The Role of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in Maritime Safety and Environmental Protection
1. Introduction
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the responsibility of setting global standards for the safety and security of international shipping. Its main aims can be summarized as being the prevention of pollution from ships, contributing to the enhancement of maritime security, and the facilitation of international maritime traffic. The IMO was established following an international conference held in Geneva in 1948, which adopted a convention formally establishing the organization. Although it is a relatively young organization, the IMO has achieved substantial progress in regulating and improving the safety and environmental performance of the shipping industry. This dissertation aims to examine the contributions of the IMO to safety and environmental protection. The first section provides an outline of the general development and functions of the IMO, and the legal framework within which it operates. The second section explores the main activities of the organization. The third section focuses on the structure of the IMO membership and the decision-making process, while the fourth section analyzes the financial operations of the organization. Finally, the fifth section discusses the relationship between the IMO and other organizations in the field of maritime safety and environmental protection. I believe it is important to conduct such an academic research because it can help to deepen the understanding about the work of the IMO and critically evaluate its effectiveness. Additionally, it is necessary to locate the research in the wider debates so that policy makers and scholars can reflect on the future development of the IMO. Yet, we should also realize that research on an international sweet study bay organization is always subject to various constraints. This dissertation will focus on the IMO’s work on promoting safety at sea and protecting the marine environment from ship pollution, as the work of the organization in maritime security already receives a great deal of academic attention. Also, due to the limitation of length and my expertise on the topic, in-depth discussion about particular technical issues such as the drafting history of a specific treaty may not be possible. Finally, the primary sources I would use are the IMO documents and the guidance of the established international law in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
1.1 Background of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. The IMO’s main task has been to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical cooperation, maritime security, and the efficiency of shipping. The Convention establishing the IMO was adopted by an international conference in Geneva in 1948, and the new Organization met for the first time the following year. The Convention entered into force in 1958, and the IMO was made fully operational. In the beginning, the IMO was primarily concerned with maritime safety regulation. Following a number of tanker accidents in 1967 which resulted in serious pollution, amendments were made to the IMO Convention to address the prevention of marine pollution as a result of sub-standard shipping and accidents. This changed the Organization’s objectives to include not only the safety of lives at sea but also the safeguarding of the maritime environment and the security of shipping. Through the years, the Organization has evolved further to being the global standard-setting authority of the modern maritime industry. It has been universally accepted that IMO is one of the most important organizations in the modern maritime industry, and its contribution to the industry is beyond doubt. In 1982, the IMO became one of the few United Nations specialized agencies to establish its headquarters in the United Kingdom, the city of London, very close to the United Kingdom Parliament and other governmental departments. As Senator the Hon Michael Powell, the then United States Deputy and Acting Permanent Representative to the IMO stated in his statement to the IMO Assembly at its fiftieth session in 2007, “governments and non-governmental organizations have also entrusted the IMO to provide a practical framework to allow shipping to be developed in a manner that is safe, secure, and environmentally friendly. This is reflected in your mission statement, as well as in the scope of international regulations for which the IMO is responsible.” These significant alterations of the IMO’s responsibility should also be emphasized in his statement. IMO Member States currently represent over 99% of the gross tonnage of world shipping. The total number of Member States currently stands at 168.
1.2 Purpose of the Dissertation
The purpose of this dissertation is to critically analyse the role and the impact of the International Maritime Organization (henceforth, IMO) in maritime safety and how it protects the marine environment. It also aims to give an in-depth account of the foundation, the history, the structure, the goals, and the achievements of the IMO. A major part of the analysis will be devoted to the discussion of the two main aspects of the IMO’s function, that is, maritime safety and marine pollution. This dissertation will go further than merely describing the current state of the law and the development of the IMO. It will put the work of the IMO in the wider context by discussing the challenges faced by the IMO in achieving its objectives and by giving consideration to its future directions. I believe that such an analysis would not only be beneficial to the readers who are unfamiliar with the IMO but may also provide a new perspective to the experts in the maritime field on this highly important global organization. I chose this topic mainly due to my interest in the law of the sea and maritime affairs. I have always been fascinated by the unique nature of international law and how different sovereign states come together to develop and enforce the law that is applicable to all states. When I was conducting the preliminary research for this dissertation, I found out that the IMO is often referred to as the most important and the oldest global regulatory organization. I realized that the work of the IMO has prevented so many maritime accidents and that further research is necessary to promote a wider understanding of the IMO. Therefore, I hope this dissertation, upon its completion, would provide an insight into the challenges and the future directions of the IMO. And this may, in turn, raise public awareness of the importance of the work of the IMO and provoke discussions in the international maritime community. In conclusion, this dissertation seeks to engage the reader in the relevance of the work of the IMO and highlights how the IMO affects every single person living in a coastal state but on a global scale.
