IMO maritime safety instruments – Summarised

Below are some Marine Safety instrument name, Abbreviated Name, Date of entry into force:

1. International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 , SOLAS 1974 ·         Chief maritime safety convention. Replaced SOLAS 1960 and introduced “tacit acceptance” amendment procedure to speed up introduction of amendments. Technical provisions in 12 chapters , Amended numerous times.     Given effect in UK by several SIs, ·         In force 25 May 1980. –  1978 Protocol in force 1 May 1981.

2. International Convention on Load Lines, 1966, LL 1966  ·
Limits, by means of minimum freeboards, draughts to which ships may be loaded, taking intoaccount hazards in different zones and seasons. Prescribes minimum standards for external weathertight and watertight integrity.
Currently under revision. Given effect in UK by MS (Load Line) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/2241), as amended. ·         In force 21 Jul 1968. –  1988 Protocol in force 3 Feb 2000.

  1.  Special Trade Passenger Ships Agreement, 1971, STP 1971 · Regulates carriage of large numbers of unberthed passengers in special trades such as the pilgrim trade. Annexed Special Trade Passenger Ships Rules, 1971 modify regulations of Chapters II and III of SOLAS 1960 Convention. Complemented by Protocol on Space Requirements for Special Trade Passenger Ships, 1973. –   In force 2 Jan 1974.

4. Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972, COLREG 1972 ·         Replaced 1960 Convention and Rules. Technical provisions in 38 Rules and 4 Annexes (“Colregs”) which apply to all ships on the high seas, etc. Amended 1981, 1987, 1989, 1993. Gives recognition to traffic separation schemes. ·         Given effect in UK by MS (Safety of Navigation) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/1473).   –    In force 15 Jul 1977.

5.  International Convention for Safe Containers, 1972, CSC 1972 · Aims to ensure safety in transport and handling of containers through acceptable test procedures and strength requirements.    Also aims to facilitate international transport of containers by providing uniform international safety regulations, equally applicable to all modes of surface transport, so as to avoid proliferation of divergent national safety regulations. –   In force 6 Sep 1977.

6. Convention on the International Maritime Satellite Organization, 1976, INMARSAT C 1976 ·         Parent of INMARSAT organisation. Defines purposes of INMARSAT as being to improve maritime communications, thereby assisting in improving distress and safety of life at sea communications, the efficiency and management of ships, maritime public correspondence services, and radio-determination capabilities. ·         INMARSAT’S obligation to provide maritime distress and safety services via satellite were enshrined within 1988 (GMDSS) amendments to SOLAS. –   In force 16 Jul 1979.
Ø  Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1993, SFV Protocol 1993      Updates, amends and absorbs parent SFV Convention 1977. Applies to fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over including those vessels also processing their catch. Safety provisions in 10-chapter Annex.

7. International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers, 1978, STCW 1978      Provides minimum international requirements for training, certification and watch keeping, replacing nationally-set standards. Applies to ships of non-party States when visiting ports of Party States.         Given effect in UK by MS (Training and Certification) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/348) and MS (Safe Manning, Hours of Work and Watchkeeping) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/1320). –    In force 28 April 1984.          1995 amendments (STCW 95, including STCW Code) – In force 1 Feb 2002.

8. International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979,  SAR 1979
·  Aims at developing an international SAR plan, so that no matter where an accident occurs, rescue of persons in distress at sea will be co-ordinated by a SAR organisation and, when necessary, by co-operation between neighbouring SAR organisations.  Parties must ensure arrangements are made for provision of adequate SAR services in their coastal waters and are encouraged to enter into SAR agreements with neighbouring States. –   In force 22 Jun 1985.

9. International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995, STCW-F 1995       Aims to make standards of safety for crews of fishing vessels mandatory. Will apply to crews of seagoing fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and above. Short convention has an annex containing technical regulations. Ø  STCW 1978 was revised at a conference in London in July 1995; the revised convention is generally known as STCW 95

IMO marine pollution instruments

1. International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, 1969,  INTERVENTION 1969, INTERVENTION Protocol 1973

Ø  Affirms the right of a coastal State to take such measures on the high seas as may be necessary to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger to its coastline or related interests from pollution by oil or the threat thereof, following a maritime casualty. 1973 Protocol extends Convention to cover substances other than oil. –  In force 6 May 1975, 1973 Protocol in force 30 Mar 1983.

2.Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972; LC 1972 , LC Protocol 1996
Ø  Known as “London Convention”. Prohibits dumping of certain hazardous materials. Requires a prior special permit for dumping of a number of other identified materials and a prior general permit for other wastes or matter. Defines “dumping” as deliberate disposal at sea of wastes or other matter from vessels, aircraft, platforms or other man-made structures, as well as the deliberate disposal of these vessels or platforms themselves. (Definition excludes wastes derived from exploration and exploitation of sea-bed mineral resources.) Contracting Parties undertake to designate an authority to deal with permits, keep records, and monitor the condition of sea. –  In force 30 Aug 1975.

