Category

Specialized Agencies

HQ location

London

Date established

1958

Resolution

GA Resolution 204(III)

Joined CEB

13 January 1959

Leadership

Secretary-General

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the UN specialised agency responsible for the safety of life at sea, maritime security and the protection of the marine environment through prevention of sea pollution caused by ships. 

The IMO facilitates cooperation among governments to achieve the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security, and efficiency in navigation. It deals with legal matters connected with international shipping, including liability and compensation regimes, as well as with facilitation of international maritime traffic.  It is also responsible for providing technical assistance in maritime matters to developing countries. 

The IMO is responsible for convening international conferences on shipping matters and for drafting international conventions or agreements on this subject. The current emphasis is on ensuring relevant conventions and treaties are properly implemented by the countries that have accepted them.

The Convention on the International Maritime Organization concluded at Geneva in 1948 and came into force in 1958. The first IMO Assembly was convened in London in 1959. Prior to 22 May 1982 (the date of entry into force of the 1975 amendments to the IMO Convention), the Organization's name was the lnter-govemmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO).

  • Assembly
  • Council
  • Committees
  • Secretariat

The 40-member Council is the IMO's executive organ. It is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the Organization's work Between Assembly sessions, the Council performs all the Assembly's functions except for making recommendations to governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention.  This function is reserved for the Assembly by article 15(j) of the Convention.

The IMO Council is also responsible for appointing its Secretary-General, subject to the approval of the Assembly. Council members are elected by the Assembly for two-year terms beginning after each regular session of the Assembly. Member States are elected from three categories:

  • Category A: 10 states with the largest interest in providing international shipping services
  • Category B: 10 other states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade
  • Category C: 20 states not elected under either category (A) or (B) that have special interests in maritime transport or navigation, and whose election will ensure the representation of all major areas of the world.

All IMO committees are open to all member governments on an equal basis. 

The Maritime Safety Committee, established under the IMO Convention, is the highest IMO technical body.  Much of its work is carried out through subsidiary bodies. Subjects dealt with include maritime security, flag state implementation, navigation safety, radio communications, life-saving appliances and arrangements, search and rescue, ship design and equipment, fire protection, standards of training and watch keeping, containers and cargoes, and the carriage of dangerous goods.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee was set up in 1973 to coordinate and administer IMO activities for the prevention and control of marine pollution from ships. All members of the IMO are entitled to take part, as are representatives of non-IMO states that are parties to treaties linked to Committee work. The Committee was institutionalised in 1982.

The Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee are assisted by nine sub-committees, which are open to all Member States.

The Legal Committee was setup in 1967 to consider any legal matters within the IMO's scope and submit to the Council its drafts of international conventions and other international treaty instruments.  It was institutionalised in 1982.  Subjects dealt with include liability and compensation regimes for damage caused at sea by hazardous and noxious substances, wreck removal and seafarer claims.

The Technical Cooperation Committee was set up in 1969 to establish directives and guidelines for the IMO's programme of assistance to developing countries in maritime transport (particularly shipping and ports), to monitor the programme's progressive development and review the results. It was institutionalised in 1984.

The Facilitation Committee, established in 1972, is responsible for facilitating international maritime traffic through reducing the formalities and simplifying documentation required of ships when entering or leaving ports or other terminals. It became formally institutionalised on 7 December 2008, with the entry into force of the 1991 amendments to the IMO Convention.

The IMO also acts as a secretariat in respect of the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, adopted in London in 1972, which regulates the disposal into the sea of waste materials generated on land.  Consultative meetings are normally held once a year. A Protocol amending the Convention was adopted in 1996 and entered into force on 24 March 2006.  Thirty-seven states have now acceded to the Protocol, which is expected ultimately to replace the Convention.

The IMO has 169 members and three associate members. The Council has 40 members. The following  list of all members shows their membership terms on the Council, which expire at the end of Assembly meetings.

African states
Algeria
Angola
Benin
Cameroon
Cape Verde
Comoros
Congo
Cote d'Ivoire
DR Congo
Djibouti
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Ethiopia
Gabon
Gambia
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Kenya
Liberia
Libyan AJ
Madagascar
Malawi
Mauritania
Mauritius
Morocco
Mozambique
Namibia
Nigeria
Sao Tome and Principe
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Somalia
South Africa
Sudan
Togo
Tunisia
UR of Tanzania
Zimbabwe

Asian states
Babrain
Bangladesh
Brunei Darussalam
Cambodia
China
Cyprus
DPRK
Fiji
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Malaysia
Maldives
Marshall Islands
Mongolia
Myanmar
Nepal
Oman
Pakistan
Papua New Guinea
Philippines
Qatar
ROK
Samoa
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Solomon Islands
Sri Lanka
Syrian AR
Thailand
Timor-Leste
Tonga
Turkmenistan
Tuvalu
UAE
Vanuatu
Viet Nam
Yemen

Eastern European states
Albania
Azerbaijan
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Czech Republic
Estonia
Georgia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Montenegro
Poland
Republic of Moldova
Romania
Russian Federation
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Ukraine

Latin American and Caribbean states
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Bolivia
Brazil
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Cuba
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Grenada
Guatemala
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Jamaica
Mexicol
Nicaragua
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Suriname
Trinidad and Tobago
Uruguay
Venezuela

Western European and other states
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Canada
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Iceland
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Luxembourg
Malta
Monaco
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Portugal
San Marino
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey
UK

Members outside of UN General Assembly regional groupings
Cook Islands
Kiribati
USA

Associate IMO members
Faroe Islands, Denmark
Hong Kong, China
Macau, China

The Assembly, consisting of all Member States, usually meets every two years.

4 Albert Embankment
London SE1 7SR
United Kingdom
Telephone: (+44 0) 20 7735 7611
Fax: (+44 0) 20 7587 3210
Etnail: info@imo.org