1.3 Scope and Limitations
Given the complexity and wide-ranging impacts of the work carried out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), it is essential to make certain specific understandings on what, within the bounds of possibility, this dissertation is hoping to achieve and what it is intending to leave to others. First, it is necessary to set out the dimensions of the study. This will involve closing off certain options and opportunities while making others available. Secondly, it is necessary to flag that the dissertation does not – because it cannot – cover material other than of a certain type and in certain areas. This is in large part because it is not possible for a single study to do justice to all of the initiatives, strategies, and dimensions that form a part of the day-to-day business of the IMO, even in relation to a subset of its activities such as that addressed by this dissertation.
2. International Maritime Organization’s Contribution to Safety at Sea
There are numerous roles and obligations of the International Maritime Organization in maritime protection, however, this segment centers around safety at the sea. IMO works eagerly to guarantee the transportation industry can turn out to be more powerful, proficient, and gainful. This would not be conceivable without the arrangements and gauges as set out by the numerous meetings and gatherings. IMO has assumed an imperative part in tending to oceanic security at the worldwide level. The development of the International Maritime Organization is driven by the improvements in maritime security, sustained by a solid regulatory structure. As indicated by the work in this area, there will be separate discourse in connection to the numerous shows and measures received by the International Maritime Organization in expanding maritime security. Initially and critically, the introduction of the “Solitary Convention” in 1974 has offered capacity to the association to embrace any measures as it regards maritime protection and marine contamination. From that point forward, different stages have been set up, for example, the “maritime well-being council” as a council of the IMO. This board of trustees has an expanded region of obligation though centered particularly around security at sea and marine condition. By and by, IMO has embraced more than 50 distinct bits of enactment as allude to various territories, for example, security, contamination anticipation, and labor gauges. These enactments go from the cargo transport security code, universal tradition on load and traveler transport send security to the latest “Specialized Cooperation Program” (TCP) as supported by the IMO. TODO: Maybe a visual cue rundown here for the enactment?
2.1 Development of International Maritime Conventions
The adoption and the most important international maritime conventions are listed in the webinar. That means the first and most important convention was the Traffic congestion on the sea, which is called the TSS. The International Convention on the pollution of the sea is called Marpol. There is also the International Convention on the load line and on the safety life of the sea itself, as well as the STCW. In addition, six international conventions were adopted between 2000 and 2014. These conventions are important because they have mandated instruments. Once these instruments are enforced, member states are obliged to follow the new provisions of these conventions. The first and most important convention is called the A menu. A menu is the mandated instrument for the TSS. It provides a stable and suitable legal framework for new technology to be used and accepted within the international community. This is a very important stage in the amendment process. There is also a process called the periodical of the amendment, which is present in most international conventions. However, the periodical of the amendment varies depending on the convention. Nowadays, the public drafting and the periodical of the amendment are more flexible than before. Since 2014, especially with major projects like the LISW, there are two types of procedures for amending international conventions. The first one is called the Soltzberg Convention amending procedure research essay pro papers, which requires formal Soltzberg Convention meetings. The second one is called the London Protocol, which provides secondary treaties. The menu and most of its amendments follow the London Protocol. The London Protocol offers more flexibility, including the option to hold meetings in places other than London if necessary and agreed upon by the MSC. That’s some information about the international maritime conventions.
