1. IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations dealing with maritime affairs. Its membership consists of 162 signatory States that include the UK and every other major maritime country, and three Associate Members. Together, IMO Member States control more than 96% of world merchant tonnage.
  2. IMO’s purposes are stated in Article 1 of the Convention on the International Maritime Organization. The chief purposes can be summarized as:
  • to facilitate inter-governmental co-operation on State regulation and practices relating to maritime technical matters; and
  • to encourage and facilitate the adoption of the highest practicable standards of maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships.

Development of IMO Conventions

  • Developments in shipping and related industries are discussed by Member States in main IMO organs (Assembly, Council and 4 main committees). The need for a new convention or amendments to an existing convention can be raised in any of these, but is usually raised in one of the committees. The proposal goes to Council and, as necessary, to Assembly.
  • With authorization of Council or Assembly, the committee concerned considers the matter in greater detail and draws up a draft Convention. Detailed consideration may be given in a sub-committee. Inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations with a working relationship with IMO assist committees and sub-committees with views and advice.
  • The draft Convention is reported to Council and Assembly with a recommendation that a conference be convened to consider draft for formal adoption.
  • Invitations to attend a conference are sent to all Member States, all member States of the UN, and specialized agencies of the UN. The draft Convention is circulated for comment by governments and organizations.
  • Conference examines the draft Convention and comments. Necessary changes are made before producing a draft acceptable to the majority of governments present. The Convention thus agreed on is adopted by the conference and deposited with the Secretary-General, who sends copies to all governments of Member States.
  • The Convention is opened for signature by States, usually for 12 months. Signatories may ratify or accept the Convention. Non-signatories may accede to the Convention. (For notes on ratification and acceptance see A01a.3.)
  • The Convention is not binding on any ratifying State until formally accepted by that State.


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