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Written by Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, (TAS),ndc, psc BN Director General, Department of Shipping



International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the apex body to deal with all the maritime issues across the globe. This organization was founded under the United Nation’s system. In 1889 an international maritime conference in Washington, DC, United States discussed a proposal to set up a permanent international body to cater for the needs of shipping. Although, the plan of setting this organization was not decided right away, took long years to establish such organization for shipping industry as a whole. In 1945, the United Nations was established and, in the same decade, a number of international organizations were formed.In 1948, a Conference was held at Geneva to establish a similar body for shipping. Accordingly, it came into existence ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959 in the name of Inter-Governmental Consultative Organization (IMCO). In 1982 this organization was re-named as International Maritime Organization (IMO). Its Headquarter is located in London, United Kingdom.

Commodore Syed Ariful Islam (TAS), ndc, psc, BNCurrently IMO has 174 Member States and three Associate Members.The primary purpose of IMO is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping.Its responsibility includes maritime safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping. IMO is governed by an assembly of members and is financially administered by a council of members elected from the assembly. The work of IMO is conducted through five committees and these are supported by technical subcommittees. IMO is supported by a permanent secretariat of employees and is headed by the Secretary-General who is periodically elected by the assembly.

Bangladesh became the member of IMO in 1976. Since becoming member of IMO, Bangladesh is under obligation to follow different rules and regulations enacted by this organization.Bangladesh also represented in the IMO Council for a long time and performed its responsibility in the IMO Council.

The aim of this paper is to give a brief idea about IMO and its involvement with Bangladesh to the young seafarers those would be working in the global maritime industry in their subsequent career.

Structure of IMO

Activities of IMO is directly focused on the global shipping and shipping industry. The IMO’s primary purpose is 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. The work of IMO is conducted through five committees and these are supported by technical subcommittees. Five main committees are:

  • The Maritime Safety Committee;
  • The Marine Environment Protection Committee;
  • The Legal Committee;
  • The Technical Cooperation Committee and
  • The Facilitation Committee

A number of Sub-Committees support the work of the main technical committees.  Composition and responsibility of the Assembly, Council and the Committee are discussed below:

Assembly.  This is the highest Governing Body of the Organization. It consists of all Member States and it meets once every two years in regular sessions, but may also meet in an extraordinary session if necessary. The Assembly is responsible for approving the work programme, voting the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organization. The Assembly also elects the Council.

Council.   The Council is elected by the Assembly for two-year terms beginning after each regular session of the Assembly. It is the Executive Organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization. Between sessions of the Assembly the Council performs all the functions of the Assembly, except the function of making recommendations to Governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention which is reserved for the Assembly by IMO Convention. Other functions of the Council are to:

  • Coordinate the activities of the organs of the Organization.
  • Consider the draft work programme and budget estimates of the Organization and submit them to the Assembly.
  • Receive reports and proposals of the Committees and other organs and submit them to the Assembly and Member States, with comments and recommendations as appropriate.
  • Appoint the Secretary-General, subject to the approval of the Assembly.
  • Enter into agreements or arrangements concerning the relationship of the Organization with other organizations, subject to approval by the Assembly.

IMO Council is constituted with forty members (forty member states) in three different categories elected by the member states for two years term. Different categories of IMO council members is shown below:

  • Category A.  There are 10 seats in Category A. States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services qualify to contest in this category.


  • Category B. There are 10 seats in Category B.  States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade qualifies to contest in this category.


  • Category C. There are 20 seats in Category C. States having special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world can contest in this category.

From whatever categories the members are elected, once in the council they all enjoys equal rights and privileges in respect to the nuance of works and responsibilities of the Council.

Functions of Different Committee.

The functions of different committees are discussed below:

Maritime Safety Committee (MSC).        The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is the highest technical body of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). All Member States can sit on this committee. The functions of the Maritime Safety Committee are to consider any matter within the IMO’s scope that is concerned with:

  • Aids to navigation.
  • Construction and equipment of vessels.
  • Manning from a safety standpoint.
  • Rules for the prevention of collisions.
  • Handling of dangerous cargoes.
  • Maritime safety procedures and requirements.
  • Hydrographic information.
  • Log-books and navigational records.
  • Marine casualty investigations.
  • Salvage and rescue.
  • Ships and port security.
  • Piracy and any other matters directly affecting maritime safety.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). MEPC addresses environmental issues under IMO’s remit. This includes the control and prevention of ship-source pollution covered by the MARPOL treaty, including oil, chemicals carried in bulk, sewage, garbage and emissions from ships, including air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Other matters covered include ballast water management, anti-fouling systems, ship recycling, pollution preparedness and response, and identification of special areas and particularly sensitive sea areas.