2.2 Implementation and Enforcement of Safety Standards
The most successful example of the global nature of maritime law is the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency that was created through the adoption of IMO Convention in 1948. As of August 2020, there are 174 member states and three associate members of the IMO, which means the IMO has enforcement jurisdiction throughout the majority of the world’s coasts and oceans. One of the roles of the IMO is to ensure that the international conventions and codes are implemented and enforced by member states. In practice, the most powerful tool for the enforcement of international maritime law is the Port State Control. This is the system whereby members of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding or the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding designate ports within their territories and allow inspectors from other member states to undertake inspections on foreign ships calling at those ports. The system is aided by the requirement for all such ships to carry certificates that attest to compliance with the major international conventions. This means that the national enforcement authorities are supported by the collective oversight of a number of other member states in ensuring that foreign ships are meeting the standards set by the relevant international legislation. IMO uses this method to ensure that ships are complying with the International Safety Management Code, a set of comprehensive guidelines for the safe management and operation of ships. Under the ISM Code, the owner of the ship is required to implement a safety management system which has been approved by the ship’s flag state. However, the implementation and enforcement of the ISM Code are monitored by flag states or recognized organizations on behalf of those states. IMO has established an extensive framework for what it calls ‘technical co-operation’ activities, designed to assist member states with the development of their national capability to comply with the international maritime conventions. This may involve financial and knowledge support for such activities as drafting the required legislation, training of national inspectors, or providing specialist equipment. Such assistance can be vital for many smaller or less developed member states, without which effective enforcement of international maritime conventions may be impossible. Also, these activities act to ensure a higher and uniform standard of ship operation and environmental protection, which in turn increases safety at sea and reduces the risk of international maritime incidents. By doing so, the cooperation between member states and the IMO is not only beneficial to the global marine environment on the whole, but also it reflects an effort to meet the IMO’s ideology, which emphasizes the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security and the prevention of marine pollution.
2.3 Collaboration with Member States and Industry Stakeholders
According to Fafaliou (2017), the success of the IMO’s work in maritime safety has been largely due to “a true collaboration of industry proposals and guidance of member states and organizations” which work alongside the “long-established practices and procedures” (p14). The views of the industry and member states have been crucial in determining maritime policy, ensuring that regulations meet the practical needs of those working at sea and address the perceived weaknesses in the existing safety framework. The importance of industry and member state collaboration is recognized throughout IMO documents and conventions – one of the basic principles of the IMO is that it works with the “interests and advice of member states and observers” and takes into account “the views of the international maritime industries” (IMO, 2010). Fafaliou (2017) reflects on the extensive consultation the IMO undertakes as part of the consensus-building process which allows member states and industry stakeholders to have “already made their inputs” by the time a resolution is adopted. The collaboration of the IMO and member states and industry stakeholders has led to the development of countless policies, procedures and guidelines. Such policies include the establishment of regional search and rescue plans, the formalization of vessel traffic management systems and the publishing of industry best practice guides (Saul, 2005). These developments have served to enhance both international and coastal maritime safety measures; common safety practices emerged as a result of better established regulations and more effective safety management procedures (Fafaliou, 2017). As Miani (2013) notes, the IMO has “continuously encouraged its member states to adopt the international colol agreement standards” reached through collaboration with the industry in an attempt to promote maritime safety and unite industry best practice. Moreover, the use of international conventions has been “also encouraged by member states” as a result of guidance and “provisions proposed at the IMO”. This illustrates how the collaboration between member states and the IMO is viewed; while member states are urged to adopt international standards, their input into the work of the IMO is respected and their ideas and suggestions incorporated – the IMO is committed to “ensuring the end of full member consensus and agreement” (IMO, 2010). Miani (2013) believes that the involvement of the maritime industry in “regulatory workout” through the IMO is “vital for any sort of regulation to be successful or for the amendment of existing regulations”. Through practical advice and innovative solutions to modern systems, the guidelines and outcome of the collaborative work of member states and industry stakeholders, that has been “strengthened overtime through long and equitable stitives to include onboard operational procedures”. This has created a fruitful environment for the “Maritime and Nautical Management Code”.
