State, the IMO Secretary-General will appoint an audit team leader who will discuss and agree the scope of the audit with the Member State. The audit will commence after the signing of a Memorandum of Co-operation by the Secretary General and by the Member State. The Memorandums set out the scope of the audit and the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the Member State for the successful completion of the audit.

Further information

  • Information Resources on the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme
  • Making a case for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme. Paper delivered at a seminar on: "Auditing Flag States: New Directions for Smaller Maritime States". Malmo, World Maritime University, October 17-19, 2005. Article by Mr. L. D. Barchue, Sr. This paper will look at some of the contemporary issues associated with the regulatory and enforcement paradigm of international shipping and will broach the concept of principal actors in the shipping industry, their roles and the issue of accountability, which may have precipitated the need for the development of an audit regime for maritime administrations. It would also discuss one of the principles of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, which has often been used by governments to protect their interests, but can now be averred as one of the pillars that would encourage Member States to volunteer for audits. The positive impact of a successful Audit Scheme could have on the implementation and enforcement of shipping regulations would be highlighted.

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