The IMO and ILO, two different Organizations. The IMO is pure maritime orientated, while the ILO is broad and is orientated to all kind of labour.
The IMO is looking at the technical aspects of a ship, the ILO takes care about the social aspects of the crew. So what is more important? Since 1914 the trend was to look only at survival issues of a ship. The fact that most disasters were caused by failure of people was not important enough to actually look into this human factor.
The IMO have a strong believe that new codes like ISM will solve this matter. The ILO follows the path of resting hours, better education, better contracts and better living circumstances. Finally both international organizations are now joining force on several factors which influence human behavior.
In the following article, both maritime organizations are introduced with their key facts.
IMO – International Maritime Organization
The IMO is founded in 1948 by the United Nations at a convention in Geneva. The IMO is seated in London and will organize the conventions with its members. Almost all flag States nowadays are member and only a few countries in Africa and Middle East are not yet a member.
The main focus of the IMO is to increase the maritime safety for ships, for people working on the ships and for the environment. They use the conventions as a tool to implement their thoughts into international legislation. To prepare the conventions there are two main committees:
- MSC (Maritime Safety Committee)
- MEPC (Marine Environment Protection Committee)
Of course these main committees have several sub committees.
To turn a convention into legislation enough members have to ratify the convention. The IMO is keeping track of this process. As soon as there are enough members who ratified the convention, this convention will come into force and the port state officer will check the ships against these new regulations.
The convention itself declares how many signatures have to be present before the convention will receive international legally status.. Most of the time the amount of flag States and the amount of gross tonnage they represent is counted. This means that a flag state who represent a large quantity of gross tonnage will have a great influence on the ratification and there for also on the conventions itself.
The difference between conventions / protocols / resolution / amendment / circular
The IMO sees herself as a maritime law factory. Too many lawyers are busy complicating the wording as much as possible for people who actual has to follow this stuff. As the terms in the heading always confused me, I like to explain them in a few lines.
The convention is just the meeting with the members
As soon as a convention is a success there will be a reporting process. This report is called protocol. The protocol will specify in details all agreements between the different governments.
The protocols are published in book form by the IMO like MARPOL, SOLAS, Load Line and so on …all can be found in their shop.
Despite the fact that I always assumed that these where mandatory to have them on board of your ship, this is not true. In MSC-MEPC.2/Circ.2 it is declared that this subject to your flag or your SMS manual.
The amendments to the protocols are written by MSC or MEPC and are called resolutions. A resolution is a written motion adopted by the IMO.
For example a certain MSC resolution is announced like MSC290(87). This means that resolution no.290 is adopted during the 87th meeting of the MSC (Maritime Safety Committee). The resolution becomes almost naturally a new amendment unless one third of the contracting governments object (or the amount of contracting governments who represents at least 50% of the gross tonnage) the resolution.
The MSC and MEPC tries to follow with their resolution the technical improvements of the industry. These resolutions are for free and if you know the specific number you can easily Google them.
In the resolution or amendments there are circulars mentioned. These are the guidelines or unified interpretation on how to implement some parts of the resolution or protocol.
A circular is normally written by a subgroup. So if the circular start with SN/Circ 227 Than it is the 227th circular from the safety navigation subgroup . All these different numbers
makes it a difficult to find your way through it. But on the IMO site, you can register yourself for free and you will have free access to all circulars per group (there are around 45 sub groups),
while the MSC and MEPC have only around 9 sub committees.
Typical agreements in a protocol
As all the maritime protocols and amendments are coming from the IMO, one can expect that the reporting of the several conventions are look alike. Most of the protocols have the following points:
- When does the protocol comes into force
- How is the process of the ratification
- How is the process of the acceptance of amendments
- The definitions used in the protocol
- The possible exemptions for a flag State
- Which specific ship has to follow which regulation. Most of the times the ships length, ships type,
ships gross tonnage are used
- The surveys, the certification and the role of the port State
- The layouts of certificates can be found in the protocol.
The main protocols SOLAS, MARPOL, Loadline
General speaking the application of the protocols applies to all ships propelled with mechanical means on a international voyage, the exceptions like warships,
non- commercial yachts, ships below a certain amount of tonnage or length,
MARPOL applies for all ships. However the survey line is only 150 ton for a tanker and 400 ton for any other vessel. The MARPOL protocol is the most structured booklet. If you want to know something for a certificate you can go directly to that Annex.
In the Load Line convention there is no tonnage but they look at 24 meter and there is the exception for war ship, fishing vessels and pleasure yachts. The Load Line convention is very thin and hard to follow.
The tonnage line is in general for SOLAS 500 ton, but for the radio equipment this 400 ton. The SOLAS is divided into chapters:
- Chapter 2 is for contruction
- Chapter 2,3 and 5 is for safety equipment
- Chapter 4 is for the radio communication
- Chapter 9 en 11-1 is ISM
- Chapter 11-2 is voor ISPS
- Chapter 6,7,8,10,12 are for tankers, bulk, ships with dangerous cargo, nuclear ships, high speed ships
- appendix you can find the templates of the different certificates from SOLAS
The SOLAS makes in their text several codes mandatory.
- mandatory ISM code
- (comply with) ISPS code
- mandatory high speed craft code
- (comply with) IMSBC code (for solid bulk carriers)
- (comply with) IMDG code
- LSA code the SOLAS does a referral on every topic in her text to this code
ILO – International Labour Organization
The ILO (International Labour Organization) was founded in 1919 and belongs to the United Nations since 1948 (same year as the IMO is started by the United Nations).
Equally rights in labour like payment and working hours and protection of the weak, like children and sick people are the mayor objectives of this Organization. The ILO is
working world wide and the Maritime Section is just a part of it.
MLC – Maritime Labour Convention
This convention starts with pointing to the law of the sea 1982 article 94 where the administrations had already different obligations towards the seafarer.
There were also already some non mandatory forms for a ship, these were focused on the habitation on a ship by the crew. This questionnaire was full with questions like the size of the cabins, size of bed, but also about the hospital and common spaces.
The new MLC2006 came into force 20 August 2013. Some main changes are:
- Ships should have decent living quarters
- Contracts of the seaman are more regulated and documented
- Complaint procedure for the seafarer
- Crewing agencies have to be audited
- Working and resting hours
- Young seafarer may not work during night hours and has longer resting hours
- Training are extended from watch keepers to all labour on board, including e.g.the steward