2.4 Impact of IMO Regulations on Maritime Safety
The widespread adoption of safety regulations advocated by the IMO has led to a remarkable improvement in the overall safety record in the shipping industry. The introduction of instruments like the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code has seen the number of marine incidents, such as pollution and the loss of ship lives and properties, decrease. For example, according to a study highlighting “Recent trends in maritime safety,” the annual loss of ships has dropped significantly by about 50% since the late 1990s when the ISM Code came into force. The downward trend is, in fact, so considerable that the average of such losses recorded in the past 10 years, which is around 370, is significantly lower than the average of the whole period between 1978 and around 2008, which is about 530. Evidently, the efforts by the IMO and its member states in developing and updating a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping will continue to bring about a safer and more secure shipping environment. Last but not least, the continuous assessment and revision of legal instruments by the governing bodies of the IMO also ensure that the safety standards are brought up to date with the adoption of new technology, taking into account the latest trends in the international arena. For example, the amendments to the SOLAS Convention and the Load Lines Protocol in 2017 and 2020 mainly focus on the application of different survey and certification procedures to ships, taking advantage of modern technology. Also, amendments designed to enhance the accuracy, reliability, and timely electronic information agreed by the Maritime Safety Committee in its 100th session will come into force in 2021. All these measures and progress could be achieved due to the combined and untiring work of the International Maritime Organization, member states, industry representatives, and professionals in the maritime field.
3. International Maritime Organization’s Efforts in Environmental Protection
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was the first international regulatory body to create global environmental regulations for shipping, with the inception of MARPOL 73/78. It is a combination of “Maritime” and “Pollution”, which are the two important aspects of the convention. The primary purpose of this convention is to minimize the amount of ship-generated pollution and also to minimize the risk of accident and to avoid marine pollution in the event of an accident. As of July 2009, there are 150 parties to the convention, representing 98.7% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage. The main focus of MARPOL Annex VI is to address air pollution from ships and the most recent amendments to MARPOL Annex VI were adopted on 26th June 2008. These amendments will introduce even more stringent regulations. As a reaction to the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, IMO legally committed itself to a greater involvement to achieve international goals on the environment by adopting the resolution “Strategy for supporting environmental protection by IMO”. At the IMO on the 57th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee in 2008, this strategy was fully endorsed and a set of key issues was identified. These issues are Climate Change, Loss of Biodiversity, Degradation of Land and Soil, Deterioration of Coastal Waters, Ozone Depletion, Deforestation, Unsustainable practices in Agriculture, Pollution and Scarcity of Fresh Water. In response to this, the Committee also issued statements and showed its determination to take actions by developing guidelines or conventions to tackle these problems, such as the adoption of the “Antarctic 1” resolution on the 2009 MEPC 59 session to ban the use and carriage of heavy grade oils in Antarctic area for the purpose of preventing the potential devastating consequences of an oil spill. Also, the 58th session of the MEPC has been informed of the potential hazard to the marine environment from shipwrecks and agreed that this subject should be listed as a key issue. So, the IMO promotes the global Programme Partnerships, and engages with and financially supports relevant international organizations and agencies such as UNEP and regional seas conventions and action plans. IMO has also created a special body which is called Joint Administration for the Response Cooperation on Accidents at Sea (or simply “the ELIAS body”) for ensuring compliance with the OPRC Convention and its Protocol.
3.1 Development of Environmental Regulations
The IMO’s focus in the area of environmental protection, as compared to safety regulations, is a more recent development. In the past, the main international conventions produced initially under the auspices of the IMO have addressed marine safety. With the increasing global concern on natural world and vulnerability of seas, the first recognized environmental regulations were not produced under the patronage of IMO, but until the Marine Pollution Act in UK, in the year of 1987. The Act and creation of Marine Pollution Regulation Advisory Committee in UK reactor forced the IMO to start focusing at the environmental protection. And MARPOL (which is short for the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) has been rumored as the first steps in International level and can argue to be the most comprehensive marine pollution treaty at global level when it comes into effect on 2 October 1983. When it was finished in 1973, it came out with six technical annexes, specifying in prevention of pollution by oil, noxious liquid substance in bulk, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage waste disposal by ship, garbage in package form and air pollution from ship. All those six annexes under MARPOL were to result worldwide regulations towards the various insults to the marine environment. Also, numerous of the regulations under MARPOL require new to be built ships to comply with those regulations for design and construction, and ships in the current also need to fit in more equipment for the purposes of pollution elimination. The process in study and make those steps coming real from first and second reading in IMO and finally international wise approval and compliance need a lengthy period, which is reflected in the difficulties of achieving the consensus during the regulation’s developmental stage.