The Legal Committee. The Legal Committee is empowered to deal with any legal matters within the scope of the Organization. The Committee consists of all Member States of IMO. It was established in 1967 as a subsidiary body to deal with legal questions which arose in the aftermath of the Torrey Canyon disaster[1]. The Legal Committee is also empowered to perform any

[1]Torrey Canyon disaster – the UK’s worst-ever oil spill incident happened in 1967. It taught invaluable lessons about the response to disasters, toughened up shipping safety and stirred green shipping.

duties within its scope which may be assigned by or under any other international instrument and accepted by the Organization.

The Technical Cooperation Committee (TC). Technical Cooperation Committee oversees IMO’s capacity-building programme and the implementation of technical cooperation projects for which the Organization acts as the executing or cooperating agency, ensuring that IMO supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Facilitation Committee (FAL). The FAL Committeedeals with matters related to the facilitation of international maritime traffic, including the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo from ports. The Committee also addresses electronic business, including the single window concept, and aims to ensure that the right balance is struck between regulation and the facilitation of international maritime trade. It also aims at reducing the formalities and simplifying the documentation required of ships when entering orleaving ports or other terminals.



The MSC and MEPC are assisted in their work by a number of sub-committees which are also open to all Member States. Different sub-committees are:

  • Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watch-keeping (HTW).
  • Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III).
  • Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR).
  • Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR).
  • Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC).
  • Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE) and
  • Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC).

IMO Secretariat

The Secretariat of IMO consists of the Secretary-General and some 300 international personnel based at the headquarters of the Organization in London. The secretariat functions the day-to-day work of the IMO. The Secretary-General of the Organization is elected for a four years term by the voting of the Council members. The other personnel working in the IMO are appointed by the Secretary General through competitive selection process.

Accountability of Member States with IMO

IMO has so far enacted more than 50 conventions and hundreds of codes for the implementations of those in the maritime industry and shipping. Once the conventions are enacted by IMO it becomes the responsibility of the member states to ratify those and giving effect of those conventions into their respective national legislations. IMO also have the mechanism to monitor implementation of the essential conventions and other instruments through different kinds of audit and inspection.Member states make yearly monitory contribution to IMO to meet its expenditure through yearly budgetary arrangement. Some of the mechanisms of monitoring implementation of the IMO rules and regulations are enumerated below:


IMO Mandatory Audit Scheme.   The mandatory audit of all Member States commenced from 1 January 2016,​with the aim of determining the extent to which they give full and complete effect to their obligations and responsibilities contained in a number of IMO treaty instruments. The mandatory IMO instruments included in the scope of the Scheme cover safety of life at sea (SOLAS 1974 and its 1988 Protocol); prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL); standards of training, certification and watch-keeping for seafarers (STCW 1978); load lines (LL 66 and its 1988 Protocol); tonnage measurement of ships (Tonnage 1969); and regulations for preventing collisions at sea (COLREG 1972).  The scheme addresses issues such as conformance in enacting appropriate legislation for the IMO instruments to which a Member State is a Party; the implementation and enforcement of the applicable laws and regulations by the Member State; the delegation of authority to recognized organizations (ROs); the related control and monitoring mechanism of the survey and certification processes by the Member States. As per the request of the member state IMO designate a team of auditors to examine the compliance issues as per the rules and regulations formulated by IMO. The auditors upon auditing any member states submits their report to IMO, which is mutually agreed by the auditors and the member states. The member states then take required measures to rectify the deficiencies if there is any.


Port State Control (PSC). Port State Control measures are conducted by the port states for any of the foreign ships visiting their port. It is the inspection of foreign ships in national ports to verify that the condition of the ship and its equipment comply with the requirements of international regulations and that the ship is manned and operated in compliance with these rules. It thus ensure safe and secure shipping in the global shipping industry. There are nine regional agreements on port State control – Memoranda of Understanding or MoUs – have been signed: Europe and the north Atlantic (Paris MoU); Asia and the Pacific (Tokyo MoU); Latin America (Acuerdo de Viña del Mar); Caribbean (Caribbean MoU); West and Central Africa (Abuja MoU); the Black Sea region (Black Sea MoU); the Mediterranean (Mediterranean MoU); the Indian Ocean Region (Indian Ocean MoU); and the Riyadh MoU. The United States Coast Guard maintain the tenth PSC regime. Bangladesh is a party to the Indian Ocean Region (Indian Ocean MoU). The regional Headquarter of Indian Ocean Port State Control is located at Goa, India. Bangladesh reports to Goa for all the port state control measures conducted by Bangladesh.


