Definition of International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent marine pollution from ships. According to the IMO, themselves, more specifically, the IMO is "the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping." 

Understanding the International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The International Maritime Organization's objectives can be best summed up by its slogan —"Safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans."

The IMO "creates a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented." Basically, the IMO sets policy for international shipping, discouraging shippers from compromising on safety, security and environmental performance to address financial concerns, and encouraging innovation and efficiency. 

The IMO is also involved in legal issues matters pertaining to international shipping, such as liability and compensation matters, and the facilitation of international maritime traffic. The IMO's governing body, which is the Assembly that is made up of all 172 member states, generally meets every two years.

Policy, Enforcement, and General Information

It's important to note that the IMO does not implement or enforce policy, in any way. The IMO was created to adopt policy, not enforce it. When governments accept an IMO convention, it agrees to make those policies national law and to enforce those laws. The IMO did develop an audit program that made audits required, effective as of January 2016. However, there is no countermeasure available to the UN if the country is not enforcing the policies set by the IMO. Instead, the IMO provides feedback and advice on a country's current performance. 

The IMO was established by means of a convention adopted in Geneva in 1948. It entered into force in 1958, and first met in 1959. Based in the United Kingdom, the IMO has 172 member states as of 2017 and three associate members.