The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is an authority in charge of regulating safety and improving the efficiency of international sea transport. This entity reconciles different legislative systems and obtains a more fluid sea trade. Currently, its regulatory framework operates on approximately 98% of the world’s ships, but what is its story? Why was the IMO created?
In the mid-19th century, after adopting certain treaties to regulate sea safety, the need arose to create an international entity to effectively ensure these agreements. This demand took shape shortly after the creation of the UN, and in 1948, the “Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO)” was founded in Geneva. In 1982, it changed its name to IMO.
It was in 1958 when it effectively came in force. Its objectives included fomenting inter-governmental cooperation in international trade sailing regulations, and facilitating the shared adopting of ocean safety and efficient sailing regulations, and regulations to prevent ocean pollution. These objectives are even more relevant today.
We must not forget that the IMO was created at a time when classic colonial powers were still governed by their own standards in sea trade. In this circumstance, the idea that diversity in legislation was counter-productive to safety in operations and effective competition between ships arose.
Today, the measures set forth by the IMO form the pillars upon which the sector evolves. Around fifty of its agreements govern the sea transport sector, from building and equipping ships to breaking them apart, or training the people that work on the sea.
Guaranteed efficiency at ports
Sea transport is a complex process that requires many procedures, given the myriad of safety protocols and international laws at play. Customs, immigration and health services, and other public authorities are demanding agents in all port transactions.
To streamline all this bureaucracy more efficiently, the IMO Convention on Facilitation regulates ship, freight and passenger traffic at ports. Thus, the IMO’S actions simplify paperwork and reduce delays, which would pose problems to everybody. The organisation also promotes the use of electronic data interchange (EDI) between ships and ports.
The environmental challenge
Of all the objectives set by the IMO for the 2010 decade, decarbonisation of sea transport stands out. This environmental awareness is not limited to ships; rather, it extends to ports, as well. In this regard, to reduce emissions, the IMO states that it is essential to first quantify them, with training initiatives such as GloMEEP, to help countries to assess their port emissions, including pollution related to handling freight on land.