  1. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto MARPOL 73/78 –    Annexes I/II
    Ø  Chief convention aimed at prevention of pollution of marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.  Combination of two treaties, adopted 1973 and 1978. Annexes I and II are mandatory. Amended many times. Annex I given effect in UK by MS (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/2154); Annex II given effect in UK by MS (Dangerous or Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/3010). – In force 2 Oct 1983.
  2. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto MARPOL 73/78 –       Annex III
    Ø  Provides controls for prevention of pollution by packaged harmful substances, i.e. dangerous goods and marine pollutants. Optional annex. Given effect in UK by MS (Dangerous Goods & Marine Pollutants) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/2367) –     In force 1 Jul 1992.

5.       International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto MARPOL 73/78 – Annex IV
Ø  Provides controls for prevention of pollution from ships’ sewage. Optional annex. Will be given effect in UK by new MS (Prevention of Pollution by Sewage) Regulations. –    In force 27 Sep 2003.

6.       International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto MARPOL 73/78 –    Annex V
Ø  Provides controls for prevention of pollution from ships’ garbage. Optional annex. Given effect in UK by MS (Prevention of  pollution by Garbage) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1377). –  In force 31 Dec 1988.

7. International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto MARPOL Protocol 1997 –    (Annex VI)
Ø  Provides controls for prevention of air pollution from ships.

8. International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation, 1990 –  OPRC 1990
Ø  Parties must establish measures for dealing with pollution incidents, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries. Ships must carry a shipboard oil pollution emergency plan (SOPEP). Ships must report incidents of pollution to coastal  authorities. Provides for establishment of stockpiles of oil spill combating equipment, holding of oil spill combating exercises and the development of detailed plans for dealing with pollution incidents. Parties must provide assistance to others in the event of a pollution emergency and provision is made for the reimbursement of any assistance provided. Given effect in UK by MS (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1056), as amended. –         In force 13 May 1995.

9.       Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 2000 –   OPRC/HNS 2000
Ø  Aims to provide a global framework for international co-operation in combating major incidents or threats of marine pollution. Parties must establish measures for dealing with pollution incidents, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries. Ships must carry a shipboard pollution emergency plan to deal specifically with incidents involving HNS.

10.    International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001 –      AFS 2001
Ø  Prohibits use of harmful organotins in anti-fouling paints used on ships and establishes a mechanism to prevent potential future use of other harmful substances in anti-fouling systems.

IMO liability and compensation instruments:

1.International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969,   CLC 1969,   CLC Protocol 1976,  CLC Protocol 1992 (often called CLC Convention 1992)
Ø  Aims at ensuring that adequate compensation is available to persons suffering oil pollution damage from maritime casualties involving oil-carrying ships. Applied to seagoing vessels carrying bulk oil cargoes. Ships carrying more than 2,000 tons of oil as cargo must maintain oil pollution insurance. Spills from tankers in ballast or bunker spills from ships other than other than  tankers were not covered. 1969 convention replaced by 1992 Protocol, which extended cover to both loaded and unladen tankers, including bunker oil spills. CLC 1992

· intended to eventually replace the CLC 1969. Some States Party to 1969 CLC have not yet ratified the 1992 Protocol; for the time being, therefore, both regimes are co-existing.

· Given effect in UK by Chapter III of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.,  In force 19 Jun 1975

· 1976 Protocol in force 8 Apr 1981, 1992 Protocol in force 30 May 1996.

2.       International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1971 – FUND 1971, FUND Protocol 1976, FUND Protocol 1992(often called Fund Convention 1992), FUND Protocol 2003
Ø  Aims mainly at providing compensation for pollution damage to the extent that the protection afforded by 1969 Civil Liability Convention (CLC) is inadequate, and to give relief to shipowners in respect of additional financial burden imposed on them by the 1969 CLC.
·1971 Convention ceased to be in force, following denunciations, on 24 May 2002; superseded by FUND Protocol 2000.  Given effect in UK by Chapter IV of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
· 1976 Protocol in force 22 Nov 1994., 1992 Protocol in force 30 May 1996.
·2000 Amendments in force 1 Nov 2003., 2003 Protocol not in force. No Contracting States.

