Implementation of Instruments Support

Under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and IMO conventions, such as SOLAS 1974, MARPOL, STCW 1978, TONNAGE 1969, LL 1966/1988, COLREG 1972, AFS 2001, BWM 2004 etc., Administrations are responsible for promulgating laws and regulations and for taking all other steps which may be necessary to give these instruments full and complete effect so as to ensure that, from the point of view of safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment, a ship is fit for the service for which it is intended.

While States may realize certain benefits by becoming Parties to instruments aiming at promoting maritime safety and the prevention of pollution from ships, these desired benefits can only be obtained when all Parties concerned fully carry out their obligations as required by the conventions, and the ultimate effectiveness of any convention depends, inter alia, upon all States:

  1. becoming Party to all instruments related to maritime safety, security and pollution prevention and control;
  2. implementing them widely and effectively;
  3. enforcing them rigorously; and
  4. reporting to the Organization, as required,

Administrations should improve the adequacy of the measures which are taken to give effect to those conventions and protocols to which they are Parties and ensure that they are effectively monitored. Improvement can be made through rigorous and more effective application and enforcement of national legislation.

Some States encounter difficulties in fully implementing IMO instruments. Reasons for these difficulties include shortage of finances and qualified personnel, lack of technical expertise, absence of oversight of delegation of authority etc. In this respect, IMO has an extensive technical cooperation programme which concentrates on the self-sustainable development of beneficiary countries. It focuses on capacity building through maritime training and similar activities. For more information about technical cooperation, click here.

Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III Sub-Committee)


IMO set up a special Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) in 1992 to improve the performance of Governments. The FSI Sub-Committee was renamed the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) in 2013.

The III Sub-Committee works under the following terms of reference:


 1    Under the direct instructions of the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III), 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 technical and operational 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:

  •  comprehensive review of the rights and obligations of States emanating from the IMO treaty instruments;
  •  assessment, monitoring and review of 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;
  • identification of the reasons for the difficulties in implementing provisions of relevant IMO instruments, taking into account any relevant information collected through, inter alia, the assessment of performance, the investigation of marine casualties and incidents and the port State control (PSC) data, while paying particular attention to the perceived difficulties faced by developing countries;
  • consideration of proposals to assist States in implementing and complying with IMO instruments by the development of appropriate mandatory and non-mandatory instruments, guidelines and recommendations for the consideration by the Committees, as appropriate;
  • analyses of investigation reports into marine casualties and incidents and maintaining an efficient and comprehensive knowledge-based mechanism to support the identification of trends and the IMO rule-making process;
  • review of IMO standards on maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment, to maintain an updated and harmonized guidance on survey- and certification-related requirements; and
  • promotion of global harmonization of PSC activities.

2    The conventions and other mandatory instruments (as may be amended from time to time) referred to above include, but are not limited to:

  • 1974 SOLAS Convention (chapters I, IX, XI-1 and appendix and other relevant chapters, as appropriate) and the 1978 and 1988 Protocols relating thereto; 
  • MARPOL, BWM and AFS Conventions and other related environmental instruments, as appropriate; 
  • International Safety Management (ISM) Code; 
  • Code for recognized organizations (RO Code); 
  • IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III Code); and 
  • Casualty Investigation Code, 2008.

3    The non-mandatory instruments referred to in paragraph 1, which the Sub-Committee may be called upon to review, include, but are not limited to:

  • HSSC Guidelines; 
  • Procedures for Port State Control; and
  •  fair treatment of seafarers, non-convention ship-related matter, etc.

4    Any other relevant technical and operational issues referred to it by the Committees or other technical bodies of the Organization.

Performance monitoring, assessment, and Control


To promote and assist Member States in improving their capabilities and performance as flag States, coast States and port States and in giving full and complete effect to the instruments to which they are Parties, IMO develops a lot of supporting measures or tools, such as, historically, Interim Guidelines to assist flag States (resolution A.740(18)) in 1993, Guidelines to assist flag States in the implementation of IMO instruments (resolution A.847(20)) in 1997, Self-assessment of flag State performance (resolution A.881(21) in 1999, Self-assessment of flag State performance (resolution A.912(22)) in 2001, Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme (VIMSAS) in 2003 and Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments (resolution A.973(24)) in 2005.

The mandatory audit of all Member States (IMSAS) commenced on 1 January 2016, with the aim of determining the extent to which they give full and complete effect to their obligations and responsibilities contained in a number of IMO treaty instruments. As criteria for audit, IMO adopted IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III Code) (A.1070(28)). For more information about IMSAS click here.

Another way of monitoring the performance of flag States and fighting against sub-standard shipping is through port State control. Many IMO conventions contain provisions for Governments to inspect foreign ships that visit their ports to ensure that they meet IMO standards contained in instruments to which the port State is a Party to, taking into account the concept of no-more favourable treatment. If they do not, they can be delayed or detained until repairs are carried out and be subject to targeting. 

These inspections are intended to be a backup to flag State implementation, a “second line of defence” against substandard shipping, and experience has shown that they can be extremely effective. The Organization adopted resolution A.682(17) on Regional co-operation in the control of ships and discharges promoting the conclusion of regional agreements. For more information about port State control, click here.

Communications/Reporting Through the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS)

Most IMO instruments contain provisions related to reporting requirements, in particular, towards the Organization. In order to promote and facilitate the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments, the effective use of information and communication technology and enhance the rate of notification, while potentially reducing the administrative burden for the Contracting Governments, IMO adopted  Notification and circulation through the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) (resolution A.1074(28)). It establishes that notification through GISIS should be considered as one effective way for Contracting Governments or Parties to IMO instruments to fulfil their reporting obligations under the various mandatory IMO instruments. Their level of compliance is taken into account in the context of the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS), which is a strong incentive to fulfil these requirements.

Further support to the implementation of IMO instruments provides the continuous updating of the list of non-mandatory instruments, reporting requirements together with the facilities available, and certificates and documents to be carried on board ships. 

The development and maintenance of GISIS includes an inter-divisional coordination process involving all the managers of individual GISIS modules. It also implies active collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in the management of the UNLOCODES (https://www.unece.org/cefact/locode/service/location).

GISIS, which is accessible on the front page of the IMO public website under “resources” or at https://gisis.imo.org/Public/Default.aspx, consists of a wide range of different modules, as shown in the following table.  For detailed information regarding reporting requirements, refer to the GISIS module on reporting requirements and Guidance on communication of information by Member States (resolution A.1139(31)).

For List of GISIS Modules with Status of development and data access, please click here.

IMO Vega

Developed and maintained jointly by 

IMO and DNV GL AS, the IMO-Vega Database is a powerful digital publication which includes historical data of IMO instruments and benefits from a sophisticated search function, e.g. using as a tool  to identify relevant applicable requirements, and a publication supporting the funding of the IMO Technical Cooperation Programme. It includes up-to-date texts of core IMO requirements (including IMDG Code, SOLAS, MARPOL,IAMSAR Manual and publications as requied to be carried on board? ) as well as pollution prevention and safety-related documents in TEnglish.