International Maritime Organization
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is headquartered in London, United Kingdom, and it's primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.
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The shipping standards negotiated at the IMO are the fabric of the port state control regime that is underpinned by the Convention. It is the Convention that sets forth the responsibilities of flag states, port states, and coastal states for shipping, and the Convention is the agreement that holds nations accountable for adhering to those responsibilities. Because of the currently anomalous situation where the United States is a party to the substantive IMO standards, but not the underlying legal framework of the Convention, our ability to ensure comprehensive global accountability demanded by the port state control framework is weakened. Acceding to the Convention would strengthen Coast Guard negotiation efforts at the IMO, where we lead in the continued development of these important international standards. Although other countries look to us for leadership, there is growing skepticism for certain U.S. negotiating positions because the United States is not a party to the Convention. Becoming party to the Convention would increase the Coast Guard’s credibility as a leader at IMO and result in greater effectiveness in ensuring that U.S. interests are reflected in the standards that are ultimately adopted. The Coast Guard needs the Convention to better promote United States safety, security, and environmental interests at the IMO.
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The Convention recognizes that various UN subsidiary bodies may serve as competent international organizations for the further Conventional development of the law of the sea. IMO has always been the recognized competent international organization for maritime safety and marine environmental protection. It has now assumed a similar role in port facility and vessel security. Acceding to the Convention will enhance Coast Guard efforts to work in the international community through the International Maritime Organization, the International Labor Organization and other UN subsidiary bodies to improve our security measures and to project our maritime domain awareness, consistent with the Convention’s balance of states’ rights to the uses of the oceans. Specifically, we are working now at IMO to build upon the successes achieved by the United States in that body at the December 2002 diplomatic conference. As you know, that diplomatic conference resulted in the landmark amendments to the SOLAS Convention for vessel and port facility security contained in Chapter XI and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. We have on-going efforts in respect of Conference Resolution 10 to enhance our maritime domain awareness through Long Range Tracking of vessels bound for our ports and waters. These negotiations are taking place in the context of the overwhelming number of nations at IMO being parties to the Law of the Sea Convention. Because of this fact, the Law of the Sea Convention provides the framework for the discussions and agreements. Although we have enjoyed success in the international security agreements so far, those negotiations have not always been easy. Further progress will not be as easy to achieve as our past successes. Frankly, the fact that the United States is not a party to the Law of the Sea Convention, when the overwhelming number of our international partners are parties, has occasionally put us in a difficult negotiating position at IMO. It is our judgment that accession to the Convention will put us in a stronger position at the IMO than we currently enjoy.
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The Coast Guard represents the United States at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the specialized body through which international standards for ship safety, security, and environmental protection are developed and adopted. These standards are negotiated and implemented under the Law of Sea Convention’s framework.
Consequently, we are becoming increasingly challenged in some of these negotiations because we are not a party to that framework. Moreover, the convention encourages international cooperation to enhance the safety and security of all ocean-going ships. The IMO is developing a mandatory Polar Code for Arctic shipping, and the Coast Guard is playing a key role in that effort.8
The last point I would like to address is that of a resumption of a clear leadership role for the United States in international oceans policy affairs—an area where we have so much at stake.
As the preeminent global power in the 1990s and beyond, the United States is uniquely positioned to assume a more visible leadership role. The United States can lead the movement to the achievement of a widely accepted international order, regulating and safeguarding the diverse activities and interests regarding the world’s oceans. The Convention affords us the opportunity to lead in a way that protects and promotes U.S. national security interests. To ensure a leadership role in this important arena, the United States must become a party to the Convention.
By remaining outside the Convention, our long-standing leadership role in international ocean affairs, and in fora such as the International Maritime Organization, would be further eroded. Moreover, as an outsider looking in, we would not be in a position to influence the Convention’s further development and interpretation. In effect, as mentioned earlier, by refusing to become a Party to the Convention, the only way we could seek to influence changes in the LOS regime would be through unilateral action, and that could lead to further destabilization and increased international friction.