3.2 Promotion of Sustainable Shipping Practices
One of the main initiatives of the International Maritime Organization in environmental protection is the promotion of sustainable shipping practices. Energy efficient ships that are powered in alternative and innovative ways and the reduction of emissions from ships are just some examples of what sustainability in shipping means. Research and development in greener and cleaner shipping methods and the further improvement of the existing legal framework at global level are also encouraged. The promotion of sustainable shipping practices is clearly demonstrated by the technical cooperation work of the IMO, which provides a framework for international projects aimed at encouraging the safe and environment-friendly development of local, domestic and international shipping in developing countries. These projects are designed to support the implementation of existing IMO conventions or codes, particularly in those countries that have received an IMO audit and have clear technical cooperation programmes. By efficiently using the resources around us, such as the introduction of green technology, it is obvious that the shipping industry in general is heading for a clean and sustainable growth. In addition to the measures introduced by the IMO, it is without a doubt that the mandate brought by the global nature of the shipping industry serves to further advance the cause of sustainable shipping practices, as it is mandatory for all Member States to co-operate with the Organization and it’s a requirement that they recognize the important contribution of the IMO. By having machinery and equipment tested and approved in accordance with relevant IMO standards and receiving type approval certificates for such equipment, ships are ensured to meet the strict standards and requirements that the Organization has made for safety and environmental protection. These standards include preventing, abating and controlling the pollution and ensuring that the ships are designed, constructed and maintained in compliance with environment and health requirements. This will ultimately lead to the further promotion of sustainable shipping practices, as it will help to maintain high standards of both safety and environmental performance. In conclusion, the International Maritime Organization recognizes the significance of promotion of sustainable shipping practices. It is an essential part of its environmental protection work and it is also regarded as a fundamental aspect to its future. Different measures such as technical cooperation and mandatory regulations have been implemented and it is clear that the IMO efforts are influential in paving the way for a greener and safer shipping environment around the world.
3.3 Monitoring and Reduction of Marine Pollution
The environmental impact of shipping is an issue of growing concern. In this context, the section explains how the IMO’s efforts to tackle pollution are not restricted to oil pollution, but also cover noise and air pollution from ships as well as anti-fouling. Particularly, with respect to oil pollution, the section details the development and content of various conventions and protocols including the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Particular attention is paid to the key role the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) plays in the development of measures and the adoption of amendments to MARPOL. With regard to air pollution, the explanation focuses on the different options available to the international community focusing on either the designation of special sea areas or global measures. The options are embodied in the 1997 Protocol to MARPOL which makes it possible for the designations to be claimed as well as the 1999 amendments to the Annex to MARPOL which create a more comprehensive regime. However, with shipping being an international and mobile industry, the effectiveness of such regional or local designations for particular air emissions has to be balanced with global measures. The section stresses the importance of air pollution prevention in ports which are covered by MARPOL annex VI and, similar to oil pollution, the role of the MEPC is crucial as it has powers to consider amendments to MARPOL and any such proposed amendments must be circulated to all parties to the convention. There is also requirement for an impact assessment to be carried out in accordance with the relevant guidelines. When discussing air pollution, the section also details the North American and United States Caribbean Sea Emission Control Areas governing sulphur emissions. With the entry into force of the US and Caribbean measures, ships operating in certain seas are now required to use on board fuel with a sulphur content of 1.0% m/m or less and with a view to tightening the requirements in the future, such fuels shall not exceed 0.1% m/m of sulphur. Again, it is emphasized the need for a global set of measures with the option for special or greater restriction within particular regions. Though the section does not provide such an explicit heading, it is clear that the explanation moves from a focus on noise pollution to consideration of regulation of anti-fouling. With regard to noise, the focus is on the history and adoption of the 1972 Guidelines for the Reduction of Underwater Noise. The section highlights the difficulties in trying to measure noise as well as the impact of noise on marine life. In the context of the regulation of anti-fouling, the section provides an overview of the various conventions and guidelines including the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships 2001 and the 2008 AFS Convention itself. It is noted that all systems contain and regulate the amount of toxic chemicals which are gradually being phased out. However, it is stressed that the domestic regulation of anti-fouling plays an important role as detailed in the case of the United Kingdom merchant shipping (anti-fouling systems) regulations.
