UPDATE: Researching International Marine Environmental Law


By Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi


Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi (Aru) retired in July 2013 as a Senior Research Librarian from the Rittenberg Law Library of St. John's University School of Law.  Her interest in the Marine Environment has inspired her to undertake this update.  Prior to joining St. John's in 1991, Aru worked as the Senior Information Specialist at the corporate headquarters of the Exxon Corporation in New York.  In addition to a Masters in Library Science from St. John's University, she holds a Masters in Government and Politics where she specialized in International Law.  She wrote a thesis entitled International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments of 2004: An Analysis of Logical and Practical Aspects.  She has earned a certificate from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in International Environmental Law. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Geology from Poona University.  She has presented on the topic of international marine environment to the Indian Society of International Law and American Association of Law Librarians.


The author would like to thank to William Manz, her former colleague at St. John’s, for reading and offering editorial assistance.


Published September 2016

(Previously updated in Nov. 2007, Jan./Feb. 2010, and Sept. 2013)

See the Archived Versions!


1.  Introduction

There was a time when nations felt fortunate if their national boundaries were marked by bodies of water.  This sense seemed to be proportionate to the expanse, depth, and length of the body of water marking the national territory.  Knowing that water is not the natural habitat of humans, nations — particularly those with marine boundaries — felt a sense of security because traversing the expanse of oceans would have been a daunting task.  However, with the progress of civilization, floating vessels appeared on the watery expanses.  Advances in marine navigation and engineering transformed vessels from simple wind-dependent sailboats to steam-propelled engineering marvels weighing thousands of tons.  This, in turn, changed the role of oceans from daunting barriers to routes facilitating marine trade.  In the present age of globalization, not only exotic items but also daily necessities, such as clothing, food products, and oil[1] (the life blood of modern society) are transported over oceanic routes, and claim more than a 90% share of international traffic.[2]  Today, although nations with expansive marine coasts and harbors can be considered fortunate in that they have easy access to global trade, they have also become the recipients of marine pollution caused by oceanic traffic.  Naturally, there is a call for an increase in the regulation of growing pollution caused by international vessel traffic.


For decades, such calls were handled by the International Maritime Organization (IMO, or the Organization).  It is a special agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating maritime affairs and oceanic shipping.  However, before proceeding to learn more about the responsibilities and functioning of the Organization, due recognition must be given to several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)[3] and Inter-Governmental Organization (IGOs),[4] which operate at regional or local levels and complement or supplement the efforts of the IMO.   Many of these organizations, as well as the IMO,[5] have developed impressive websites.  An exhaustive treatment of the non-IMO resources would fill up volumes and take considerable time and money, so, for the time being, this article will briefly discuss prominent websites and emphasize sources that reflect the efforts of the IMO to develop international instruments to regulate the marine environment.[6]   For the most part, the information at these sites is made available at no charge.  However, sources that charge for information access, as well as the sources that provide restricted access, are included when appropriate.


2.  What is the IMO?

“It may look like ocean, but it really is a highway!”[7]  The IMO carries out the responsibilities of regulating traffic on this marine “highway” by developing essential legal instruments of international scope.  The instruments focus on maintaining the safety of marine transport, and preventing environmental harm caused by transport-related activities.  The organization functions as an honest, neutral broker and enjoys member states’ trust.[8] It has powers to deal with administrative and legal matters to perform its activities.[9]  The IMO came into existence as the International Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) on 17th March, 1958 when the Convention establishing the Organization came into force.  The name of the Organization was changed to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1982 by adoption of a 1975 amendment.  The purposes of the Organization, as summarized by Article 1(a) of the Convention, are "to provide machinery for cooperation among Governments in the field of governmental regulation and practices relating to technical matters of all kinds affecting shipping engaged in international trade; to encourage and facilitate the general adoption of the highest practicable standards in matters concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships.”[10]  In keeping with the changing times, its mission has evolved from regulation of international shipping to the current mission, described as "safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation."[11]


The Organization functions through an Assembly, a Council and five main Committees one of which is the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC or Committee).[12] The increasing focus on environmental issues and the importance the Organization attaches to such issues resulted in the establishment of the Committee in 1973.[13]  It considers any matter related to marine pollution from ships. MEPC works in collaboration with other committees of IMO and is supported by a number of subcommittees.[14]  An informative article, IMO’s response to current environmental challenges, portrays a clear picture of the challenges the IMO faces in protecting the marine environment.  IMO and the Environment, a brochure, is an illustrative alternative.


