USCG International Maritime Organization (IMO)



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The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the responsibility to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for worldwide shipping. The result is a comprehensive body of international conventions, supported by hundreds of recommendations governing every facet of shipping including safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping.

Key treaties of the IMO include the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

The IMO is based in London, England and is represented by 175 Member States, three Associate Members, and various Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).

The U.S. Coast Guard has been a key participant at the IMO for all policy development since the IMO Convention entered into force over 50 years ago. Numerous U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters personnel take the lead in addressing international maritime issues and are assisted by various government and industry advisors. These advisors include members from the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, and a variety of industry experts - all providing the technical support and guidance necessary to advocate U.S. positions on the important maritime issues.


The work of the IMO is carried out by the IMO Secretariat, Member States, IGOs, and NGOs. The daily operations of the IMO, including meeting coordination and preparation, is conducted by the IMO Secretariat, led by the Secretary-General and assisted by a staff of 300 international civil servants. The Member States, IGOs, and NGOs are represented at the IMO during the various IMO meetings (Assembly, Council, 5 Committees, and 7 Sub-Committees).  Each Member State has a delegation that consists of the Head of Delegation and advisors.

To find out more about the IMO and how Coast Guard is involved, use the hyperlinked titles (below) or the navigation bar to the left. Each individual page contains:

  • a brief summary of the particular body of the IMO
  • final reports from previous meetings
  • additional documentation and contact information.

A complete schedule of IMO meetings is listed in the PDF file: Programme of Meetings for 2024


The Assembly is the highest Governing Body of the IMO. It consists of all Member States, and it meets once every two years in regular sessions. The Assembly is responsible for approving the work program, voting the budget and electing the Council.


The Council is the Executive Organ of the IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization. Between sessions of the Assembly, the Council performs all the functions of the Assembly, except the function of making recommendations to Governments on maritime safety and pollution prevention.


The five policy-making committees are responsible for the development, review, updating, and approval of the organization’s guidelines and regulations. The Committees report to the Council and Assembly on the status of their committee and respective Sub-Committees.

The work of the five Committees is described by their titles, as follows:

  • Facilitation Committee (FAL)
  • Legal Committee (LEG)
  • Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)
  • Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)
  • Technical Co-operation Committee (TC)


The seven technical Sub-Committees support the work of the five policy-making Committees. The Sub-Committees are under the direct instructions of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).

The work of the seven Sub-Committees is described by their titles, as follows:

  • Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC)
  • Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW)
  • Implementation of IMO Instruments (III)
  • Navigation, Radio-communication and Search & Rescue (NCSR)
  • Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR)
  • Ship Design and Construction (SDC)
  • Ship Systems & Equipment (SSE)



For questions or more information about the Coast Guard's work with the IMO, please contact:

Commercial Regulations and Standards (CG-5PS)
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2703 Martin Luther King Jr Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20593
Email: LT Emily Rowan

Last Modified: 02/06/2024