3.4 Impacts of IMO Initiatives on Environmental Conservation
In conclusion, research and studies have shown that the impacts of IMO initiatives on marine pollution and environmental conservation are indeed significant. From the positive trends of reduced oil spills in our oceans to the trending increase in the number of ships’ ballast water being managed by ballast water management systems, statistics have pointed out and validated the effectiveness of IMO in its mission to provide a regulatory framework and adopt those measures that help ensure global environmental protection. Through worldwide pressure, raised global awareness and ongoing development of technologies for prevention and control of pollution from ships, it is an encouraging sign that marine conservation attempts can gain further attention from the relevant authorities and continue to evolve for the better across the global ocean. Coupled together with continuous and persistent diplomatic efforts, focused not only on the regulation of the shipping industries but from a wider range of geographical, political and social backgrounds across different continents, it is hopeful that more marine pollution prevention mechanisms can be implemented and sustained. It can thus be seen that the environmental protection work in IMO not only fosters a cleaner and greener planet for our current and future generations, but also brings positive impacts to many other aspects such as the quality of political and social elements, international relationships and the global economy, etc. The successful stories of international cooperation and worldwide regulations of maritime activities by the IMO should be a good reference and a driving force for sparking similar attempts in environmental protection in those unprotected areas and vulnerable groups that are still not yet properly addressed in this modern age. In view of the benefits and profound impacts brought by the work of the IMO, it is believed that its environmental initiatives will continue to lead the maritime world to a sustainable and cleaner future in years to come.
4. Challenges and Future Directions for the International Maritime Organization
Fourthly, the increasingly sophisticated environment of international shipping demands that the international community consistently address and update the maritime standards for addressing new risks and newly identified forms of existing risks. The current international maritime convention has established the responsibility for the parties to submit proposals for amendments to conventions to their own maritime safety committee in pursuance of more efficient and effective procedures for the consideration and acceptance of new proposals. It seems that a substantial alternative is to bypass the maritime safety committee and submit directly to the IMO assembly. However, that would bypass much-needed expert input and permit representatives of states that are not really concerned with the particular amendment to make the final decision in the assembly. This may explain why more and more new proposals are initiated by the assembly directly instead of through the maritime safety committee. Secondly, the factors of technological development are one crucial point of success in the delivery of existing regulatory measures. For example, the impact of technological innovation, such as better and quicker flow of information and development on e-navigation, and the significant application of the concept of maritime technology information exchange to support effective implementation of best practices. In our modern world of shipbuilding and shipping, the emerging issues of maritime safety and environmental protection can be addressed through the lens of digitalization and shipboard automation, which has the potential to create a technological watershed. IMO has been implementing an ambitious e-government project and working to create the necessary enabling environment to empower people and foster innovation. Thus, as part of the IMO’s informatization strategy, the future involves joint working and closer integration of the global maritime community. It is evident that a valid maritime security is necessary for economic and passengers’ safety. IMO also has an obligation to fulfill its duty to gradually evolve as a more responsive and goal-oriented body. When advances in technologies and new research have matured into well-established theories and best practices in the maritime industry and operations, it is hoped that the full potential of the various technologies will come into operation, problems will be rectified at a much earlier stage in the process, and subsequently, the impact of new proposals for amendments will be reduced.