Engagement of Bangladesh with IMO


Since independence, Bangladesh has been an active member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). She is party to most of IMO’s major conventions. The country highly values the UN body’s role as global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. The government highly recognizes the IMO’s role to create a regulatory framework for fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented shipping industry. In line with the IMO guidelines, the government of Bangladesh is committed to ensure safety of life at sea, security and protection of marine environment.


Hitherto, the government has ratified and acceded to 27 of the IMO conventions and protocols including the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)- 1974, and implemented Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) of ship, International Safety Management Code and International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Bangladesh also implemented the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW), Manila Amendment-2010, including framing national rules on STCW 2010 in 2011.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh signed a landmark agreement to work together to improve safety and environmental standards in the country’s ship-recycling industry in April 2014. Since then IMO and Bangladesh jointly implemented a project entitled “Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling in Bangladesh – Phase I” and now in the process of implementing Phase II. With these projects the overall standard of Ship Recycling of Bangladesh have improved a lot.


Complying with Maritime Navigation and Safety.      As per the requirement of IMO Bangladesh maintain navigational aid along its coast. It also performs its responsibility as Search and Rescue Coordinator in this region. To improve the overall navigational facilities along the coast and also to fulfill the IMO guidelines, Bangladesh is in the process of establishingGlobal Maritime Integrated Navigation System with 24/7 operational command and control centre for search and rescue and emergency response. Bangladesh is actively involved in combatting piracy and armed robbery in the Asia Pacific region through its membership with the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). In 2009 and 2010, Bangladesh had the best track record in combatting armed robbery. The implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code by Bangladesh is worth noting. The member states value Bangladesh’s passionate engagement with the IMO in its endeavor to guarantee maritime safety and security and protection of the marine environment.


Presence of Bangladesh in IMO Council


Becoming member in 1976, Bangladesh endeavored to become a council member and in 1981 Bangladesh could take its position in the council in Category-C. From 1981 to 1987 Bangladesh could maintain its position as Category C member in the IMO Council. Subsequently Bangladesh had served as a Category-B Member of the Council between 2001 and 2017, maintaining its firm commitment to the goals and objectives of the global maritime body.


Besides becoming Council member Bangladesh chaired the Technical Cooperation Committee between 2000 and 2004. It also had the honour of chairing various working groups, drafting groups and correspondence groups—development of Assembly resolution and guidelines on ship recycling, revision of the Fishing Vessels Safety Code and Voluntary Guidelines, follow up of the 1995 STCW Conference, Training of Maritime Pilots, and so forth.


In 2015, a Bangladeshi national was elected Director General of International Mobile Satellite Organizations (IMSO) and was reelected in 2019 for further tenure of two years.  Officers from Department of Shipping, Bangladesh regularly attends IMO Assembly, Council, Committee and Sub-Committee meetings.




IMO as a global organization is committed to ensure safe, secure and environment friendly shipping. To ensure those responsibilities IMO promulgates different conventions, Protocols, Legal instruments and codes. Bangladesh being a member state ratified the conventions those mostly affects its maritime and shipping industry and also those which has a wider affect in the industry. So far Bangladesh ratified about 27 IMO Conventions and there are a number of conventions under scrutiny for accession. Bangladesh actively engages with IMO matters and contributes effectively in its law making process. Besides becoming member of IMO Bangladesh also is a member of other international organization like; ReCAAP, Indian Ocean MoU etc. which, coordinate, implement or monitor the compliance of IMO rules and regulations. Bangladesh maintains a good track record of implementing IMO rules and regulations in its maritime industry and shipping. Maritime legislation of Bangladesh is now being reviewed by the maritime experts. This will give effect of the IMO conventions, rules and regulations into the national maritime legislation of Bangladesh. Bangladesh remained in the Council of IMO for a long time and contributed effectively in all its activities. Bangladesh recently undertook IMO mandatory audit scheme and proved to be a compliant member state as per the requirements of the audit. It is expected that Bangladesh would maintain its commitment with IMO in the future days as well.

বাংলায় আর্টিকেলটি পড়তে এখানে ক্লিক করুন : http://shorturl.at/crwD5


  1. http://www.imo.org/en/About/Membership/Pages/Default.aspx
  2. http://www.imo.org/en/About/Conventions/Pages/Home.aspx

3.  http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/MSAS/Pages/AuditScheme.aspx


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