How Shipping Industry is Regulated

by OldSailor on October 7, 2007


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This post is to highlight how shipping which is a global industry is regulated internationally.

1. Shipping being a global industry requires international regulations to ensure sea worthiness of the ships, competence of the crew to man and navigate the ships, to maintain the oceans pollution free. The shipping industry is regulated by International Maritime Organization (IMO) whose Mission Statement is Safe, Secure and Efficient Shipping on Clean Oceans. IMO is a London based United Nations agency. International Labour Organization (ILO) is also responsible for framing the labour standards required for the seafarers worldwide.

2. IMO’s main task has been 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. IMO has 167 Member States.

3. The principal responsibility for enforcing IMO regulations concerning ship safety and environmental protection rests with the flag states (i.e. the countries in which merchant ships are registered – which may be different to the country in which they are owned). Flag states enforce IMO requirements through inspections of ships conducted by a network of international surveyors. Much of this work is delegated to bodies called classification societies. However, flag state enforcement is supplemented by what is known as Port State Control, whereby officials in any country which a ship may visit can inspect foreign flag ships to ensure that they comply with international requirements. Port State Control officers have the power to detain foreign ships in port if they do not conform to international requirements. As a consequence, most IMO regulations are enforced on a more or less global basis.

4. Principal regulations governing operation of ships:

· SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974) lays down a comprehensive range of minimum standards for the safe construction of ships and the basic safety equipment (e.g. fire protection, navigation, lifesaving and radio) to be carried on board. SOLAS also requires regular ship surveys and the issue by flag states of certificates of compliance.

· MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973/1978) contains requirements to prevent pollution that may be caused both accidentally and in the course of routine operations. MARPOL concerns the prevention of pollution from oil, bulk chemicals, dangerous goods, sewage, garbage and atmospheric pollution, and includes provisions such as those which require certain oil tankers to have double hulls.

· COLREG (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972) lays down the basic “rules of the road”, such as rights of way and actions to avoid collisions.

· LOADLINE (International Convention on Loadlines, 1966) sets the minimum permissible free board, according to the season of the year and the ship’s trading pattern.

· ISPS (The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, 2002) includes mandatory requirements to ensure ships and port facilities are secure at all stages during a voyage.

5. Principal regulations governing the Shipping Company:

· ISM (The International Safety Management Code, 1993) effectively requires shipping companies to have a licence to operate. Companies and their ships must undergo regular audits to ensure that a safety management system is in place, including adequate procedures and lines of communication between ships and their managers ashore.

6. Principal regulations governing the seafarer:

· STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978/1995) establishes uniform standards of competence for seafarers.

· ILO 147 (The ILO Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976) requires national administrations to have effective legislation on labour issues such as hours of work, medical fitness and seafarers’ working conditions.

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