Until 1982, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), known as the Intergovernmental Maritime Advisory Organization (IMCO), is a special institution responsible for the shipping arrangement of the United Nations, aimed at protecting marine safety. They have powers and responsibilities such as protecting our seas, preventing mixing of chemicals, cleaning up wastes, measures to prevent damage to the nature, serious studies to prevent damage to sea creatures and giving deterrent penalties.
Maritime’ is considered as an international industry among various industries developing in the world. Therefore, comprehensive supervision of maritime transport serves more than 90% of world trade. Ships, which spend most of their time at sea between various jurisdictions, are managed by a chain of management covering many countries. Therefore, at the beginning of the last century, an universal governing body was needed, so that the necessity of standards for regulating the worldwide shipping process and industry were felt. Thus, the International Maritime Organization emerged.
The main areas of concern for the international maritime organization are regulations, accident prevention, establishing safety standards for ships (including design and materials) and maintaining compliance for member states, security and safety-related agreements, pollution prevention and other avoidable human-induced inconveniences.
IMO also facilitates technical cooperation between member states, preparing an audit and monitoring plan for these rules, standards, and ultimately detects the obligations and compensation in case of breach of any of these regulations.
Thus, the international maritime organization plays a crucial role in moving the modern society towards a better and healthier trade and transport environment. IMO was established following an agreement at a UN conference in Geneva in 1948, and IMO began to meet for the first time in 1959, ten years later. IMO, based in London, England, currently has 174 member states and three partner members.
IMO headquarters, Lambeth, is located in a purposefully built building overlooking the River Thames on Albert Embankment in London. The organization moved to its new headquarters in late 1982 and the building officially launched on May 17 in 1983 by queen Elizabeth II. The main purpose of IMO is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for transportation, and its current task is to develop and maintain comprehensive regulations and policies for security, environmental concerns, legal issues, technical cooperation, maritime safety and transport efficiency activities.
IMO has been successfully performing this task with expert committees and subcommittees in the center since its inception. Numerous delegates and experts from non-member countries and non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations attend the sessions of these committees. The governing body of the International Maritime Organization is the Assembly that meets every two years. The Assembly consists of all member states. Between the sessions of the Assembly acts as a Council governing body consisting of 40 Member States elected by the Assembly. The technical work of the International Maritime Organization is carried out by a number of Committees. The various duties and task committees mentioned above are also managed and monitored by these governing bodies.
The secretariat consists of about 300 international officials led by the Secretary General. The Secretary General is elected by the Assembly and continues his term of office for 4 years. The IMO consists of a Assembly, Council and five main Committees: the Marine Safety Committee; Marine Environmental Protection Committee; Legal Committee; Technical Cooperation Committee and Facilitation Committee. Some Subcommittees support the work of the main technical committees. IMO is run by a council of members and is financially managed by a council of members elected by the council. IMO’s work is carried out through five committees and these are supported by technical subcommittees. Other UN organizations can monitor the transactions of IMO. Qualified civil society organizations are given observer status.
To become an IMO member, a state ratifies a multilateral treaty known as the International Maritime Organization Convention. As of 2020, IMO has 173 member states; 173 of them are UN member states plus Cook Islands. The first state to ratify the convention was England in 1949. The most recent members involved were Armenia and Nauru, which were IMO members in January and May 2018 respectively.
Most UN member countries that are not IMO members are landlocked countries. They Afghanistan, Andorra, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. IMO is the source of about 60 legal instruments that guide the regulatory development of its member states to improve safety at sea, facilitate trade between maritime countries and protect the marine environment.
What is the IMO number?
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) number is a unique identifier for ships, registered ship owners and management companies. IMO numbers were introduced to increase maritime safety and security and to reduce maritime fraud. Its three letters are “IMO” followed by the unique seven-digit numbers under the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Lloyd’s Register added permanent numbers for all its ships published in 1963, and these were converted to 7-digit numbers in 1969. It is this series of numbers that was adopted as the basis of IMO numbers in 1987.
An IMO number is made of the three letters “IMO” followed by a seven-digit number. This consists of a unique six-digit number followed by a check digit. The integrity of an IMO number can be verified using the check digit. This is done by multiplying each of the first six digits by the factor 2 to 7 corresponding to their right-to-left position. The rightmost digit of this total is the control digit. For example, for IMO 9074729: (9 × 7) + (0 × 6) + (7 × 5) + (4 × 4) + (7 × 3) + (2 × 2) = 139.
The IMO number scheme has been mandatory for all ships since January 1, 1996. This number identifies a ship and does not change when the ship’s owner, registration country or name changes. Regardless of the changes of ship names, flags or owners, it remains attached throughout the life of a ship. The ship’s certificates must also carry the IMO number. Since 1 July 2004, passenger ships have to carry their sign on a horizontal surface that can be seen from the air.
Ships manufactured and certified for the purpose of carrying certain commodities subject to maritime transport are numbered according to the content of these substances in order to control the safe transport of dangerous, flammable, explosive, chemical substances. In this way, a serious follow-up is made regarding the ship which loaded with which substance from which port, which trade, or either transportation, arrival, departure port, where, what, taking, willingly or unwillingly discharged the cargo into the sea.
Although they are grouped as explosives, gases, flammable liquids, flammable solids, oxidizing agents and organic peroxides, toxic and germ-contaminating substances, radioactive substances, corrosive substances and other pests, they are also classified and numbered in detail among themselves.