The seventh session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD 7), invited IMO to develop binding measures to ensure that ships of all flag States meet international rules and standards so as to give full and complete effect to UNCLOS, as well as to the provisions of relevant IMO conventions.
The then IMO Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI), which has meanwhile evolved into Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III) after the restructuring of IMO Sub-Committees in 2013, was instructed by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) to consider the request of CSD 7.
In April 2002, a proposal was submitted by a number of countries to FSI 10 which proposed to develop amendments to resolution A.847(20) on Guidelines to assist flag States in the implementation of IMO instruments. The proposal received general support in FSI Sub-Committee and also in the Marine Safety Committee (MSC) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). However, it was commented in the Committees that more emphasis should be put on all Member States' responsibilities rather than only those of flag States. Consequently, it was agreed that a Code should be developed to cover the responsibilities of Member States in their roles as flag, coastal and port States.
In November 2003, the Assembly at its twenty-third session endorsed the decisions of the Council relating to the development of a Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme and adopted resolution A.946(23) entitled "Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme" (VIMSAS). Through the said resolution IMO Assembly approved the further development of VIMSAS and requested the IMO Council to develop, as a matter of high priority, procedures and other modalities for the implementation of VIMSAS.
Following the decision of the Assembly, two instruments were developed:
The Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments; (the audit standard and guideline for maritime administrations); and
The Framework and Procedures for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme.
The Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments was developed to provide guidance to the Member States on how to best discharge their obligations as flag, coastal and/or port States and to provide the standard against which a Member State should be audited. The Framework and Procedures for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme was developed to define the required objectives, principles, scope, responsibilities, procedures and other modalities for the implementation of VIMSAS.
The two instruments were adopted by the Assembly at its twenty-fourth session, in November 2005, though resolution A.973(24) – Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments; and resolution A.974(24) – Framework and Procedures for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme
IMO performed voluntary audits of Member States from September 2006 until December 2015. During this period, 67 Member States, two Associate Members and five dependent territories were audited.
In July 2009, the Council at its 102nd session, taking into consideration the progress made in the implementation of audits under VIMSAS and the proposals made for the further development of the audit scheme, decided on a phased-in introduction of the IMO's audit scheme as an institutionalised process and approved, in principle, a time frame and a schedule of activities for completing the institutionalisation.
In November 2009, the Assembly, at its twenty-sixth regular session, through resolution A.1018(26), endorsed the decision of the Council for a phased-in introduction of the Organization's audit scheme as an institutionalised process through the amendments to the following instruments:
MARPOL PROT 1997
LL PROT 1988
taking into account that 1988 Protocol to SOLAS 1974 did not need to be amended as amendments to the parent Convention applied to this instrument through a specific clause. Additionally, the Assembly approved a time frame and schedule of activities for the consideration and introduction of an institutionalised IMO Member State Audit Scheme.
The Council, following the schedule of activities approved by the Assembly through resolution A.1018(26), at its 105th session in November 2010, re-establish the Joint Working Group on the Member State Audit Scheme (JWGMSA) to review the Framework and Procedures. The JWGMSA finalised the review of the Framework and Procedures at its sixth session, and the Council in July 2013, at its 110th session approved the draft Framework and Procedures for the IMO Member State Audit Scheme for submission to the Assembly's twenty-eighth regular session for adoption.
At the same time, the MEPC 60 and MSC 87 instructed the (then) Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation (FSI) to consider any possible revision of the Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments as a result of the institutionalisation of the audit scheme. FSI, at its 20th session in March 2012, agreed to a draft III Code, for submission to MEPC 64 and MSC 91 for approval, with a view to submission to the Assembly, at its twenty-eighth session, for adoption.
In November 2013, at its twenty-eight regular session, the Assembly, through resolutions A.1067(28) and A.1070(28), adopted the revised Framework and Procedures for the IMO Member State Audit Scheme and the III Code, respectively. Additionally, the Assembly adopted resolution A.1077(28) on 2013 non-exhaustive list of obligations under instruments relevant to the IMO Instruments Implementation Code, which has been kept under review.
The Assembly, through resolution A.1068(28) on the Transition from the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme to IMO Member State Audit Scheme, adopted transitional arrangements for the conduct of voluntary audits, which were implemented from December 2013 to December 2015. During this transitional period, voluntary audits were arranged and carried out in line with the Framework and Procedures for the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (resolution A.1067(28)) and using the III Code (resolution A.1070(28)) as the audit standard.