IMO becoming recognised as universal lawmaker

June 15, 1999

Lawyers at Utrecht University have shown that many states now apply International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules to all ships within their economic zones, even if these are flying the flag of a state which is not formally bound to these rules. It would seem that the IMO has become a universal law maker and that this United Nations agency is gaining increasing control of safety at sea and of pollution caused by ships. The Utrecht project is funded by the NWO.

The IMO plays a key role in the application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (The Law of the Sea Convention, 1982), which subjects signatory states to generally accepted rules and standards. Before the convention entered into force, international shipping was subject to a wide range of national regulations. A universal law maker was necessary, for one thing to protect the sea from pollution. The Dutch study has shown that the IMO has now successfully assumed this role. Coastal states also apply IMO norms in areas in which they in fact have the right to apply national regulations.

The IMO has some 150 member states, covering about 95% of the world's merchant ships. IMO regulations set out requirements for the construction, equipment and crewing of ships, with a view to preventing disasters and minimising the results of mishaps.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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