IMO, A SEA OF DOCUMENTS (Assembly and Council)

International Maritime Organization has several Conventions and Protocol under its name. It publishes Codes, Resolutions, Recommendations, Circulars, Circular Letters, Notes, etc! Everything is related to the maritime affairs so a mariner ought to have user-friendly relationship with IMO documents. The idea being a mariner is able to navigate through the complex sea of documentation and at least get familiarized with some important documents.

The Maritime Knowledge Centre has archives of official documents and IMO Publications. It provides collections, information resources and services to support the IMO Secretariat, Member States, representatives and delegates. It also collects resources covering maritime affairs, shipping and other subjects relevant to the work of the Organization. The Maritime Knowledge Centre is associated with the global network of UN System Libraries, sharing expertise, best practices, resources and reciprocal services. The MKC collaborates research libraries to ensure access to authoritative maritime information.

IMO documents are available in PDF format in English, French and Spanish via the IMO website in the IMODOCS.

Following  documents are available in English, French and Spanish:

  • IMO documents and reports
  • Assembly Resolutions
  • Council documents
  • Conference documents
  • Circulars and Circular Letters

Additionally, in Arabic, Chinese and Russian the following are available:

  • Committee reports
  • Assembly Resolutions
  • Council decisions
  • Conferences and final Acts

Under IMO docs there are Public Account and accounts of IMO Members or the ones accessible by limited offices. Registration  is required to be done for free access to the public account. It can be done quickly and is easy. IMO Member Account can be accessed by authorized user such as an IMO Member Administration or appropriate Organizations like Intergovernmental agencies and Organisations in consultative status with the IMO.

A mariner is often confused about the implication, coverage and his responsibility about comprehending it. The mariner must first know about the infrastructure of the IMO and also the representation of different countries. He may also have an idea of the protocol followed in the publication of these documents. This would of course be interesting.

The idea of writing this article being, a mariner gets familiarized with the purpose of issuance of:
1. Resolutions; and
2. Circular letters.
Along with the other information such as: source office; the numbering system; and the abbreviated data used in the documents.

IMO Resolutions are adopted by the key Organs and Committees of the Organization.   Resolutions are first issued within the official IMO meeting reports and documents relating to the relevant Committee or Organ.  The reports and documents of IMO meetings, can be accessed after registration with IMODOCS, Meeting reports and other IMO documents earlier than 2000 are available in print in the Maritime Knowledge Centre.

Source of IMO Resolutions can be one or more of the following:

  • Assembly (A) 
  • Council (C) 
  • Facilitation Committee (FAL) 
  • Legal Committee (LEG)  
  • London Convention (LDC, LC) and London Protocol (LP) 
  • Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 
  • Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 
  • Technical Co-operation Committee (TC)

Documentation by Assembly The IMO Assembly is the highest Governing Body of the Organisation,  consisting of all Member States, meeting once every two years in regular sessions, (unless if it is an extraordinary session). The Assembly apart from adopting Resolution also deals with administrative activities in respect of finances, budgeting, programme scheduling. It also elects the Council. Following is the format of a typical Assembly Resolution. The following Resolution is adopted at the 30th session of Assembly. Successive sessions are held at the interval of two years, generally in the month of November or December. Thus, the 30th session was held in 2017. The 29th must have been held in 2015.

The Assembly session number and year of session are related by the following formula:

1.   Assembly
2.   30th Session
3.   Agenda item number
4.   The sequential number (since the first meeting), of Resolution
5.   Date of adoption
6.   Language
7.    Title: Survey guidelines under the harmonized system of survey and certification (HSSC), 2017.

Resolution A 1120(30), in the introductory part makes reference to various IMO instruments such as Conventions and Codes. Thus, with the SOLAS, 74, ILL, 66, MARPOL 73/78, IBC, IGC & BCH Codes, etc having incorporated Harmonized System of Survey and Certification, the guidelines are provided.

Another example being:

Note that the time interval between two successive sessions is 2 years.
8.   Referring to the article or regulation of Convention for relating or authorising.
9.   General effect of Resolution.
10. Specific effect of Resolution. The following Resolution is from one of the earliest of sessions. Then the official name of Organization was IMCO.

