IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships. IMO's work supports the UN SDGs.

In 1948 an international conference in Geneva adopted a convention formally establishing IMO (the original name was the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, or IMCO, but the name was changed in 1982 to IMO).

The IMO Convention entered into force in 1958 and the new Organization met for the first time the following year.India joined IMO in 1959.

  • As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. 
  • It currently has 174 Member States. 
  • IMO's governing body is the Assembly which is made up of all the Member States and meets normally once every two years.
  • It adopts the budget for the next biennium together with technical resolutions and recommendations prepared by subsidiary bodies during the previous two years. 
  • The Council of 40 Member States elected by the Assembly, acts as governing body in between Assembly sessions.
  • It prepares the budget and work programme for the Assembly. 
  • Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.
  • In other words, its role is to create a level playing-field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance. This approach also encourages innovation and efficiency.
  • IMO measures cover all aspects of international shipping – including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal – to ensure that this vital sector remains safe, environmentally sound, energy efficient and secure.
  • It covers accidental and operational oil pollution along with different types of pollution by chemicals, goods in packaged form, sewage, garbage and air pollution.
  • One of the important committees under IMO is The Maritime Environment Protection Committee which is responsible for coordinating the organisation’s activities in prevention and control of pollution of the marine environment from ships.

IMO and India:

  • The IMO currently lists India as among the 10 states with the ‘largest interest in international seaborne trade’.
  • Recently, India's acceded to the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships a.k.a Hong Kong Convention, which will help in providing a boost to the ship- recycling industry in India.