With 167 Governments as Members, IMO has plenty of teeth but some of them don't bite. The result is that serious casualty rates - probably the best way of seeing how effective Governments are at implementing legislation - vary enormously from flag to flag. The worst fleets have casualty rates that are a hundred times worse than those of the best.
IMO is concerned about this problem and in 1992 set up a special Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation to improve the performance of Governments. 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.
IMO has encouraged this process and 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 Arab States of the Gulf (GCC MoU (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.
IMO has adopted the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme. The Audit Scheme is designed to help promote maritime safety and environmental protection by assessing how effectively Member States implement and enforce relevant IMO Convention standards, and by providing them with feedback and advice on their current performance.