According to the IMO, of the 53 treaty instruments adopted so far, no less than 21 are directly related to environmental protection.[15]  Several conventions can have environment-related elements in combination with other elements.  The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which has a safety of labor(ers) aspect, was adopted in 2009 and is awaiting entry into force;[16]   Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks,[17] which entered into force on April 14, 2015, has safety of lives, goods, and property considerations; and the recently adopted International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) – a combination of SOLAS and MARPOL — are a few examples.  At present, because a compiled list of 21 conventions does not exist, this article will not consider such conventions, but will focus on the seven conventions, which, in my view, deal entirely with the marine environment.  Researchers curious about the 21 conventions, which the IMO considers directly related to environmental protection, can explore Comprehensive list of all IMO treaties, Status of Multilateral Conventions and instruments in Respect of Which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General Performs Depositary and Other Functions (Aug. 2, 2016), List of Conventions, Other Multilateral Instruments and Amendments in Respect of which the Organization Performs Depositary and Other Functions (May 31, 2016), as well as List of IMO Conventions with the aid of the resources described in this article.


3.  Conventions

Five marine environmental conventions of the last century dealt mainly with such age-old problems as oil pollution and the dangers posed to the marine environment by hazardous substances.  The beginning of the 21st century added another aspect to the protection of the marine environment: protection of marine life from harms caused by routine operations of shipping.  Two new conventions in this area were adopted in the 21st century.  The first — the Anti-Fouling Systems (AFS) Convention — was adopted in 2001 to deal with the harms caused to marine life by the leaching of chemicals used in the exterior protective coatings of ships.  The second — the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention — was adopted in 2004 to deal with ecological effects of the translocated species on the local life forms. The AFS Convention came into force in 2008, bringing the number of total conventions in force to six.


3.1. Conventions of the 20th Century


3.1.1. MARPOL 73/78:

The official name of MARPOL 73/78 is International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto.  As a matter of fact, it is a combination of two conventions.  The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, adopted in 1973, was the first.  The adoption of the only integrated convention targeting all kind of pollution from ships laid the foundation for the IMO’s work in protecting the marine environment.  This convention dealt with marine pollution caused by the discharge of oil, chemicals, and harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, and garbage, and represents the MARPOL 73 portion of the convention.  After adoption, and as it was proceeding to enter into force, several oil tanker mishaps in 1976-1977 caught the attention of the Organization.  As a result, the Protocol of 1978 relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (1978 MARPOL Protocol) was concluded at London on 17 February 1978.  It addressed tanker safety and the prevention of pollution.  The 1978 Protocol, together with MARPOL 73, which was still at the adoption stage, jointly entered into force on 2nd October 1983 as MARPOL 73/78.  MARPOL 73/78 is by far the most encompassing international legal instrument that addresses the regulation of marine pollution.  Provisions of this convention, frequently, work in association with other legal instruments. Therefore, updates to such provisions may appear elsewhere in this article.


The issue of marine pollution was first discussed at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm 1n June of 1972.  The list of documents and Travaux Préparatoires of the Conference are available in PDF format. Focus on IMO: MARPOL -25 years, which was published in October 1998, presents a good overview. In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS; the document repository of the IMO.  At present, there are six annexes: Annex I: Prevention of pollution by oil, Annex II: Control of pollution by noxious liquid substances, Annex III: Prevention of pollution by harmful substances in packaged form, Annex IV: Prevention of pollution by sewage from ships, Annex V: Prevention of pollution by garbage from ships, and Annex VI: Prevention of  Air Pollution from Ships


3.1.2. Intervention Convention

This convention, officially known as the International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, was adopted in response to 1967 Torrey Canyon oil tanker disaster in 1969, and came into force on May 6, 1975.  The tanker ran aground while approaching the Isles of Scilly off England and spilled 120,000 tons of oil into the sea.  At the time of the disaster, public international law was unclear about the rights of the coastal states in protecting their territory from environmental harm caused by approaching oil.  This convention affirmed the rights of coastal states to take appropriate actions to prevent, mitigate, or eliminate harm to their coastlines in the event of a disaster similar to Torrey Canyon happening on the high seas.  With the passage of time, injuries caused by substances other than oil were added to the provisions of this convention by the 1973 protocol and its amendments.  A snap-shot of the convention presents a good picture of its provisions.  In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS; the document repository of the IMO.