  1. Convention relating to Civil Liability in the Field of Maritime Carriage of Nuclear Materials, 1971; NUCLEAR 1971
    Ø  Aims to resolve difficulties and conflicts arising from simultaneous application to nuclear damage of certain conventions dealing with shipowners’ liability, as well as other conventions which placed liability arising from nuclear incidents on the operators of the nuclear installations from which or to which the material in question was being transported. Provides that a person otherwise liable for damage caused in a nuclear incident will be exonerated for liability if the operator of the nuclear installation is also liable for such damage under the Paris Convention, 1960 or the Vienna Convention, 1963, or national law similar in the scope of protection given to the persons suffering damage. –   In force 15 Jul 1975

4.       Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974
·PAL 1974, PAL Protocol 1976, PAL Protocol 1990, PAL Protocol 2002
Ø  Usually called the Athens Convention. Establishes liability regime for damage suffered by passengers carried on a seagoing vessel. Makes carrier liable for damage or loss suffered by a passenger if the incident causing the damage occurred in the course of the carriage and was due to the fault or neglect of the carrier. Unless carrier acted with intent to cause such damage, or recklessly and with knowledge that such damage would probably result, he can limit his liability. Sets limits of carrier’s liability.  Given effect in UK by section 183 and Schedule 6 of Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
·In force 28 Apr 1987; 1976 Protocol in force 30 Apr 1989.
·1990 Protocol not yet in force; 2002 Protocol not yet in force.

5.       Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976,     LLMC 1976,      LLMC Protocol 1996
Ø  Specifies limits of liability for claims for loss of life or personal injury, and property claims (such as damage to other ships, property or harbour works). Limitation amounts are expressed in terms of “units of account”, each unit being equivalent in value to the Special Drawing Right (SDR) as defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For personal claims, liability for ships not exceeding 500 tons is limited to 330,000 SDR (equivalent to around US$422,000). For larger ships, additional amounts are based on a tonnage scale. Provides for a virtually unbreakable system of limiting liability. Declares that a person will not be able to limit liability only if “it is proved that the loss resulted from his personal act or omission, committed with the intent to cause such a loss, or recklessly and with knowledge that such loss would probably result”.  Given effect in UK by section 185 and Schedule 7 of Merchant Shipping Act 1995. –  In force 1 Dec1986.          1996 Protocol.

6.       International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 1996 ,HNS 1996
Ø  Aims at ensuring that compensation is available to victims of accidents involving HNS, which include oils; other liquid  substances defined as noxious or dangerous; liquefied gases; liquid substances with a flashpoint not exceeding 60°C; dangerous, hazardous and harmful materials and substances carried in packaged form; and solid bulk materials defined as possessing chemical hazards. Also covers residues left by the previous carriage of HNS, other than those carried in packaged form. Based on 2-tier system established under CLC and Fund Conventions but covers not only pollution damage but also risks of fire and explosion, including loss of life or personal injury and loss of or damage to property.

7.       International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001, BUNKERS 2001
Aims at ensuring that compensation is available to persons who suffer damage caused by bunker oil spills. Applies to damage caused on the territory, including the territorial sea, and in exclusive economic zones of Party States

IMO instruments concerning other subjects:-

1.       Convention on Facilitation on International Maritime Traffic, 1965 , FAL 1965
Ø  Aims to facilitate maritime transport by simplifying and minimising the formalities, documentary requirements and procedures associated with the arrival, stay and departure of ships engaged on international voyages, including all documents required by customs, immigration, health and other public authorities pertaining to the ship, its crew and passengers, baggage, cargo and mail. –   In force 5 Mar 1967

2.       International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships, 1969; TONNAGE 1969
Ø  Introduced a universal tonnage measurement system. Provides for gross and net tonnages, both of which are calculated  independently. –       In force 18 Jul 1982.

3.       Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988, – SUA 1988
Ø  Aims at ensuring that appropriate judicial action is taken against persons committing acts against ships, which include the seizure of ships by force, acts of violence against persons on board ships, and the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it. Obliges Contracting Governments either to extradite or prosecute alleged offenders. The Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, 1988 provides similar regulations relating to fixed platforms located on the Continental Shelf. Both instruments under review (at time of writing) following terrorist attacks in USA on 11 September 2001. –   In force 1 Mar 1992. ; ·         SUA Protocol 1988 in force 1 Mar 1992

4.       International Convention on Salvage, 1989 – SALVAGE 1989
Ø  Replaced 1910 convention on salvage law which incorporated “no cure, no pay” principle but gave no incentive for salvors to attempt to preserve the environment where the prospect of saving property was small. Provides for an enhanced salvage award, taking into account skill and efforts of salvors in preventing or minimising damage to environment.  Given effect in UK by section 224(1)(2) and Schedule 11 of Merchant Shipping Act 1995. –    In force 14 Jul 1996.

Reference taken from below website:

IMO maintains a large library of maritime Internet links at ;

Address: International Maritime Organization, 4 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SR, England. Tel: 0171 7357611. Telex: 23588 IMOLDN G ;      Fax (general enquiries): 0171 587 3210. Fax (publications sales): 0171 587 3241. E-mail:;  Website:

Contributed by: Prashant Kumar, The Author has over 17 years of  experience in shipping, presently working as Deputy Technical Manager. The views are his own and do not represent his employer.


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