Everything about International Maritime Organization (IMO)

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

According to abbreviationfinder, IMO stands for International Maritime Organization. It is a specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes cooperation between States and the shipping industry to improve maritime safety and to prevent marine pollution. His interest is mainly focused on ships used in international services.


On March 17, 1948, a United Nations Conference was held in Geneva, which adopted the agreement that officially established, in 1958, the OMCI (Intergovernmental Consultative Organization of Maritime Navigation), —since 1975, International Maritime Organization (IMO)—the first international organization dedicated exclusively to the elaboration of measures related to maritime safety.


The first conference organized by the IMO in 1960 adopted the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which entered into force in 1965. In 1974 the IMO adopted a new version of the SOLAS Convention incorporating numerous amendments to the 1960 Convention.

The 1974 SOLAS Convention entered into force on May 25, 1980, and since then it has been modified several times in order to respond to the changes that the maritime sector has experienced and to technological advances.

Other important safety-related conventions adopted by the IMO include the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966 (updating an earlier convention adopted in 1930), which entered into force in 1968; the International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969; the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions in Collisions, 1972, which made IMO-adopted Traffic Separation Schemes mandatory and significantly reduced the number of collisions in many areas; and the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979.

In 1976, the IMO adopted the Convention establishing the International Organization for Maritime Satellite Telecommunications (INMARSAT) and its Operating Agreement. The Convention entered into force in July 1979 and led to the establishment of Inmarsat which, like the IMO, is based in London.

In 1978, the Organization convened a conference that adopted the first International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. This Convention entered into force in April 1984 and established, for the first time, minimum standards applicable to crews, internationally accepted.

In order to provide specialized training for managers, educators and others in higher-level roles in shipping, the Organization established the World Maritime University in Mälmo, Sweden, in 1983. In addition, the Institute of International Maritime Law was established in 1989 in Valleta, Malta, to train lawyers in the field of international maritime law. In 1989, the IMO International Maritime Academy was also created in Trieste, Italy, to offer short courses in various maritime disciplines.


The objectives of the IMO are to facilitate cooperation between governments in technical matters related to maritime transport and especially with regard to the safety of human life at sea, to ensure the application of the highest possible standards in terms of to safety at sea and efficiency of navigation, which implies the facilitation of a broad exchange of information between different nations on maritime technical issues, and the formalization of international agreements.


It is dedicated to providing governments with cooperative mechanisms to:

  • Formulate regulations and practices related to technical issues of international maritime transport.
  • Facilitate the adoption of the highest possible standards of maritime safety and efficiency in navigation.
  • Protect the marine environment through the prevention and control of pollution caused by ships.

It also deals with matters of a legal nature, including civil liability and compensation and the facilitation of international maritime traffic.

The IMO Assembly directs the work of the Organization and is made up of all Member States. The Codification of the Law of the Sea is an important part of the Organization’s work.

Codes and recommendations

In addition to conventions and other conventional instruments, the IMO has adopted several hundred codes, guidelines or recommendations relating to a wide range of matters not considered suitable for regulation by official conventional instruments.

The many codes and recommendations that have been adopted over the years include the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), first adopted in 1965; the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (Bulk Cargo Code, 1965); the International Code of Signals; the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (CGrQ code, 1971) and the Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (Gas Carrier Code, 1975); the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code, 1983); the International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC code); the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (International Grain Carriage Code, 1991); the International Security Management Code (ISM Code, 1993); the International Code of Safety for High Speed ​​Craft (HSC Code, 1994); and the International Life-Saving Appliance Code (IDS Code, 1996).


It currently has 169 member states. The governing body of IMO is the Assembly, which meets every two years and elects the Council – the IMO’s executive body – which consists of 32 members.

The Council is in charge of the government of the organization between meetings; different committees carry out technical work.

Committees and subcommittees

IMO is a technical organization whose work, for the most part, is carried out by various committees and sub-committees. Among them can be mentioned:

  • The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is the main committee that handles much of the technical matters on maritime safety through various Subcommittees whose names reveal the technical matters they deal with.
  • The Committee for the Protection of the Marine Environment (MCPC) was established by the Assembly in November 1973, and is responsible for coordinating the Organization’s activities aimed at preventing and containing pollution.

These two committees have several subcommittees whose names indicate the issues they deal with: Safety of Navigation (NAV); Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR); Formation and Guard (STW); Transportation of Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargo and Containers (DSC); Ship Design and Equipment (DE); Fire Protection (FP); Stability and Load Lines and Safety of Fishing Vessels (SLF); Flag State Implementation (FSI); and Transport of Liquids and Gases in Bulk (BLG).

  • The Legal Committee was initially established to deal with legal problems resulting from the Torrey Canyon accident in 1967, but later became permanent; It is responsible for examining all legal issues that fall within the competence of the Organization.
  • The Technical Cooperation Committee coordinates the work of the IMO regarding the provision of technical assistance, particularly to developing countries.
  • The Facilitation Committee is responsible for the activities and functions of the IMO related to the facilitation of international maritime traffic, in order to reduce formalities and simplify the documentation required of ships

IMO specialized committees and subcommittees are composed of representatives of Member States.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)