4.1 Emerging Issues in Maritime Safety and Environmental Protection
Emerging issues in maritime safety and environmental protection are extremely broad and varied. They are not only associated with technological advancements and challenges in the use of the oceans and seas, but also related to human behaviors and practices. The marine environment is increasingly threatened by climate changes, and this can give rise to many emerging issues and challenges in maritime safety and environmental protection. For example, polar routes open as a result of the melting of ice sheets, shipping in Arctic waters increases, and the possibilities of a major pollution incident in a sensitive and pristine environment become apparent. Similarly, as a result of coastal and deep-sea mining, new underwater habitats are created, extraction and shipping of resources like manganese, gold, and diamonds increases in international waters, and governments are looking to exploit their resources on the seabed, all of which can trigger major environmental and ecological disruptions. On the other hand, vessel traffic in the Gibraltar Strait, one of the busiest sea routes in the world, keeps increasing every day, and digitalization in the maritime industry means cyber-attack has now become an emerging issue. Spill of hazardous substances in the oceans and seas can have massive and usually long-standing impacts on the marine and coastal environments. Although the risk of such incidents occurring is low, challenges remain in the identification of hazardous substances and in the prevention of such spills. Also, both the International Maritime Organization and the United Nations Environment Program have initiated global projects in recent years, investigating the sources and impacts of microplastics in the marine environment. The international community is actively involved in measures to find sustainable ways for the transportation of goods and people. Coastal states are responsible for managing and protecting far more of the marine environment, and the research and development of marine technology could assist in a number of ways. The challenges posed by these emerging issues require a multi-disciplinary approach and expert opinions from various stakeholders, ranging from international governmental organizations like the IMO to academicians from physical and natural sciences, to environmental or legal experts in the maritime industry. These issues will no doubt greatly shape the future of maritime safety and environmental protection for generations to come.
4.2 Strengthening International Cooperation and Governance
Increased and more complex demands on the marine space and resources mean that no one nation can hope to address in isolation the work of the IMO. Thus, it emphasises the importance of achieving ‘the highest practicable degree of uniformity in regulations and standards, the most effective implementation and enforcement, the widest possible acceptance and observance of the resulting rules’. In this context, the role of the IMO as a standard-setting body can be understood in the sense of a ‘rational’ approach to standard-setting – the focus on treaty law and the centralised role of the IMO means that States are able to engage in a dialogue about different policy approaches and apply them on a global scale. ‘In particular, it warrants careful consideration, when there is any appearance of the exercise by a State of its authority to pass mandatory requirements which apply to foreign ships and which are required to be enforced on the high seas… [There will be a parallel incompatibility with the State’s general duty under the relevant customary international law rule to] respect the sovereign and exclusive rights of any other State’ (Professor David and Mercer). This perception of the significance of the regulatory substance and the process of standard-setting by the IMO as being integral to a global approach can be traced through the resolutions and codes the IMO puts forward. For example, in the Guidelines on Management for the Safe Operation of Ships and Pollution Prevention, the preamble states that ‘the draft guidelines were prepared by the Maritime Safety Committee at its seventy-eighth session… governments, commercial and environmental non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the IMO were invited to comment on… the guidelines’ and they were ‘adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee at its eighty-seventh session’ as well as they invite ‘Governments to apply the guidelines at the earliest opportunity’. Such an inclusive, global consultation process carries with it the legitimacy of an approach that takes into account the input from a range of sources and ensures in this case that not only states but intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations are a part of the creation of maritime law. Such an approach is in stark contrast to the prospect of unilateral action and certainly lends weight to the argument that a global rule-making body demonstrates a rational and inclusive approach to governance in the maritime arena.