3.1.3. London Convention

Officially known as the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 and 1996 Protocol, is one of the earliest conventions to regulate pollution caused by dumping or discharging materials from ships.  It was adopted on 13th November 1972 and entered into force on 3oth August 1975.  Since then, through amendments, it has addressed a range of issues, such as incineration — an age-old pollutant — to the modern-day issue of carbon dioxide sequestration.  Even the issue of placement of artificial reefs is addressed by this convention.  List of London Convention and London Protocol Resolutions is helpful in tracking the developments of this Convention.  A brief description familiarizes the reader with the  general nature and provisions of the 1972 convention while the overview of 1996 Protocol is equally helpful in learning about the provisions and progress of the protocol.  In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS, the document repository of the IMO.  Links such as Key international marine environment protection convention celebrates 40 years of progress, Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, Full text of the London Protocol and 1996 amendments, List of Amendments to the London Protocol (as of 9 February 2016),  Full text of the London Convention, and Map of current LC-LP Parties as of March 2016 are certainly helpful in keeping researchers abreast of recent changes.


3.1.4. International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation

It is often recognized by the acronym OPRC. The Convention provides a global framework for international co-operation in combating major incidents or threats of marine pollution caused by oil.  The convention was adopted on 30th November 1990 and entered into force on 13th May 1995.   Parties to the Convention are required to establish measures for dealing with pollution incidents, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries, and provide assistance to others in the event of a pollution emergency for which reimbursement provisions are available.  Under this convention, reporting spill incidences to coastal authorities is one of the several requirements of ships.  Prompt notification of pollution incidences enables mobilization of appropriate response and mitigates the damage.  A short description acquaints the reader about the convention provision. The Responding to Oil Spills link connects the searcher to various guidelines and reports related to this convention and many hyperlinked sources.  In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS; the document repository of the IMO.


3.1.5. Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances

This convention, similar to the previously described convention, emphasizes the establishment of a global framework to combat incidents or the threat of incidents of pollution by the discharge of hazardous and/or noxious substances.  Often, the convention is referred to by its shorter name: OPRC-HNS Protocol.  The convention was adopted on 15th March, 2000 and entered into force on 14th June, 2007.  It regulates substances other than oil, which, if released into the marine environment, will likely have hazardous effects on human health, living resources, and marine life.  As one of the requirements of this convention, ships transporting noxious or hazardous substances are subjected to preparedness-and-response regimes.  A short description of the convention gives a good introduction[18] and differentiates it from the HNS convention. In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS; the document repository of the IMO.


3.2. Convention of The 21st century


3.2.1. Anti-Fouling Systems Convention

Anti-Fouling Systems Convention is Officially known as the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, and by the acronym AFS, it is truly the first convention of this century because it was adopted on the 5th October 2001 and entered into force on 15th September 2008.  The Convention defines “anti-fouling systems” as “a coating, paint, surface treatment, surface or device that is used on a ship to control or prevent attachment of unwanted organisms.”[19]  It prohibits use of certain substances — known as organotin compounds — used on ships’ exterior surfaces, which were useful in preventing or controlling encrustations on submerged surfaces of the vessels.  The unprevented or uncontrolled growth of organisms results in a thick crust referred to as fouling, which reduces the efficiency of ships because the crust increases the weight of a vessel and also offers resistance to ship’s movement. Although the coatings were beneficial to the shipping industry, the leaching of chemical compounds into water caused harm to marine life.  The background, and a good summary, of this convention are accessible through the Anti-fouling Systems link.  In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS; the document repository of the IMO.


3.2.2. The BWM Convention

The Ballast Water Management and the BWM Convention is officially known as the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments.  Ballast water — water from the oceans taken in or discharged by the ships to maintain balance and stability during their voyage — facilitates translocation of marine organisms.  Most of the organisms do not survive the voyage or the new environment at the port of discharge.  However, some of these organisms, when discharged along with ballast water at other ports, acquire an invasive character due to the lack of predators or the presence of favorable environmental conditions, and disturb the ecological balance at that location.  Along with ecological harm, it also causes great economic harm.  To control these and related losses, this convention was adopted on 13th February, 2004.  The Convention requires adoption of ballast water management systems to control the number of discharged organisms through ballast water.  The Ballast Water Management link offers an excellent background and overview of the convention and the Guidelines and Guidance Documents makes research easier by providing hyperlinked lists of the MEPC documents and circulars.  As of June 3, 2013, 36 countries have become contracting parties to the Convention.  As prescribed, the Convention has reached the required number of ratifications but it has not yet met the gross tonnage requirement, and as a result, is awaiting entry into force. As of April 19, 2016, according to the Summary of Status of Conventions, it is 0.21% away from meeting the tonnage requirement. Announcements of ratification by Peru and Finland in April of this year, hopefully, will accelerate convention’s entry into force.  Globallast, a special programme and initiative of the IMO, gives supplementary information about this convention.


