Shipping is perhaps the most international of the world's industries, serving more than 90 per cent of global trade by carrying huge quantities of cargo cost effectively, cleanly and safely.
The ownership and management chain surrounding any ship can embrace many countries and ships spend their economic life moving between different
jurisdictions, often far from the country of registry. There is, therefore, a need for international standards to regulate shipping ‐ which can be adopted and accepted by all. The first maritime treaties date back to the 19th century. Later, the Titanic disaster of 1912 spawned the first international safety of life atsea - SOLAS - convention, still the most important treaty addressing maritime safety.
The Convention establishing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was adopted in Geneva in 1948 and IMO first met in 1959. IMO's main task has been to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co‐operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.
Then there are measures which recognize that accidents do happen, including rules concerning distress and safety communications, the International Convention on Search and Rescue and the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co‐operation.
Thirdly, there are conventions which establish compensation and liability regimes ‐ including the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, the convention establishing the International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage and the Athens Convention covering liability and compensation for passengers at sea.
Inspection and monitoring of compliance are the responsibility of member States, but the adoption of a Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme is expected to play a key role in enhancing implementation of IMO standards.