Find out what our staff think about the various strengths and attractions of IMO, from our global impact and multi-cultural environment through to our efforts to curb climate change.
William AzuhHead, Africa Section
As the international regulator of shipping, our impact is massive in so many different ways. The vast majority of things you have in your home and see outside comes by ship; it’s the lifeline of the global economy and we’d starve without it. As long as the water flows, the maritime sector will always exist; it’s the very definition of sustainability.
IMO’s job is to regulate shipping to make the most of its positive impacts, safely and efficiently, and to avoid and minimise negative consequences. A key part of our work is to build the capacity of the people and institutions needed to achieve that goal. For example, we’ve helped establish 16 national institutions in developing countries to create the legal frameworks to implement IMO’s regulation.
One of the things I most like about IMO is that it’s a very professionally disciplined organisation. If you want to be at the apex of international shipping and its decision-making, IMO is the ultimate place to be .
Natalia LagunaExternal Relations Officer
For me, one of the best things about IMO is its multicultural nature. I work in a team of seven people with six different nationalities, each with different backgrounds, stories and perspectives. The variety of views keeps things fresh but also requires tolerance and diplomacy.
Diplomacy is often questioned but it’s like a common language – it helps us communicate more amicably and provides the space to hear lots of different views about global maritime issues and to find agreement.
As I’m involved in the organization of the World Maritime Day and its parallel event, which is hosted by a different country each year, such as Colombia and Poland, I also get to experience and learn a lot about different cultures, not as a tourist but more deeply as someone working closely with them, which I consider a privilege.
Roel HoendersActing Head of Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency
Like all transport sectors, shipping emits CO2 – about 2.2% of the world’s total CO2 emissions. That doesn’t seem much but it’s comparable to the emissions of a mid-sized country. Just as most countries have committed to reduce their national emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), the global maritime industry has made its own commitments to cut its GHG emissions. Attributing emissions from international shipping to a specific country is difficult as these are emitted along a ship’s international voyage. That’s where IMO comes in as a UN specialized agency and the global regulator of tover 50.000 merchant ships worldwide, involving 174 States as well as other international organizations and NGO’s in its decision-making process.
IMO’s Initial Greenhouse Gas Strategy commits the shipping industry to reduce its ‘carbon intensity’ – the amount of CO2 emitted per tonne/mile – by 40% by 2030 compared to 2008, and to cut its total CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050. These are ambitious, but achievable, goals, for example by improving ships’ designs – their hulls, propellers and so on - and the use of renewable marine fuels. We are making significant progress towards those goals, but we still have to overcome regulatory and technical hurdles to adopt global decarbonization solutions that leave no country behind. This makes IMO such an interesting place to work.
Brendan MarshallSenior Administrative Assistant, Department of Partnerships and Projects
IMO highlighted the promotion of gender equality in 2019, when ‘Empowering Women in the Maritime Community’ was selected as the World Maritime Day theme. This promoted the work of the Women in Maritime programme, which was initiated in 1988. Since then, we have been intensifying our focus on the issue under the slogan - Training-Visibility-Recognition, because progress for women is progress for all – everyone thrives, including communities and economies, if we have gender equality.
Initiatives have ranged from giving women access to scholarships and establishing regional networks so that women in the sector can share experiences, learn from each other and mentor each other. IMO’s International Law Institute was also the first UN-associated body to reserve 50% of its places for women.
Women only make up a small portion of seafarers, about 2%, but we’ve been making progress in encouraging governments to enable women to develop and advance careers in the sector and to rise to senior positions. An important recent development, in 2019, was when the IMO Assembly adopted a resolution urging further firm action in coming years to advance gender equality throughout the maritime sector and reach a barrier-free environment. . Moves are also underway to address diversity and representation issues, including gender, LGBTI, disability and intersectionality. Internally, we’ve recently established a cross-divisional Gender and Diversity Group to establish an institutional framework within IMO with a view to creating an enabling work environment that embraces equality, diversity and reduces bias for all IMO staff.
Éloïse LaherteSenior French Translator and Reviser
Multilingualism is a key dimension of international organizations, and that makes translation a crucial activity. Here at IMO, it is particularly challenging because of the diplomatic and political, but also technical and legal, aspects of work.
When I joined IMO, I thought I would be up to speed with all the technical matters after a few years. But, seven years on, I am still here with a lot more to learn. Shipping has a broad scope and is evolving quickly, so it is essential to keep constantly up to date with new issues and developments, such as autonomous shipping and alternative fuels. Since IMO’s regulations are ultimately incorporated in the national legislation of Member States, where appropriate, translators have to be extremely precise and accurate, choosing the right words for the right context. To do that, we use advanced technologies, namely a UN integrated platform including a terminology database and a computer-assisted translation tool, which helps us navigate through archives and maintain a consistent terminology and style.
Each year, about 40,000 pages are processed at IMO, ranging from working papers to formal resolutions. We strive for the highest quality while translating a huge volume of documents in all six official languages under tight deadlines, including during night shifts to deliver urgent meeting documents. Our commitment and dedication ensure smooth, timely and accurate communication, which in turn facilitates dialogue, understanding and cooperation at the international level.
Lionel ShenProject Manager for eLUNa & UNTERM
The maritime sector is constantly evolving, with digitalisation presenting some great opportunities for innovation, for instance through autonomous shipping, blockchain technology and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). New technology is not being used to replace people but to assist them, so they can take on smarter, higher-level roles, as we’ve done for thousands of years.
IMO has innovated in lots of areas, especially in protecting the environment, for example in reducing greenhouse gases and sulphur emissions, as well as in promoting women in shipping. As we provide the legal and regulatory framework for these advances, we need to take into account both the social and economic impacts, which creates both challenges and opportunities to make a real, positive difference.
The work I am doing currently focuses on computational linguistics, computer science and, specifically, neuro-machine translation. Specifically, the eLUNa & UNTERM (CATT) systems deliver a suite of web-based linguistic tools to offer in-house and contract staff documents, terminology, references, computer-assisted translation and machine translation solutions. This will enable IMO to integrate all its multilingual documents into a single, intelligent and "deep learning" system that will help translators to translate more accurately, consistently, and quickly.
Delegates and technical experts can also use linguistic and terminological resources (Semantic Web, Thesaurus, Ontology, Business intelligence, etc.) for the drafting of their documents. Amongst other benefits, this will help maritime regulations be implemented more consistently as many of the documents we translate have legal implications, and every legal domain is fundamentally a language domain.