4.  Current Concerns


4.1. Climate Change

Today’s global concern about climate change did not miss the IMO’s attention.  Emissions of gases impacting climate do not come from land-based sources only.  Although the shipping industry contributes less than 3% of global industrial CO2 emissions, the IMO is concerned about ocean acidification and is taking steps to reduce the contribution of the shipping industry.  Other gases — such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases — also contribute to climate change.  The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO in July 2009 has agreed to disseminate a package of interim and voluntary as well as technical and operational measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping.  Proposed amendments in October 2008 to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations — which have entered into force on 1 July, 2010 — is an attempt to reduce harmful emissions from ships even further. The Third IMO GHG Study, published in 2015, updates previous versions and witnesses the IMO’s sustained concern about climate change. IMO’s participation in the 2015 Paris UN climate Change Conference indicates its involvement in pursuing the mission of safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans.  However, the exclusion of the shipping industry in the Paris agreement emphasized the urgency for further actions.  MEPC’s 69th session held in April, 2016 is addressing the issue.  An ambitious project and mandatory system for collecting ships’ fuel consumption data announced in April 2016 to help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change are two recent examples.  Climate Change - A Challenge for IMO Too! — an illustrative and downloadable video produced in 2009 — explains the connection between climate change and international shipping.  In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 69th session, 18-22 April 2016 meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.


4.2. Polar Regions

The continued trend of climate change and associated global warming has affected the Arctic and Antarctic regions.  Melting of polar ice caps has increased the possibility of international shipping through newly-exposed water regions.  Undoubtedly, this activity is going to increase the environmental vulnerability of these areas, which were once pristine.  The Marine Environment Protection Committee, in collaboration with Maritime Safety Committee, has adopted the Polar Code with the safety of the environment and seafarers in mind.  The Code makes its provisions mandatory under the  International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).  The SOLAS component of the Polar Code was adopted in 2014 and the MARPOL component was adopted in 2015.  The Polar Code is expected to enter into force in 2017.   In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 69th session, 18-22 April 2016 meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.


4.3. Sensitive Sea Areas

As international shipping is growing in the age of globalization, the IMO is making concerted efforts to avert the harmful effects of shipping on ecologically sensitive or socio-economically important areas by designating such areas as Particular Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA).  Thus far fifteen PSSAs are recognized.  The latest addition to the PSSA list is the Extension of Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait to encompass the south-west part of the Coral Sea in 2015.    Revised guidelines for the identification and designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas are contained in A.982(24).  By adopting changes in shipping routes and implementing provisions of MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV, V, and VI, the IMO provides a higher level of protection from pollution to PSSAs.  MARPOL also designates Special Areas, which are linked to provisions of each Annex except Annex III, to provide appropriate protection.  Special Areas under MARPOL has a list of such areas.  Relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) also become applicable in providing protection from pollution.  The IMO website, through the Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas link, provides further details.   An interactive display on how PSSAs help protect fragile environments, which was launched on 16 May, 2013, is an engaging and educational tool.  In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 69th session, 18-22 April 2016 meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.


4.4. Biofouling

Mitigation of the dangers presented by the translocated species to local fauna, flora, and ecosystems is the concerns of the IMO.  Through the BWM Convention, which is about to enter into force, the IMO is addressing the problem caused by translocation of species through ballast water.  However, apparently as a conflict between the BWM and AFS Convention goals, the issue of translocation of species through biofouling (the accumulation of various aquatic organisms on ships’ hulls),[20] came to the fore in 2006.  After deliberations, Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships' Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species was approved by MEPC at its sixty-fifth session in May 2013 and circulated as MEPC.1/Circ.811


4.5. Energy Efficiency and GHGs

Energy used in the routine activities of international shipping and the related emission of green-house gases are unavoidable but can be controlled through regulations.  The IMO is actively pursuing this issue and working towards developing regulations.  To raise awareness of the issue among the general public, the IMO has developed informative audiovisual materials, and participated in events such as the U.N. climate change conference in Doha in 2012, urging support of the professional and influential entities.  MEPC started the consideration of making the technical and operational measures mandatory for all ships irrespective of flag and ownership in 2010 and the first ever mandatory global GHG reduction regime for an entire industry sector was adopted in 2011.  This work was completed in July 2011.  The regulations entered into force on 1 January 2013 and is applicable to all ships over 400 gross tonnage.  The Energy efficiency and the reduction of GHG emissions from ships link presents a snap-shot of recent IMO activities to regulate and mitigate the adverse impact of GHG emissions.  This link, in turn, provides a link to the text of MARPOL Annex VI Amendments, IMO work on GHG from international shipping, Index of MEPC Resolutions and Guidelines related to MARPOL Annex VI and various informative resources.  In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 69th session, 18-22 April 2016 meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.


