IMO conventions – focus on maritime safety, pollution, liability and compensation

A complete list of maritime conventions from the IMO is given in Table 2.

The IMO conventions address safety, environment, liability and compensation, salvage, ship recycling, to mention the most important ones. Another way of saying it is that they focus on structure, organization, operation and technology.

There are a total of 32 adopted conventions, a few of them not yet entered into force, like the STCW-F 1995, BWM 2004, SUA 2005, NAIROBI WR 2007 and HONG KONG SRC 2009.

In additions there are a lot of protocols and amendments to the conventions, not all have entered into force yet.


ILO conventions – the people, working and living conditions


 The ILO perspective on shipping industry is different from that of IMO. ILO’s concern is the working environment and the health and welfare of workers.

A list of maritime conventions from the ILO is listed in Table 5.3.

There are 47 Conventions, including the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006. This convention consolidates a large number of earlier ones which will cease to be relevant to those countries that have ratified the MLC once it comes into force in August 2013. The earliest convention is from1919, and the latest from 2007.

The MLC will enter into force on the 21st August 2013. 30 nations representing more than a 50% share of the world’s gross tonnage have ratified the convention, thus meeting the requirements in the convention for its entry into force.



UNEP conventions – the environment

The United Nations Environmental Program has a third approach to shipping industry. Where IMO focuses on structure, technology, organization and operation and ILO focuses on people – UNEP focuses on the environment.

Although not usually named “UNEP Conventions” I will refer to these three conventions like this, for the purpose of understanding the connections between them.

The “UNEP conventions” of importance to maritime medicine encompasses three different conventions, namely the

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention or BC),  
  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for certain hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in international trade (Rotterdam Convention or PIC) and the  
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm Convention or POPS), see Table 5.4.  

They are usually called by the name of the city where they were adopted. The secretariats for all of them, however, is located in the UNEP Office in Geneva, Switzerland. 

We also have regional convention sunder the UNEP umbrella, for instance the Nairobi Convention

There is a permanent joint WG with members from the three secretariats of BC, PIC and POPS, coordinating their work.

Another important joint workgroup between ILO, IMO and the Basel Convention worked for several years with coordination of the development of ship scrapping guidelines along three different lines: people, technology and environment. Eventually, the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Hong Kong, China, in May 2009.


Regional regulations

The regulations from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) are not truly international but supranational in the European region. Nevertheless, they have a bearing far beyond the European borders, as some of them apply also to ships with non-European flags touching at European ports.

Another example of regional regulation is the Nairobi Convention (UNEP)- “Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of Marine and Coastal Environment of the Western Indian Ocean”.

The Convention offers a regional legal framework and coordinates the efforts of the member states to plan and develop programmes that strengthen their capacity to protect, manage and develop their coastal and marine environment sustainably.


Hague and Geneva conventions - Wartime

 Special conventions apply for wartime. These are known as the Hague and the Geneva Conventions. They are listed in Table 5.5 in chronological order.

These conventions apply not only to war in general, but specifically address the maritime side of it, and how to deal with wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea (2nd Geneva Convention), medical treatment as well as quarters, etc. for prisoners or war (3rd Geneva Convention), and how civilians are affected by war conditions (4th Geneva Convention). The last Convention is the most significant in the development of international humanitarian law.

It will be beyond the scope of this chapter to go into the detail of these conventions. By mentioning them I want to direct the reader’s attention to their existence as they also are of some importance for maritime medical professionals, although mostly for military (naval) personnel.