The International Maritime Organization (IMO) - Structure

The IMO's structure comprises the Assembly, the Council, the Maritime Safety Committee, the Marine Environment Protection Committee, the Legal Committee, the Technical Cooperation Committee, and the secretariat, headed by a Secretary-General.


The governing body of the IMO is the Assembly, composed of all IMO members. The Assembly determines the work program and votes on the budget to which all members contribute. It meets once every two years in regular sessions, but may also meet in extraordinary session if necessary.


Between sessions of the Assembly, the Council performs all functions of the organization except that of recommending the adoption of maritime safety regulations, a prerogative of the Maritime Safety Committee. The Council also has an important policymaking role. Drafts of international instruments and formal recommendations must be approved by the Council before they can be submitted to the Assembly.

The Council is made up of 40 members elected by the Assembly for two-year terms: ten members represent states with the largest international shipping services; ten represent states with the largest international seaborne trade; and 20 represent states, not elected under the foregoing categories, that have special interests in maritime transport or navigation and whose presence in the Council will ensure representation of the world's major geographic areas. The Council normally meets twice a year. The members of the Council elected by the 22st Assembly in 2002 for 2002–03 were: (from the first category) China, Greece, Italy, Japan, Norway, Panama, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States; (from the second category) Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden; and (from the last category) Australia, Bahamas, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Malta, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, and Venezuela.


The Maritime Safety Committee is made up of all IMO member states. Its work is carried out mainly through nine sub-committees working in the following areas: bulk liquids and gases; carriage of dangerous goods, solid cargoes and containers; fire protection; radiocommunication and search and rescue; safety of navigation; ship design and equipment; stability and load lines and fishing vessels safety; standards of training and watch-keeping; flag state implementation.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee is responsible for all matters relating to the prevention and control of marine pollution from ships.

The Legal Committee, established in the aftermath of the Torrey Canyon disaster of 1967 to deal with the legal problems arising from that incident, is responsible for any legal matter within the scope of the IMO.

The Technical Cooperation Committee coordinates the work of the IMO in providing technical assistance in the maritime field, especially to developing countries.

The Facilitation Committee is a subsidiary body of the Council. It was established in May 1972 and deals with IMO's work in eliminating unnecessary formalities and "red tape" in international shipping.

Secretary-General and Secretariat

The secretariat consists of a Secretary-General, appointed by the Council with the approval of the Assembly, and an international staff of about 300. IMO headquarters are at 4 Albert Embankment, London, England, UK, SE1, 7SR.

The Secretary-General is William A. O'Neil, of Canada, who was appointed to the position with effect of 1 January 1990. He heads a staff of approximately 300.

User Contributions:

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Dec 9, 2012 @ 3:15 pm
I am a student in WORLD MARITIME UNIVERSITY,MALMO,SWEDEN,i am grateful for this piece of information and its perfection compared to what my lectures gave,it has broaden my view and i just want to say a big weldone to you guys up.
Best Regards
Egbegi Ekiemo Mathew
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Feb 19, 2013 @ 12:00 am
Its such a great honour to have very intelligent members of IMO, they derive mostly the element nor concept of being hinghly environmental responsive interms safety, sustainability and / preservation of our fragile economic environment. I am candidate from Durban University of Technology mojoring in Maritime Studies, and thus showing more interest in Maritime Law indeed. I therefor like this page as a centre for info and sharing Maritime related matters.
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Jan 20, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
I'm a student from National Institute of Transport, (Tanzania) I would like to thank for clear explanation about IMO's organization structure.
thanks in advance,
Kennedy Jakabondo
David Chinedu
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Mar 12, 2014 @ 1:01 am
Am very grateful for this explanation.Atleast i can now be able to draw a structure of IMO. Student of Federal University of Technology Owerri,Nigeria studying Maritime Management Technology.
Narh Tetteh Mershack
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May 29, 2014 @ 12:00 am
Thanks for the presentation . very useful. studying port and shipping administration at Regional Maritime University ( Ghana )
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Jul 7, 2015 @ 3:15 pm
Am very happy for this noble opportunity, which have helped me to understand the basic structure and committee of IMO, which today have contributed to my field. A student of POLITICAL SCIENCE, at IGNATIUS AJURU UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA
Chayan Chakraborty
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Jul 20, 2015 @ 11:11 am
Thanks for clear explanation, student of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
Michael Adu Mensah Essel
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May 2, 2017 @ 7:19 pm
I'm very pleased with this information. It's such a wonderful explanation which has enlightened my understanding to the basic functions of the IMO.
I'm a Port and Shipping Administration student of Regional Maritime University (Ghana).

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