A quick look at the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization and its work in ocean stewardship.The International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, is a leader in the ocean stewardship realm. It serves as the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping.
IMO’s main focus is to set international shipping regulations that are universally accepted and implemented. Because 90 percent of global trade utilizes shipping, IMO notes that it’s vital that shipping is safe, secure, and sustainable, and at the same time, economically just.
The IMO was established at a U.N. convention in 1948, and met for the first time in 1959. It is currently comprised of 171 member states. Its Assembly meets once every two years. The main technical committees, the Marine Environment Protection Committee and Maritime Safety Committee, meet three times in each two-year period while the committees covering legal issues, facilitation and technical cooperation meet annually. Seven sub-committees covering technical issues and implementation meet once per year and report to the main committees.
Initially IMO’s main function was to develop international treaties and other legislation concerning safety and marine pollution prevention. Since the 1970s, however, the organization’s focus has been to ensure that the treaties and conventions are implemented by member states, while also responding to new issues, particularly in relation to the environment, such as ballast water management to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and measures to address air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from ships and emissions. IMO’s current secretary-general is Kitack Lim of the Republic of Korea.
As part of a partnership between Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and IMO GloBallast, IMO is implementing two major projects focusing on reducing emissions from shipping: the GEF-UNDP-IMO Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership (GloMEEP) and the IMO-European Union Project on Capacity Building for Climate Change Mitigation in the Maritime Shipping Sector.
GloMEEP is a partnership between the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the IMO. The project’s goal is to assist the developing countries in the implementation of mandatory energy efficiency measures for shipping which have been adopted by IMO under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.
“The road ahead is challenging for many developing countries who may not have the necessary capacity to implement and enforce these measures,” said Dr. Jose Matheickal, head of IMO’s Integrated Technical Cooperation Program Implementation and Major Projects, Marine Environment Division. “To increase the impact of these measures and to ensure that no one is left behind, we need to enhance the capacity in all countries in all aspects of implementation of MARPOL Annex VI regulations on energy efficiency of shipping. The GloMEEP project is aimed at responding to the needs of our member States to support effective implementation of the international regulations on energy efficiency for ships.”
The Project on Capacity Building for Climate Change Mitigation in the Maritime Shipping Sector is a four-year effort to establish a global network of Maritime Technology Cooperation Centers. Through these centers, this 10 million euros project aims to work with shipping stakeholders to improve energy efficiency, raise awareness about greenhouse gas emissions, promote the usage of low-carbon technologies, collect and report on ship fuel consumption, and sustain these goals beyond the project’s timeline.
“This is an exciting and innovative project which will see five Maritime Technology Cooperation Centers (MTCCs) established, one in each of five target regions – Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific – to form a global network,” Matheickal said in an email.
“Initial funding from the project will allow the centers to be established and resourced to become centers of excellence, providing leadership in promoting ship energy-efficiency technologies and operations, and the reduction of harmful emissions from ships. This will be a way to cascade knowledge and promote technology cooperation as well as helping to establish a culture that moves shipping towards a low-carbon future.”
On Sept. 29, 2016, the IMO celebrates World Maritime Day. This year’s theme is “Shipping: indispensable to the world,” and focuses on the link between shipping and global society and to raise awareness of the relevance of the role of IMO as the global regulatory body for international shipping.
Kelley Christensen is Earthzine’s Science Editor