The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations’ specialized agency for the safety and security of international shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. It was established in 1958 as an intergovernmental organization to regulate maritime transport. IMO’s mission is to reduce the risks of ships striking trackers, stranding, or sinking; to minimize the potential harm to persons, property, and the environment caused by ship accidents; and to promote safe and environmentally friendly shipping. IMO was officially formed in 1959 when its headquarters moved from London to Geneva, Switzerland.
The IMO regulates international shipping through treaties and conventions, which are adopted by its member countries. These regulations are then enforced by the Member States through their respective legal systems.
The IMO has three main bodies:
- The Assembly, which meets annually
- The Council, which meets twice yearly
- The Working Groups, which meet as required.
The International Maritime Organization has 166 Member States and 6 Associate Members, who are all required to ratify or accede to IMO conventions that are open for signature by non-Member States. The work of the IMO falls into four main areas: safety; environmental protection; technical cooperation; and legal matters.
In October 2011, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu announced his intention to make port State control more effective as part of his Zero Discharge by 2020 program aimed at preventing pollution from ships’ ballast water discharge and garbage disposal in ports.