The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the UN specialised agency responsible for the safety of life at sea, maritime security and the protection of the marine environment through prevention of sea pollution caused by ships.
The IMO facilitates cooperation among governments to achieve the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security, and efficiency in navigation. It deals with legal matters connected with international shipping, including liability and compensation regimes, as well as with facilitation of international maritime traffic. It is also responsible for providing technical assistance in maritime matters to developing countries.
The IMO is responsible for convening international conferences on shipping matters and for drafting international conventions or agreements on this subject. The current emphasis is on ensuring relevant conventions and treaties are properly implemented by the countries that have accepted them.
The Convention on the International Maritime Organization concluded at Geneva in 1948 and came into force in 1958. The first IMO Assembly was convened in London in 1959. Prior to 22 May 1982 (the date of entry into force of the 1975 amendments to the IMO Convention), the Organization's name was the lnter-govemmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO).
The 40-member Council is the IMO's executive organ. It is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the Organization's work Between Assembly sessions, the Council performs all the Assembly's functions except for making recommendations to governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention. This function is reserved for the Assembly by article 15(j) of the Convention.
The IMO Council is also responsible for appointing its Secretary-General, subject to the approval of the Assembly. Council members are elected by the Assembly for two-year terms beginning after each regular session of the Assembly. Member States are elected from three categories:
Category A: 10 states with the largest interest in providing international shipping services
Category B: 10 other states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade
Category C: 20 states not elected under either category (A) or (B) that have special interests in maritime transport or navigation, and whose election will ensure the representation of all major areas of the world.
All IMO committees are open to all member governments on an equal basis.
The Maritime Safety Committee, established under the IMO Convention, is the highest IMO technical body. Much of its work is carried out through subsidiary bodies. Subjects dealt with include maritime security, flag state implementation, navigation safety, radio communications, life-saving appliances and arrangements, search and rescue, ship design and equipment, fire protection, standards of training and watch keeping, containers and cargoes, and the carriage of dangerous goods.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee was set up in 1973 to coordinate and administer IMO activities for the prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. All members of the IMO are entitled to take part, as are representatives of non-IMO states that are parties to treaties linked to Committee work. The Committee was institutionalised in 1982.
The Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee are assisted by nine sub-committees, which are open to all Member States.
The Legal Committee was setup in 1967 to consider any legal matters within the IMO's scope and submit to the Council its drafts of international conventions and other international treaty instruments. It was institutionalised in 1982. Subjects dealt with include liability and compensation regimes for damage caused at sea by hazardous and noxious substances, wreck removal and seafarer claims.
The Technical Cooperation Committee was set up in 1969 to establish directives and guidelines for the IMO's programme of assistance to developing countries in maritime transport (particularly shipping and ports), to monitor the programme's progressive development and review the results. It was institutionalised in 1984.
The Facilitation Committee, established in 1972, is responsible for facilitating international maritime traffic through reducing the formalities and simplifying documentation required of ships when entering or leaving ports or other terminals. It became formally institutionalised on 7 December 2008, with the entry into force of the 1991 amendments to the IMO Convention.
The IMO also acts as a secretariat in respect of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, adopted in London in 1972, which regulates the disposal into the sea of waste materials generated on land. Consultative meetings are normally held once a year. A Protocol amending the Convention was adopted in 1996 and entered into force on 24 March 2006. Thirty-seven states have now acceded to the Protocol, which is expected ultimately to replace the Convention.
The IMO has 169 members and three associate members. The Council has 40 members. The following list of all members shows their membership terms on the Council, which expire at the end of Assembly meetings.
African states Algeria Angola Benin Cameroon Cape Verde Comoros Congo Cote d'Ivoire DR Congo Djibouti Egypt Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Ethiopia Gabon Gambia Ghana Guinea Guinea-Bissau Kenya Liberia Libyan AJ Madagascar Malawi Mauritania Mauritius Morocco Mozambique Namibia Nigeria Sao Tome and Principe Senegal Seychelles Sierra Leone Somalia South Africa Sudan Togo Tunisia UR of Tanzania Zimbabwe
Asian states Babrain Bangladesh Brunei Darussalam Cambodia China Cyprus DPRK Fiji India Indonesia Iran Iraq Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Kuwait Lebanon Malaysia Maldives Marshall Islands Mongolia Myanmar Nepal Oman Pakistan Papua New Guinea Philippines Qatar ROK Samoa Saudi Arabia Singapore Solomon Islands Sri Lanka Syrian AR Thailand Timor-Leste Tonga Turkmenistan Tuvalu UAE Vanuatu Viet Nam Yemen
Eastern European states Albania Azerbaijan Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Czech Republic Estonia Georgia Hungary Latvia Lithuania Montenegro Poland Republic of Moldova Romania Russian Federation Serbia Slovakia Slovenia The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Ukraine
Latin American and Caribbean states Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Bahamas Barbados Belize Bolivia Brazil Chile Colombia Costa Rica Cuba Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador El Salvador Grenada Guatemala Guyana Haiti Honduras Jamaica Mexicol Nicaragua Panama Paraguay Peru Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Suriname Trinidad and Tobago Uruguay Venezuela
Western European and other states Australia Austria Belgium Canada Denmark Finland France Germany Greece Iceland Ireland Israel Italy Luxembourg Malta Monaco Netherlands New Zealand Norway Portugal San Marino Spain Sweden Switzerland Turkey UK
Members outside of UN General Assembly regional groupings Cook Islands Kiribati USA
Associate IMO members Faroe Islands, Denmark Hong Kong, China Macau, China
The Assembly, consisting of all Member States, usually meets every two years.
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