4.6. Sustainable Shipping

Achieving energy efficiency and controlling and minimizing GHG emissions are examples of the IMO’s efforts to make international shipping sustainable.  The IMO is working in parallel with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and is striving to develop and monitor sustainable shipping goals. It is raising awareness and stressing importance of this issue through presentations at prominent events such as Rio+20A concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System is a set of goals and actions to further minimize the environmental harm and enhance the social and economic growth created by increasing world trade via oceanic world trade. In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 69th session, 18-22 April 2016 meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.


4.7. Ship Recycling

After serving the global shipping industry for years, ships lose seaworthiness and, in the interest of safety, must be taken out of the fleet.  Recycling of ship components is one of the options for these vessels.  Recycling of ships is a flourishing industry in the developing world.  However, some components of ships could be hazardous to the environment. With safety of the environment and workers in mind, a collaborative effort of the IMO, the Basel Convention and the International Labour Organization (Occupational Safety and Health) resulted in adoption of the Ship Recycling Convention in 2009 (, which is officially known as the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.  The Guidelines for the Development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials were adopted in the 59th session of MEPC, which was held from 13-17th July 2009.  These guidelines were updated in 2011. The Ship recycling link leads researchers to the Background of the Convention and other resources such as, Information Resources on Recycling of Ships, links to various MEPC Resolutions, and other links of interest. The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships link should be explored for further details. In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 69th session, 18-22 April 2016 meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.


5. Resources


5.1. IMO Website

In addition to the access points discussed above, there are many more that are useful in retrieving numerous articles, reports, official documents, and circulars at the Organization’s website.  The homepage attracts attention with Top Stories and leads to the Hot Topics, What’s New, announcements of IMO Meetings, as well as links to informative resources such as Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).  In addition, free online access to the issues of IMO News magazine going back to 2014 is available. Speeches given at Organization’s meetings and a biography of the current Secretary-General provide good insight into the Organization’s current views while Archives of Speeches by Previous Secretaries-General and Archives of Speeches by Previous Secretaries-General to IMO Meetings help to track the evolution of the Organization’s priorities and policies.  The prominent blue bar at the top has five informative tabs, which are described below while the subdued grey bar at the bottom provides twenty links the most of which are discussed in this article.


o   Of course, it starts with a link to the History of IMO. It describes the purpose, mission, and development of the Organization.  A link to 1983 to 2013 - 30 years at IMO Headquarters opens up to a good graphic illustration.  Although the IMO Convention is mentioned, the link is lacking.

o   Membership link leads to three lists: 171 Member States along with the years of their joining the Organization, 65 IGOs with Observer Status and links to their descriptive websites, and 77 NGOs in Consultative Status accompanied with links to their informative websites.

o   The description of the Organization’s main bodies — Assembly, Council, and Secretariat — their duties, and functions is available at Structure.  Committees and subcommittees are included in the description.  A glimpse of the financial picture is provided.

o   Strategic and High-level Action Plans and procedures are explained and links to related documents are accessible.

o   Introduction to how Conventions are developed along with a list of IMO conventions, Chronological list of IMO instruments (current through May 31, 2016), Status of conventions (current through April 19, 2016), Summary of Status of Conventions (current through April 19, 2016),  Recent ratifications (received through April 2016)  and Action Dates for amendments expected to enter into force in near future, ease researchers’ task. Moreover, Status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the  International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other function (dated April 19, 2016) provides information about signatures, ratifications, acceptances, approvals, accessions, deposits of formal documents, declarations, and final acts for each of the included instrument. Most importantly, the document provides information not only about instruments that are in force or applicable, but which are no longer fully operational because they have been superseded by later instruments.  Information about instruments not yet in force and not intended to enter into force is also available.

o   Access to publicly available IMO Documents and Resources is offered through IMODOCS — the IMO document repository with documents in the six languages of the Organization.

o   Affiliated Bodies and Programmes of IMO are briefly described and links to each entity are provided.