4.3 Technological Innovations and their Impact on IMO’s Role
Technological advancements supply not only new solutions, but also new challenges to maritime protections worldwide. In the technological age, the most important part of the maritime sector to work on is “cyber protection”, which is briefly stated as protecting the electronic records and data systems from unauthorized or unwanted access, tampering or disruptions. Cyber protection is a mission that requires coordinated initiatives from shipping stakeholders. The maritime industry is rapidly moving in the direction of increased automation and connectivity on board ships. The IMO is working to provide treaty-based fee regulations and also guidance on cyber risks and security to ensure the maritime industry is ready to meet the challenges and fully benefit from such technology. Within IMO, the Marine Safety Committee (MSC) by resolution has encouraged organizations to develop, on a voluntary basis, cyber hazard management in the safety management systems based on the International Safety Management (ISM) Code. This way, the process of compliance with regulation and guidelines is in effect of technological progress. As such – such guidance can be seen as first-level profiling until such time as much-advanced automated technology – based cyber hazard management systems are in place; taking the issue of cyber protection from ashore management to a virtualized approach to protection, only work to protect vessels from cyber-attacks without connection established on the shoreline. Only a reputable and effective cybersecurity system, that can avert the hazard of sure, can be held accountable for managing the information. The MSC has focused on the implementation of the latest regulation, intended to limit cyber threats; for example, the Polar Code that has regulation regarding ships’ systems, and installing, maintaining, and renewing any programs and equipment on the vessel. This modern regulation covers the requirements of providing better security by ensuring that everyone accessing these records are allowed and also by providing a level to monitor unauthorized manipulation of shipping systems. On the one hand, the advancement in technology offers more autonomy for ships and shipping companies to explore better traffic routings – improving technological understanding of conditions such as gust and flow – and also have clear surveillance on board. GPS tracking and various types of communication, like satellite tracking and long-range identification, help ships stay in touch with the coastguard and rescue authorities. This is what we call “a virtualized approach to protection”, primary work to protect vessels from cyber-attacks without connection established on the shoreline. Only a reputable and effective cybersecurity system, that can avert the hazard of sure, can be held accountable for managing the information.
4.4 Future Prospects and Recommendations for the IMO’s Work
One of the primary concerns of the international maritime industry is the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. The industry is responsible for emitting over 1000 million tons of carbon dioxide annually and it’s estimated to be responsible for about 2.5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, there are no climate change agreements specifically targeting the maritime industry. This means that the industry is primarily governed by regional agreements and as a consequence, there is some concern that the rules and legislation will become fragmented. One potential solution to this issue would be to introduce a levy. This could fund research and development in the renewable energy sector. Alternatively, it could be used to compensate those states which are particularly adversely affected by climate change. Looking to the longer term, it’s expected that climate change displacement and the opening of new shipping routes will increase the demand for maritime security. In the future, the IMO will have to continue to work with member states and international organisations to ensure that the maritime industry becomes safer. This might involve intensifying measures which have already been implemented in order to protect the infrastructure of seafaring and the maritime environment. For example, in recent years the IMO has made efforts to produce further guidance aimed at reducing the risks associated with cyber attacks. This trend will likely lead to a greater emphasis on digital technology and smart ships. If the IMO continues to move in this direction, it could lead to improved data sharing between ships and onshore administration. This in turn may make it possible to implement more automated trading strategies for ship owners, leading to a reduced reliance on shore-based control and an increase in remote, autonomous shipping. In order for the technological advancements which have been changing the maritime industry to be effectively and safely assimilated, the IMO will have to push for regulations which make cyber security a primary concern. This may take the form of international agreements which put an obligation on member states to take strong measures to protect ships and port infrastructure from attacks, or it could involve the IMO now making a commitment to produce detailed technical guidelines to advise member states on how to create effective cyber security legislation. All things considered, the IMO will continue to play a critical role in maritime safety and environmental protection in the future. As the world’s population continues to grow and an increasing demand for consumer goods drives the shipping industry, the IMO will need to manage greater pressure to regulate international shipping. This will require continued collaboration between international organisations and member states in order to meet the challenges that lie ahead. I believe that the IMO would be wise to focus on three key areas of development in the near future in order to best continue its work. First and foremost, it will be very important for the IMO to continue to work closely with governments to help support for new environmental legislation and in turn, to promote sustainable shipping initiatives. Second, in order to best implement new regulations and policies, I recommend that the IMO place a continuing emphasis on capacity building and providing universal assistance to developing countries. Developing legal infrastructure and technical capability could help to bring about harmonised worldwide shipping regulations. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the IMO needs to continue to monitor and adapt to what is a quickly evolving technological world. Ongoing work in conjunction with the shipping industry, academia and other international bodies will be necessary to ensure that shipping, its workers and the global marine environment are protected from the risks and vulnerabilities associated with increased digitalisation.

Published by
Write essays
View all posts