The data found on above Resolution, different than the details found on the the regular Assembly Resolution are:
11. The earlier name of IMO.
12. Forth extra Ordinary Session.
Thus, a Resolution can be recommending type, whereby various relevant Parties get informed of future intentions in respect of change. The objective may also be to publish a progressive report on which, a Subcommittee or Subcommittees are working and further views, remarks etc are expected prior a final form. Thus, many Resolutions revoke the earlier Resolutions upon adoption. Many Codes and Guidelines are adopted as Resolutions prior taking the final form. In any case Resolution is a wonderful way of much needed worldwide announcement of the views and intentions of Organization, where the shipping being a truly global business.

Council Documents
The Council is the Executive Organ of the IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organisation. The important thing to note here being, between the sessions of the Assembly the Council performs all the functions of the Assembly, except the function of making recommendations to Governments on Maritime Safety and Pollution Prevention which is reserved for the Assembly by Article 15(j) of the Convention.

13. Council
14. Sequential number of Resolution
15. 88th session

The sessions of IMO Assembly, prior and after the above date were held say, in Nov, 2001 & Nov 2003. (end part of odd year). Note, the date is such that there are 18 (more) months to go prior the next Assembly session. Issuance of a Resolution on important subject as above is justified. This Resolution differentiates and validates the institutionalizing of FAL Convention as from the ratification. Thus, in a way it prepares the world to welcome FAL as one of the committees. The introductory text being as follows:

THE COUNCIL RECALLING Resolution A.724(17) adopted by the Assembly on 7 November 1991 relating to the adoption of amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organization, in particular operative paragraph 1 consisting of amendments to Articles 11,15, 21, 25, 56 and 57; the addition of a new part XI consisting of new Articles 47 to 51; other consequential renumbering; and other consequential changes to the references to the renumbered parts of the IMO Convention, with a view to institutionalizing the Facilitation Committee (the 1991 Amendments to the IMO Convention),

FURTHER STRESSING that acceptance of the 1991 Amendments to the IMO Convention to institutionalize the Facilitation Committee and becoming a Party to the Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), 1965 are two separate matters, and that acceptance of the 1991 Amendments to the IMO Convention can be done independently of the ratification of the FAL Convention,

16. Reference to an earlier Resolution adopted by Assembly.

The Resolution referred to is of the year 1993. In the introductory remarks, Council urges those Member States that have not yet done so, to accept the 1993 Amendments to the IMO Convention as soon as possible with a view to achieving the requisite two-thirds of the Members of IMO in order to give effect to the desired early enlargement of the Council;

17. Twenty-ninth extraordinary session of the Council.
18. Provisional AGENDA for the session. 

In the 32nd Extraordinary Session (C ES 32), 4 May to 3 August 2020, Council stresses importance of the flow of trade by sea during the pandemic. The IMO Council has stressed the importance of keeping trade flowing during the pandemic, recognising the role of seafarers and emphasising the urgent need for action on crew change.  

In a statement adopted by the Council at its thirty-second extraordinary session, the Council  recalled its appreciation for the crews, seafarers, shore-based workers and personnel of the maritime community for enabling international trade to continue in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following Resolutions on PSC & ESP give an idea of global progression of a subject:

1. Port State Control

  • Resolution A.682(17) adopted on 6 November 1991 A 17/Res.682 21 November 1991 Original: English Regional Co-Operation in the control of ships and discharges
  • Resolution A. 787(19) adopted on 23 November 1995 Procedures for Port State Control
  • Resolution A.882(21) adopted on 25 November 1999 amendments to the procedures for Port State Control (Resolution A.787(19))
  • Resolution A.1052(27) Adopted on 30 November 2011 (Agenda item 9) Procedures for Port State Control, 2011
  • Resolution A.1119(30) Adopted on 6 December 2017 (Agenda item 9) Procedures for Port State Control, 2017

2. Enhanced Survey Programme

  • Resolution a.744(18) adopted on 4 November 1993 guidelines on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during surveys of bulk carriers and oil tankers
  • Resolution a.1049(27) adopted on 30 November 2011 (agenda item 9) international code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during surveys of bulk carriers and oil tankers, 2011 (2011 ESP Code).

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