Information about: IMO, SOLAS, MARPOL AND STCW   Leave a comment


When the establishment of a specialized agency of the United Nations dealing with maritime affairs was first proposed, the main concern was to improve safety at sea.

Because of the international nature of the shipping industry, it had long been recognized that action to improve safety in maritime operations would be more effective if carried out at an international level rather than by individual countries acting unilaterally and without co-ordination with others. Although a number of important international agreements had already been adopted, many States believed that there was a need for a permanent body which would be able to co-ordinate and promote further measures on a more regular basis.

It was against this background that a conference held by the United Nations in 1948 adopted a convention establishing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as the first ever international body devoted exclusively to maritime matters.

In the 10-year period between the adoption of the convention and its entry into force in 1958, other problems related to safety but requiring slightly different emphases had attracted international attention. One of the most important of these was the threat of marine pollution from ships, particularly pollution by oil carried in tankers. An international convention on this subject was actually adopted in 1954, four years before IMO came into existence, and responsibility for administering and promoting it was assumed by IMO in January 1959. From the very beginning, the improvement of maritime safety and the prevention of marine pollution have been IMO’s most important objectives.

The Organization is based at 4 Albert Embankment, London, and is the only United Nations specialized agency to have its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Its governing body is the Assembly, which meets once every two years. It currently consists of 166 Member States and two Associate Members. Between sessions of the Assembly a Council, consisting of 40 Member Governments elected by the Assembly, acts as IMO’s governing body.

IMO is a technical organization and most of its work is carried out in a number of committees and sub-committees. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is the most senior of these.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) was established by the Assembly in November 1973. It is responsible for co-ordinating the Organization’s activities in the prevention and control of pollution of the marine environment from ships.

There are a number of sub-committees whose titles indicate the subjects they deal with: Safety of Navigation (NAV); Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR); Training and Watchkeeping (STW); Carriage of Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC); Ship Design and Equipment (DE); Fire Protection (FP); Stability and Load Lines and Fishing Vessel Safety (SLF); Flag State Implementation (FSI); and Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG).

The Legal Committee was originally established to deal with the legal problems arising from the Torrey Canyon accident of 1967, but it was subsequently made a permanent committee. It is responsible for considering any legal matters within the scope of the Organization.

The Technical Co-operation Committee is responsible for co-ordinating the work of the Organization in the provision of technical assistance in the maritime field, in particular to developing countries.

The Facilitation Committee is responsible for IMO’s activities and functions relating to the facilitation of international maritime traffic. These are aimed at reducing the formalities and simplifying the documentation required of ships when entering or leaving ports or other terminals.

All the committees of IMO are open to participation by all Member Governments on an equal basis.

The IMO Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, who is assisted by a staff of some 300 international civil servants. The Secretary-General is appointed by the Council, with the approval of the Assembly.


The SOLAS Convention in its successive forms is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. The first version was adopted in 1914, in response to the Titanic disaster, the second in 1929, the third in 1948, and the fourth in 1960.

The 1960 Convention – which was adopted on 17 June 1960 and entered into force on 26 May 1965 – was the first major task for IMO after the Organization’s creation and it represented a considerable step forward in modernizing regulations and in keeping pace with technical developments in the shipping industry.

The intention was to keep the Convention up to date by periodic amendments but in practice the amendments procedure proved to be very slow. It became clear that it would be impossible to secure the entry into force of amendments within a reasonable period of time.

As a result, a completely new Convention was adopted in 1974 which included not only the amendments agreed up until that date but a new amendment procedure – the tacit acceptance procedure – designed to ensure that changes could be made within a specified (and acceptably short) period of time.

Instead of requiring that an amendment shall enter into force after being accepted by, for example, two thirds of the Parties, the tacit acceptance procedure provides that an amendment shall enter into force on a specified date unless, before that date, objections to the amendment are received from an agreed number of Parties.

As a result the 1974 Convention has been updated and amended on numerous occasions. The Convention in force today is sometimes referred to as SOLAS, 1974, as amended.


The MARPOL Convention is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. It is a combination of two treaties adopted in 1973 and 1978 respectively and updated by amendments through the years.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was adopted on 2 November 1973 at IMO and covered pollution by oil, chemicals, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage and garbage. The Protocol of 1978 relating to the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (1978 MARPOL Protocol) was adopted at a Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention in February 1978 held in response to a spate of tanker accidents in 1976-1977. (Measures relating to tanker design and operation were also incorporated into a Protocol of 1978 relating to the 1974 Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974).

As the 1973 MARPOL Convention had not yet entered into force, the 1978 MARPOL Protocol absorbed the parent Convention. The combined instrument is referred to as the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto (MARPOL 73/78), and it entered into force on 2 October 1983 (Annexes I and II).

The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships – both accidental pollution and that from routine operations – and currently includes six technical Annexes:

Annex I Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil
Annex II Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
Annex III Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
Annex IV Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
Annex V Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships
Annex VI Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships (entry into force 19 May 2005)



The 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level. Previously the standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, usually without reference to practices in other countries. As a result standards and procedures varied widely, even though shipping is the most international of all industries.

The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers which countries are obliged to meet or exceed.

The Convention did not deal with manning levels: IMO provisions in this area are covered by a regulation in Chapter V of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, whose requirements are backed up by resolution A.890(21) Principles of safe manning, adopted by the IMO Assembly in 1999, as amended by Resolution A.955(23) Amendments to the Principles of Safe Manning (Resolution A.890(21)).

The Articles of the Convention include requirements relating to issues surrounding certification and port State control.

One especially important feature of the Convention is that it applies to ships of non-party States when visiting ports of States which are Parties to the Convention. Article X requires Parties to apply the control measures to ships of all flags to the extent necessary to ensure that no more favourable treatment is given to ships entitled to fly the flag of a State which is not a Party than is given to ships entitled to fly the flag of a State that is a Party.

The difficulties which could arise for ships of States which are not Parties to the Convention is one reason why the Convention has received such wide acceptance. By December 2000, the STCW Convention had 135 Parties, representing 97.53 percent of world shipping tonnage.



Publicado 3 de septiembre de 2008 por leibermendoza en INFORMACION, INGLES


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