IMO was established to adopt legislation and Governments are responsible for implementing them. When a Government accepts an IMO Convention it agrees to make it part of its own national law and to enforce it just like any other law. The problem is that some countries lack the expertise, experience and resources necessary to do this properly.
There is a demonstrated statistical evidence, when analysing the casualty rates or the port
State control detentions of the ships in relation with their respective flags, that a highly significant difference exists between the performances of States with a substantial and organized maritime safety Administration, manned with experienced ship surveyors, and other ones that are not in a position to properly fulfil the different tasks and responsibilities of the flag State in relation with safety certification of ships.
IMO is concerned about this problem and in 1992 set up a special Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) to improve the performance of Governments. The FSI Sub-Committee works under the following terms of reference:
"Under the direct instructions of the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, the FSI Sub-Committee, in addressing the effective and consistent global implementation and enforcement of IMO instruments concerning maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment, will consider matters related to the following subjects, including the development of any necessary amendments to relevant conventions and other mandatory and non-mandatory instruments, as well as the preparation of new mandatory and non-mandatory instruments, guidelines and recommendations, for consideration by the Committees, as appropriate:
.1 comprehensive review of the rights and obligations of States emanating from the IMO treaty instruments;
.2 assessment, monitoring and review the current level of implementation of IMO instruments by States in their capacity as flag, port and coastal States and countries training and certifying officers and crews, with a view to identifying areas where States may have difficulties in fully implementing them;
.3 identification of the reasons for the difficulties identified in .2 above, taking into account any relevant information collected through, inter alia, the assessment of performance, the investigation of marine casualties and incidents and the in-depth analysis of port State control (PSC) activities, while paying particular attention to the perceived difficulties faced by developing countries;
.4 consideration of proposals to assist States in implementing and complying with IMO instruments. Such proposals could be implemented by States or by the Organization in a harmonized and co-ordinated manner and could include the development of any necessary amendments to relevant conventions and other mandatory and non‑mandatory instruments, as well as the preparation of new mandatory and non‑mandatory instruments, guidelines and recommendations, for consideration by the Committees, as appropriate;
.5 development and maintenance of a system for the analysis of investigations into marine casualties and incidents, with a view to putting in place an efficient and comprehensive knowledge-based mechanism to support the identification of trends and the IMO rule‑making process;
.6 review of IMO standards on maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment, with a view to maintaining updated and harmonized guidance on survey and certification-related requirements;
.7 development and maintenance of a framework to promote the global harmonization and co‑ordination of PSC activities; and
.8 consideration of and action on any recommendations or instructions from IMO bodies related to the work of the Sub-Committee." (MSC 80/20, annex)
Another way of raising standards is through port State control. The most important IMO conventions contain provisions for Governments to inspect foreign ships that visit their ports to ensure that they meet IMO standards. If they do not they can be detained until repairs are carried out.
Experience has shown that this works best if countries join together to form regional port State control organizations (PSC regimes).IMO has encouraged this process and memoranda of understanding (MoUs)/agreements have been signed covering Europe and the North Atlantic (Paris MoU); Asia and the Pacific (Tokyo MoU); Latin America (Acuerdo de Viña del Mar); Caribbean (Caribbean MoU); West and Central Africa (Abuja MoU); the Black Sea region (Black Sea MoU); the Mediterranean (Mediterranean MoU); the Indian Ocean (Indian Ocean MoU) and the Persian Gulf (Riyadh MoU).
IMO also has an extensive technical co-operation programme which concentrates on improving the ability of developing countries to help themselves. It concentrates on developing human resources through maritime training and similar activities.