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BOX 3-1International Maritime Organization (IMO)
The IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, chartered in 1948 as the international body devoted exclusively to maritime matters. Since its inception, the improvement of maritime safety and the prevention of marine pollution have been the IMO's most important objectives. The IMO is an organization of member states made up principally of flag states, coastal states, and port states. To achieve its objectives, IMO has promoted the adoption of some 30 conventions and protocols in the past 30 years, and has adopted well over 700 codes and recommendations concerning maritime safety, the prevention of pollution, and related matters.
chemicals and other harmful substances, garbage, and sewage. The MARPOL convention, which is currently in force internationally, comprises a set of annexes addressing ship pollution issues. Some of these annexes make reference to separate guidelines that provide detailed technical information. The guidelines can be updated to take advantage of technology developments and improved operating practices without revising the related annex.
The Marine Environment Protection Committee of IMO is currently drafting regulations for a new proposed annex to MARPOL 73/78 dealing with the ballast water issue. This annex, which will employ the guidelines strategy, will make use of the guidelines mandatory. The guidelines can be implemented by reference and will be continuously reviewed and updated to take into account improvements in methods for controlling ballast water. The annex probably will not be adopted before the turn of the century.
Codes and recommendations adopted by the IMO assembly are not binding on governments unless they are specifically adopted by reference in conventions and amendments to conventions. However, in many cases, the contents are incorporated into domestic legislation.
When the new MARPOL annex is in force, the ships of those member nations party to the convention will be required to use the guidelines to minimize the introduction of unwanted aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships' ballast water and sediment discharges. In view of the time it will likely take until MARPOL is amended, the United States has acted to stimulate use of the voluntary IMO guidelines by appending them to the U.S. Coast Guard Ballast Exchange Education Program guide for shipping agents in U.S. ports.
There is no international requirement for keeping a log of ballasting operations, other than on tankers where the oil pollution record book includes ballast