International Maritime Organization: Ensuring Safety, Sustainability, and Global Cooperation

International Maritime Organization: Ensuring Safety, Sustainability, and Global Cooperation

GS II- International Relations (Important international organizations)

Context: India has been re-elected to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council for the 2024–25 period.

What is International Maritime Organization (IMO)?

  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating shipping.

  • Established in 1948, the IMO's main task is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical cooperation, maritime security, and the efficiency of shipping.

Recent Developments:

  • Recent developments in the IMO's activities have been particularly focused on environmental sustainability.

  • In 2023, the IMO adopted a revised strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships.

  • This strategy is a part of the IMO's broader Greenhouse Gas Strategy, which aims to cut carbon emissions from international shipping by 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050, compared to the 2008 levels​.

  • These efforts were recognized and welcomed at the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), marking a significant milestone in the global effort to address climate change and the role of maritime transport in it​.


  • Established: In 1948.

  • Purpose: To regulate shipping activities globally.


  • Members: 175 Member States and 3 Associate Members

  • Inclusivity: Open to all member states of the United Nations and other states by agreement.


  • Location: London, United Kingdom.

  • Serves as the central coordinating and decision-making body for international maritime regulations and standards.

Struture of the IMO:

  • The work of the IMO is carried out by the IMO Secretariat, Member States, IGOs, and NGOs.

  • The daily operations of the IMO, including meeting coordination and preparation, is conducted by the IMO Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General and assisted by a staff of 300 members.

  •  The Member States, IGOs, and NGOs are represented at the IMO during the various IMO meetings (Assembly, Council, 5 Committees, and 7 Sub-Committees).

Assembly :

  • Highest Governing Body: Comprises all member states.

  • Functions: Meets biennially to adopt the work program, budget, and determine financial arrangements.

Council :

  • Executive Organ: Acts as the governing body between Assembly sessions.

  • Composition: 40 member states elected by the Assembly, categorized into three groups based on maritime interest.

The Five Committees are as follows -

1) Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) -

  • Primary Focus: Maritime safety and security.

  • Role: Develops and updates safety standards, guidelines, and regulations.

2) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) -

  • Focus: Environmental issues related to shipping.

  • Responsibilities: Addresses pollution from ships, implements environmental regulations.

3) Legal Committee -

  • Handles: Legal matters related to International maritime law.

  • Functions: Develops and adopts international maritime conventions and agreements.

4) Technical Cooperation Committee -

  • Aim: Promotes maritime safety and security through technical cooperation.

  • Activities: Focuses on assisting countries in implementing IMO standards.

5) Facilitation Committee -

  • Objective: Streamlines International maritime traffic procedures.

  • Work: Addresses efficiency of shipping, customs clearance, and documentation.


  • Supporting Roles: Assist the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in technical matters.

  • Focus Areas: Include navigation, ship design, cargo, training, and pollution prevention.


  • Administrative Arm: Led by the Secretary-General.

  • Functions: Supports other bodies, coordinates activities, and disseminates information.


  • Funding for the IMO comes from contributions by member states, as well as voluntary donations and commercial activities.

Important Treaties/Convention:

International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)

  • Focus: Ensures the safety of merchant ships.

  • Key Elements: Sets minimum safety standards in construction, equipment, and operation.

International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW)

  • Purpose: Establishes standards for the training and certification of seafarers.

  • Impact: Ensures that seafarers are qualified and competent to operate merchant ships.

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL

  • Aim: Prevents marine pollution by ships.

  • Coverage: Addresses pollution from various sources including oil, chemicals, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, and garbage.

Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)

  • Objective: Establishes standards for the working and living conditions of seafarers.

  • Scope: Covers a broad range of matters, including employment terms, accommodations, recreational facilities, food, and medical care.

India at IMO:

  • Member Status - India is one of the earliest members of the IMO, joining in 1959.

  • Active Participation - India actively participates in the IMO's various assemblies, committees, and sub-committees.

  • Election to Council - India has been regularly elected to the IMO Council under Category B, reflecting its significant interest in international seaborne trade.

  • Contributions to Regulations: India contributes to the framing of various International maritime laws and regulations.

  • Focus Areas: Emphasizes maritime safety and security, environmental protection, and the prevention of maritime fraud.

India's Re-Election:

  • India was re-elected to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Council with the highest tally.

  • The Elections were held on 3rd of December,2023. 

  • India's re-election falls under the Category of 10 states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade. 

  • India got 157 votes out of the 167. 

  • The other countries in the category are Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • The term of the council will be for the biennium 2024-25.

Way Forward:

  • Prioritize Environmental Sustainability: Implement stricter regulations for reducing maritime pollution and emissions.

  • Enhance Maritime Safety and Security: Update standards for safer and more secure shipping.

  • Embrace Digitalization: Adopt advanced technologies for improved maritime management.

  • Address Climate Change Impact: Develop strategies for maritime adaptation to climate change.

  • Foster Global Collaboration: Encourage inclusive and collaborative international maritime governance.

Advait IAS