Included under this tab is IMOTERM — IMO’s multilingual terminology and reference portal of two components: IMOTERM and IMOTextBases. It serves the important function of standardizing vocabulary and expressions relating to the IMO, the UN system and the shipping industry in six official languages of the IMO. As such, it performs the important function of maintaining linguistic consistency. Savvy researchers certainly recognize the significance of IMOTERM.  The training videos of the IMOTERM and IMOTextBases explain their functionality.  This valuable portal is available for internal use of the Organization.  At its discretion, access may be granted to the first component — the IMOTERM — to non-IMO entities.  The requests for access or any other questions should be directed to trs@imo.org.




o   How and Where to Find IMO Information, with some redundant resources, presents a clear landscape of the information terrain and navigates researchers through thousands of documents and publications such as codes, reports, working papers, resolutions, recommendations, circulars, circular letters, and notes verbales that the IMO produces each year.  The link, which link to links, which in turn link to even more links, function like a GPS for a car driver and enable the researcher to arrive at the proper destination.  The brief descriptions of key IMO resources such as IMODOCS, GSIS, IMO Publishing, and select information resources such as Affiliated Bodies and Programmes, IMO Conventions, IMO Meeting Summaries, IMO Terminology or IMOTERM (IMO’s terminology database in its six official languages), Member States, IGOs and NGOs, help researchers to follow appropriate path.  Links such as List of IMO Meetings, Circulars and Conferences by Acronym and Dates,  Abbreviations of IMO Codes and Abbreviations of IMO Conventions extend a helping hand in the research process.  In addition, IMO Conferences, Meetings and Travaux Préparatoires­ and IMO Conferences by acronym and dates and full text of travaux preparatoires are good reference points.


o   Index of IMO Resolutions of Assembly (A), Council (C), Facilitation Committee (FAL), London Convention (LDC, LC) and London Protocol (LP), Legal Committee (LEG), Marine Environment Protection Committee(MEPC), Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), and Technical Co-operation Committee (TC)  is valuable although, in some instances, access to the reports and documents of meetings where resolutions were adopted, for the years 2000 to present, is via IMODOCS.  The overwhelming task of comprehending the purpose and numbering system of these documents is made manageable by Understanding IMO Conventions, resolutions and Circulars.[22]  List of Resolutions according to subject headings, although not updated since August 2013, could be useful for historical purpose.


o   Current Awareness Bulletin, a monthly publication, provides free downloads of the Bulletin going back to January 2015.  Each issue presents headlines from the previous month and includes links to complete articles or abstracts when possible.  Requests for notification of new issue can be emailed.


o   Information Resources on Current Topics is a compilation to aid researchers and provide extensive references to resources, in a variety of formats, from the IMO, other UN specialized agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations, industry, as well as academic and scientific literature.  Among the several topics included, two are related to environmental issues: Air Pollution and GHG emissions caused by ships and Recycling of ships.  A short description of each topic is associated with a link that opens up resources such as citations to published articles, official documents, and IMO publications, including CDs or videos about that particular topic.  The format is similar to that of the Current Awareness Bulletin.  Hyperlinks are provided where possible.


o   Directory of Maritime Links is a selection of links related to areas reflecting the work of IMO with capability to search full texts as well as by country, region or subject.


o   Ships and Shipping Facts and Figures is a good source of statistical information. The topics such as Maritime Transport, Piracy, Port State Control are covered and links to additional information are included when appropriate.


o   Online Catalogue of the SeaLibrary, a valuable resource for researchers, is undergoing an upgrade with anticipated completion in summer of 2016.


5.2. IMO Components and Affiliates





In carrying out its responsibilities of raising awareness about the impact of translocated alien species, GloBallast has published several publications such as those in the Globallast Monograph Series, awareness materials, which include brochures and posters in several languages, as well as a film, Invaders from the Sea, which can be viewed either from the website or by watching a DVD. 



5.3. National and/or Regional Webpages  

Though several nations have laws and regulations regarding marine environmental protection, the information is not always available in English.  One option is to locate a regional NGO or IGO and see if it has publications in English.  Another option is to use a source similar to the World Law Guide, and look for the laws of a particular country or do a search across the countries related to marine environmental laws.  The following pages inform us about national and regional laws and policies available in English, and may have a bearing on the international instrument(s):


·       United States: Environmental Protection Agency’s Laws that Protect Our Oceans; Code of Federal Regulations (annual edition) or Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) a regularly updated, unofficial editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments; and Federal Register  —  the daily journal of the United States government.

·       Links to national Governmental Agencies that deal with oceans and the law of the sea is a compilation of the third party website links by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

·       World Legal Information Institute: 1746 databases from 123 jurisdictions via 14 Legal Information Institutes (as of May 8, 2016).

·       PEMSEA: Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) is an intergovernmental organization operating in East Asia, which fosters sustaining healthy and resilient oceans, coasts, communities, and economies across the region.  It has been established to work on trans-boundary environmental challenges in the region.


