In the 21st century where communications are instantaneous, 90 per cent of world trade still reaches its destination via the commercial shipping industry, which has been shaped over the last six decades by the practices and standards set by the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO).
“It is because of the extensive network of global regulations that IMO has developed and adopted over the years that shipping is, nowadays, a safe and secure mode of transport, clean, environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient,” noted agency chief Efthimios Mitropoulos, in remarks today in celebration of World Maritime Day, whose theme this year is ‘IMO: 60 years in the service of shipping.’
When IMO was created in 1948, it addressed the needs of a world hugely dependent on naval passage for transporting goods. Today, the agency continues to develop safe, secure and efficient shipping services even as it helps to protect waters and coasts, especially for developing countries.
In recent times, IMO has also turned its attention to environmental concerns and has attempted to address the challenges posed by climate change. It is also a facilitator of economic growth as many smaller countries earn revenues by taking advantage of the shipping industry.
Recent issues taken up by IMO member States include piracy and armed robbery, particularly in the waters off the coast of Somalia. In June 2008, the Security Council, in resolution 1816, requested the IMO Secretary-General to take appropriate action to promote a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Western Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and to hold a high level meeting to conclude the MoU at the earliest possible time.
IMO has made it a practice to pursue the universality of regulation in shipping without detracting from regional practices. As ships move between different waters and jurisdictions, it is imperative that they are governed by uniform standards, applied to and recognized by all.
As Mr. Mitropoulos pointed out, the organization’s work demonstrates that “international standards – developed, agreed, implemented and enforced universally – are the only effective way to regulate such a diverse and truly international industry as shipping.”