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Today is World Maritime Day, and our motto this year is “Our legacy, a better maritime transport for a better future”. This day we want to remember the 70 years that the International Maritime Organization has been working to improve maritime security and bring you closer to your greatest achievements.

Today is World Maritime Day, the official day of the United Nations to remember the importance of maritime transport and to point out the work done by IMO in its objective of improving safety at sea.

This year the IMO celebrates 70 years of work in its achievement of ensuring safety and environmental protection in maritime transport. This year’s motto is “IMO 70: Better maritime transport for a better future”.

Do you know where IMO was born from?

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 marked the greatest disaster of human losses at sea, and as a result of this event, in 1914 the first version of the International Convention for the Safety of Human Life at Sea was created in London: SOLAS.

Later, the IMO was established after an agreement at a United Nations Congress in Genoa in 1948, to address maritime affairs, although it did not become a reality until ten years later. In 1959 the Convention establishing the IMO came into force, whose first task was to adopt a new version of SOLAS. Thereafter, IMO devoted its efforts to developing a series of treaties and codes to ensure safer and more standardized maritime transport.

What has the IMO dedicated its efforts to?

Maritime security

The first task of the IMO, when it was created in 1959, was to adopt a new version of the International Convention for the Safety of Human Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention), the most important of all maritime safety treaties.

Since then, IMO has also developed and adopted international rules relating to global seafarers’ approaches and standards, as well as international conventions and codes relating to search and rescue, facilitation of international maritime traffic, cargo lines, transport of dangerous goods and tonnage.

In the 1970s, a global search and rescue system was launched. In 1988, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) was adopted to guarantee assistance to any ship in distress. This increases the speed of response to emergencies and distress calls and is regulated by SOLAS.

Two initiatives developed during the 1990s are particularly important insofar as they relate to the human factor in maritime transport: On 1 July 1998, the International Safety Management Code for passenger ships, oil tankers entered into force and chemical tankers, bulk carriers, gas carriers and high-speed cargo ships, with a gross tonnage of 500 tons or more. On July 1, 2002, this code entered into force for other cargo ships and mobile offshore drilling units of 500 gross tonnages or more.

Pollution and the environment

As the depositary of the 1954 OILPOL Convention, the Organization, shortly after starting operations in 1959, assumed responsibility for dealing with the problems posed by pollution and subsequently, over many years, has been adopting a wide range of measures tending to prevent and contain pollution caused by ships and to mitigate the effects of any damage that may be caused as a result of maritime operations and accidents.

The event in 1967 of the 120,000-tonne oil spill of the Torrey Canyon ship marked the beginning of IMO’s work in attaining responsibility for the marine environment. As a consequence, it introduced measures to prevent or minimize this type of accidents, as well as to minimize the environmental consequences due to pollution due to the cleaning of hydrocarbon tanks and the elimination of waste.

This is the origin of the MARPOL agreement: International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, in 1973. This agreement includes not only accidental and operational pollution by hydrocarbons but also pollution caused by chemical substances, packaged goods, dirty water, garbage. and air pollution. IMO also established a compensation system for those affected by oil accidents.

In the 2000s, new conventions relating to the marine environment were adopted, including one on anti-fouling systems (AFS Convention, 2001), another on ballast water management to prevent the introduction of invasive species (BWM Convention, 2004). and another on ship recycling (Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships, 2009).

The purpose of the Ship Recycling Convention is to address all aspects of ship recycling, including the fact that ships sold for scrapping may contain potentially hazardous substances for the environment such as asbestos, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, substances that deplete the ozone layer, etc. Within the framework of this agreement, concerns related to working conditions and environmental conditions are addressed in many of the world’s ship recycling facilities.


IMO developed the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers in 1978. This agreement was updated twenty years later through amendments that significantly improved training regulations.

In 2010, a major revision of the Convention and the Training Code was carried out with the adoption of the “Manila Amendments to the Convention and the Training Code”.

Maritime protection and piracy

To manage and mitigate risks that may endanger maritime security, the Organization develops appropriate rules and guidelines.

-International Code for the Protection of Ships and Port Facilities (ISPS): The purpose of the ISPS Code is to ensure that the port facilities and sea-going ships of the IMO Member States are implementing the highest possible standards of protection.

– Over the years IMO has developed a series of anti-piracy measures and strategies to increase maritime security.

Liability and compensation

The Organization has also introduced rules on civil liability and compensation for damages, such as pollution, caused by ships.

The Torrey Canyon catastrophe in 1967, which resulted in an intensification of IMO’s technical work to prevent pollution, was also the catalyst for work on liability and compensation.


The main objective of the Convention to Facilitate International Maritime Traffic (Facilitation Convention) of IMO, adopted in 1965, is to make maritime transport as efficient as possible, by ensuring the smooth flow of ships, cargo and passengers in ports. This efficiency has an evident effect on the growth of trade and, consequently, on the economy. The Facilitation Convention includes “Standards” and “Recommended Practices” in relation to the formalities, documents and procedures applicable to the arrival, stay and departure of ships, both as regards the ship itself and its crew, passengers, luggage and cargo. The Facilitation Committee is working jointly with Member States to ensure that ships move from one port to another without unnecessary delays,

Technical cooperation, audits and implementation

When a country accepts an IMO agreement, it is the Government responsible for implementing the standards established by the IMO.

Since 2016, the audit is mandatory for all member countries, to determine the degree of compliance with the obligations and responsibilities contained in a series of conventional IMO instruments. These instruments include the safety of human life at sea (SOLAS), prevention of pollution (MARPOL), training standards, certification and guard for seafarers (training agreement), cargo lines, vessel tonnage and regulation to prevent collisions.

In addition, IMO has developed an Integrated Technical Cooperation Program, which is intended to assist governments lacking the technical knowledge and resources needed to manage the maritime transport sector safely and effectively.




Source: Sector Maritimo