Change the IMO? That's For Member States to Decide

IMO meeting

By The Maritime Executive 04-04-2018 05:54:07

Transparency International has proposed a number of changes that it says could make the IMO better able to serve the interests of the world's citizens on issues such as greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, though, it's up to Member States to decide whether to take on any recommendations from an external NGO. 

The Transparency International proposals include requirements for state representatives to demonstrate an absence of conflicts of interest in their role as national delegates, including through disclosure of assets, and modifying the ratification process for IMO conventions so that the importance of tonnage as a measure of a state’s influence is reduced. The organization also recommends the introduction of a quota system for consultative members to ensure a more balanced representation among different interest groups. 

Transparency International notes that the majority of the world’s commercial fleet (52 percent) is registered in only five states - Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas. Together, they contribute 43.5 percent of the total funding from the IMO’s 170 member states. 

There should be no delay on action to combat climate change, says Transparency International. The Intersessional Working Group on GHG Emissions from Ships meeting in London this week should set ambitious targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, and begin taking measurable action now.

“The IMO was assigned the task of limiting and reducing emissions from shipping under the Kyoto Protocol back in 1997,” said Brice Böhmer, coordinator of the Climate Governance Integrity Program at Transparency International. “However, it took until 2016 for the IMO to even agree on a roadmap towards an initial strategy, due in 2018, and a revised strategy, due only in 2023. A well-functioning organization’s governance structure should enable decisive action, but the governance flaws identified by our research suggests that this is not happening at the IMO because policy-making could be overly controlled by private companies.”

In response to the Transparency International proposals, the IMO's Legal Affairs and External Relations Division has responded to The Maritime Executive highlighting that the IMO is a Member State organization. Governance of the Organization is the prerogative of its 173 Member States and three Associate Members. This governance conforms to the IMO Convention and the rules, regulations and policies that emanate  from it, including relevant policies of the United Nations system as a whole.

In terms of Member States’ representatives, this is a decision for the Member States. The decision as to who represents a particular Government is a decision for that Government. Credentials for members of a country’s delegation must be “issued by the Head of State or by the Head of Government or by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or by an appropriate authority properly designated by one of them to act for this purpose.”

This is set out in the IMO convention, and any amendments to the IMO Convention have to be proposed by a Member State.

The entry into force criteria for each treaty is decided by the Member States when the treaty is adopted. So there would be a discussion on what the criteria should be. This might for example take into account the need to ensure wide acceptance before entry into force so that the majority of ships are covered by the specific treaty.

The IMO Member State Audit Scheme has been adopted and is being implemented. This is intended to provide an audited Member State with a comprehensive and objective assessment of how effectively it administers and implements those mandatory IMO instruments which are covered by the Scheme. The scheme has been mandatory since beginning of 2016 with around 20 audits being completed each year.  A Member State must have an audit at least once every seven years. 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 watchkeeping 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).

In response to the challenge that IMO has been slow to act on greenhouse gases, the IMO responded to The Maritime Executive stating:

There has been action, with the adoption of energy efficiency measures in 2011 (they entered into force in 2013). Two global multi-million dollar projects are also supporting countries to effectively implement these requirements and encourage innovations – specifically the GEF-UNDP-IMO Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership (GloMEEP) Project, which aims to build understanding and knowledge of technical and operational energy-efficiency measures and the E.U.-funded Global MTTC Network (GMN) – formally titled “Capacity Building for Climate Mitigation in the Maritime Shipping Industry ” – which unites technology centers – Maritime Technologies Cooperation Centres (MTCCs) – in targeted regions into a global network. Both projects target developing countries.