Water Shipping

Written by Shirley Parker
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The safety and security of water shipping is the responsibility of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), set up under the patronage of a 1948 Geneva Convention of the United Nations. IMO didn't actually meet for the first time until 1959, but it has been preparing technical resolutions and recommendations ever since, through a number of committees and sub-committees. IMO is also responsible for measures to prevent marine pollution and is involved in legal areas as well, including liability and compensation.

Shipping standards need to be universal to prevent countries with lax standards turning into refuges for sub-standard vessels. Even today, some member states don't enforce international laws. Poor repair records result in high casualty rates with their shipping. This includes pollution from many oil spills at sea. The shipping industry only began to recognize the severity of ocean pollution after the Torrey Canyon ran aground off the United Kingdom in 1967. Many new conventions have been implemented since then, including anti-dumping regulations and mandatory traffic separation to prevent collisions.

Because IMO has 164 member states, agreement on and acceptance of new amendments can be time-consuming. Yet when the threat is very serious, IMO acts quickly, due in part to enhanced rules of procedure. Obligatory security measures now include detailed requirements for shipping companies, as well as port authorities and governments. Piracy continues to be a savage problem that won't go away; pirates were never cute or romantic, and remain murderous today. When piracy happens in territorial waters, it is called "armed robbery," but a rose by any other name ... .

International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code

IMDG is a uniform method of dealing with the packaging and shipping of dangerous goods. Stowing the cargo for transit is equally important, in order to keep explosive or flammable materials separated from each other and everything else. Essentially all sections of the code are now mandatory, from the legal point of view, as of January 1, 2004.


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