5.4. Websites of Educational Institutions

Through their specialized programs, activities, research, along with their libraries, and publications of distinguished authors and scholars associated with the institutions provide valuable clues for furthering research.  Some such institutions are:


·       Centre Droit Maritime et Oceanique (French)

·       International Maritime Law Institute

·       Sea Grant College Network

·       Tulane Maritime Law Center

·       Texas A& M University at Galveston

·       University of Southampton - Institute of Maritime Law

·       University of Oregon — School of Law

·       World Maritime University


In addition, features such as Top International Law Schools by SSRN, Best Environmental Law Schools by U.S. News and World Report, Law Schools – Worldwide or other similar entities can be explored to find relevant educational institutes and resources they provide.


5.5. Associations

Associations’ web pages make a good resource to learn about members' mindsets and clues about their support or opposition to specific legal instruments.  Also, they provide links to texts or abstracts of their publications.  Overall, these pages keep interested parties abreast of new developments about an issue.


·       ASIL or American Society of International Law  (If the link doesn’t open, please copy and paste https://www.asil.org/ in any browser.)

·       British Maritime Law Association

·       Canadian Maritime Law Association

·       Comite' Maritime International

·       Hong Kong Maritime Law Association

·       Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand


5.6. Shipping Organizations/Associations

These sites provide information similar to that provided by Association's web pages.


·       BIMCO - The Baltic and International Maritime Council

·       HELMEPA - Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association

·       INTERTANKO - International Association of Independent Tanker Owners

·       International Shipping Federation


5.7. Miscellaneous

Before proceeding to the links in this category, due recognition must be given to the power of Internet browsers.  Their ever increasing ability to crawl through the web to bring up articles and news updates, which are otherwise difficult to retrieve.  Websites of organizations may not provide access to information, which is critical of or sheds negative light on the organization’s activities and interests.  Similarly, blogs of the institutions mentioned in this article will also help researchers.


·       ECOLEX: the gateway to environmental law: A service jointly operated by FAO, IUCN, and UNEP.

·       EUR-Lex: EU law and other public EU documents, authentic electronic Official Journal of the EU in 24 languages are available here. Moreover, N-Lex intends to satisfy research needs of companies, national civil services and parliaments, universities, legal specialists and the general public. EurVoc, the multidisciplinary thesaurus covering the activities of the EU, contains terms in 23 EU languages plus in three languages of countries, which are candidates for EU accession.

·       International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species ICAIS.

·       IMarEST or the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology: A rich collection of resources dealing with oceans and shipping.  Access the site by Googling the institute’s name if the links fail to open.

·       International Institute for Sustainable Development: Covers and reports on international conferences relating to environmental law.

·       International Marine Environmental Law: Institutions, Implementation and Innovations

·       Marine Technology Abstracts: A service of the Institute of Marine Engineers/British Maritime Technology.

·       Science Direct: A vast collection of journal and book titles.

·       Springerlink: A powerful central access point for researchers and scientists.

·       Todd Kenyon's Admiralty Law Guide.

·       Library of Congress Call Numbers - K3589.6; K3590.4

·       Worldcat: Is the largest network of library content and services of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.  Along with the bibliographic information, the service informs about libraries, which have the item(s) of your interest in their collection.  The collection can be searched using basic and advanced search capabilities, which enable novice as well as seasoned researchers to search for books, journals, articles, maps, research publications and audio-visual materials.  Although a general purpose service, searching strengths of the Worldcat can be used to retrieve materials relating to marine environmental law. Links to abstracts, entire articles and book chapters are provided where possible. In addition, links to similar items leads users to other relevant publications. Author affiliation and contact information facilitate direct communication.  Websites of many libraries provide “Ask a Librarian” feature, which should not be overlooked.  For all this, there is no charge.


5.8. Periodicals

Some of the relevant periodicals are listed below. The full texts of some of them are searchable and accessible electronically through Lexis and Westlaw. In addition, HeinOnline offers electronic searching and retrieval capability for some of the publications listed below. By offering the documents in PDF, HeinOnline distinguishes itself from some commercial information-retrieval services. SSRN offers cost-free searching of abstracts of journal articles and research papers. Some of the research papers of a number of fee-based partner publications are also a part of the service.  Its LSN Subject Matter eJournals and SRPN subject matter eJournals compilations are worth searching.  Downloadable full texts in PDF, at no cost, are included when permitted. Contact information for each author facilitates direct communication with authors and may further the research process.


·       Ballast exchange; OCLC: 44115198

·       Coastal management: an international journal of marine environment, resources, law, and society; ISSN: 0892-0753

·       Sea Grant Publications Catalog (Includes abstracts and/or full texts of the institute’s publications.)

·       Reports and studies (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection); ISSN: 1020-4873

·       Globallast Publications ( a series of monographs)

·       International lawyer; ISSN: 0020-7810

·       Journal of marine science and environment;  ISSN: 1741-1165

·       Journal of maritime law and commerce;  ISSN: 0022-2410

·       Lloyd's list international; OCLC: 25751722

·       Loyola maritime law journal; ISSN: 1545-2506

·       Marine environmental research; ISSN: 0141-1136

·       Marine pollution bulletin: the international journal for marine environmental scientists, engineers, administrators, politicians and lawyers; ISSN: 0025-326X

·       Ocean and coastal law journal; ISSN: 1073-8843

·       Ocean development and international law journal; ISSN: 0883-4873

·       Tourism in marine environments; ISSN: 1544-273X

·       Tulane maritime law journal; ISSN: 1048-3748

·       University of San Francisco maritime law journal; ISSN: 1061-3331

·       The WMU journal of maritime affairs; ISSN: 1651-436X


5.9. Monographs

An exhaustive list of relevant monographs would certainly overwhelm this article. Therefore, a representative list of publications in English covering the 2013-2016 time span was compiled using Worldcat. This list is divided by subject. The previous versions of this article cover prior years. Detailed bibliographic records of the items as well as libraries that have the item of interest in their collection can be found out by using the hyperlinks. In addition, blogs and publications of various consultative organizations, NGOs and IGOs, associations, as well as the publications catalogue of the IMO are good places to search.


Antifouling Systems


Ballast Water


Climate Change


London Convention


MARPOL 73/78


Ship Recycling

·       Shipbreaking : hazards and liabilities. 2014

·       European ship recycling regulation: entry-into-force implications of the Hong Kong Convention. 2013

·       Hong Kong Convention: Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 : with the guidelines for its implementation. 2013


General Purpose


[1] In this article, the term “oil” refers to petroleum, not vegetable oil.

[2] IMO Profile; Overview.  Accessed on April 2, 2016.

[3] Information about non-governmental international organizations, which have been granted consultative status with the IMO is available at http://www.imo.org/blast/mainframe.asp?topic_id=315&doc_id=851. Accessed on April 4, 2016.

[4] Information about inter-governmental organizations, which have concluded agreements of co-operation with IMO.  Available at http://www.imo.org/About/Membership/Pages/IGOsWithObserverStatus.aspx Accessed on April 4, 2016.

[6] An article by Heidi Frostestad Kuehl entitled Update:  A Basic Guide to International Environmental Legal Research  was published in May 2006 issue of Globalex, and most recently updated in 2013, is a good source of complementary information.  Accessed on April 4, 2016.

[7] Eivind S. Vagslid; IMO Activities on Prevention of Air Pollution and Control of GHG Emissions from Ships; Available at http://www.ictsd.org/downloads/2008/11/international-shipping-and-sustainable-development.pdf. Accessed on April 5, 2016.

[8] Campe, Sabine; The Secretariat of the International Maritime Organization: A Tanker of Tankers; in Managers of Global Change: The Influence of International Environmental Bureaucracies; 2009 (print), 2013 (online).

[9] Id.

[10] Brief History of IMO.  Accessed on April 2, 2016.

[12] Structure of IMO.  Accessed on April 9, 2016. See also http://www.uscg.mil/imo/docs/IMO%20chart.pdf.  Accessed on April 9, 2016

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] IMO and the Environment Accessed on April 9, 2016.  The attempts to identify these 21 instruments, which the IMO considers directly related to environmental protection, are ongoing.  When the compilation is done or identified, it will be incorporated in the article in due time.

[16] Full text of the adopted convention is available at http://www.basel.int/Portals/4/Basel%20Convention/docs/ships/HongKongConvention.pdf.  Accessed on April 15, 2016.

[17] See also, Nairobi International Convention on The Removal of Wrecks; International Legal Materials, Vol. 46, No. 4 (July 2007), pp. 697-708, published by: American Society of International Law.

Not to be confused with Convention for the Protection, Managment and Devlopment of the Marine and coastal Enviroment of the Eastern African Region and Related Protocols."  Accessed on April 15, 2016.

[18] Protocol on Preparedness, Response and Co-operation to Pollution Incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, 2000, although an unofficial source, provides the final act and the related resolutions.  Accessed on May 10, 2016.

[22] Rajeev Jassal; Understanding IMO Conventions, resolutions and Circulars; accessed from http://www.myseatime.com/blog/detail/understanding-imo-conventions-resolutions-and-circulars on May 25, 2016.

[23] Accessed from http://www.uscg.mil/imo/mepc/ on May 20, 2016

[24] Accessed from http://globallast.imo.org/ on May 8, 2016.