Researching International Marine Environmental Law

By Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi

Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi (Aru) retired in July 2014 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 even after her retirement. 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 master’s in library science from St. John’s University, she holds a master’s 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/October 2021

(Previously updated in November 2007, January/February 2010, September 2013, and September 2016)

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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 and the depth of the body of water marking the national territory. Oceans—neatly meeting these criteria—were considered ideal boundaries. 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 technological marvels weighing thousands of tons. This, in turn, changed the role of oceans from daunting barriers to routes facilitating international navigation. The present age of globalization benefited immensely from these changes and facilitated international trade. Not only exotic items but 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 oceanic 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 environmental harm caused by international vessel traffic.

For decades, such calls are 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, 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 and assist the efforts of the IMO to develop international instruments to regulate the marine environment.[5] 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!”[6] Regulation of traffic on this “highway” is the responsibility the IMO which it performs by developing essential legal instruments of international scope. These regulations focus on maintaining the safety of marine transport while preventing environmental harm caused by transport-related activities. The organization functions as an honest, neutral broker and enjoys member states’ trust.[7] It has powers to deal with administrative and legal matters to perform its activities.[8] The Organization, then known as Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO), came into existence in 1948.[9] The Convention on the Maritime Organization came into force on March 17, 1958.[10] 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.”[11] 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.”[12] The IMO’s original mandate was principally concerned with maritime safety. However, as the custodian of the 1954 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil (OILPOL Convention),[13]—which was later subsumed by MARPOL73/78—the Organization assumed responsibility for pollution issues in 1959. In following years, it has adopted a wide range of measures to prevent and control pollution caused by ships and to mitigate the effects of any damage that may occur because of maritime operations and accidents.

The Organization functions through an Assembly, a Council and five main Committees, one of which is the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC or Committee).[14] The increasing focus on environmental issues and the importance the Organization attaches to such issues resulted in the establishment of the Committee first as a subsidiary body of the Assembly and was raised to full constitutional status in 1985.[15] It considers any matter related to marine pollution from ships. The MEPC works in collaboration with other committees of the IMO and is supported by a number of subcommittees.[16] Externally, the IMO collaborates with other U.N. agencies such as United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). IGOs and NGOs complement the IMO’s work. 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.

3. Conventions

According to the IMO, since its inception, the IMO has adopted more than 50 treaty instruments, no less than 21 of which are directly related to environmental protection.[17] If the environmental aspects of the Salvage and Wreck Removal Conventions are included, that number rises to 23. Several conventions can have environment-related elements in combination with other elements. At present, because a compiled list of 23 conventions does not exist, this article will not consider all of them, but will focus on the ten conventions, which, in my view, have a significant marine environmental component. Researchers curious about the 23 conventions that the IMO considers directly related to environmental protection, as well as other conventions which may have environment-related elements, 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 with the aid of the resources described in this article.

Five marine environmental conventions of the twentieth century dealt mainly with such age-old problems as oil pollution and the dangers posed to the marine environment by other hazardous substances. The beginning of the twenty-first century added other aspects to the protection of the marine environment such as protection of marine life from harms caused by routine operations of shipping, the process of ship recycling resulting in pollution of marine waters, and the environmental impacts of shipping in pristine polar regions. In the twenty-first century, so far, four new conventions have come into force, and a fifth is getting closer to entering into force. Thus, in the first twenty-some years this century, the number of conventions has matched the number of conventions of the past century indicating increasing seriousness with which the IMO handles marine pollution.

3.1. Conventions of the 20th Century

3.1.1. MARPOL 73/78:

A United Nations Conference on the Human Environment convened in Stockholm from June 5-16 of 1972 discussed the issue of marine pollution for the first time.[18] The outcome of the aforementioned Stockholm Conference was The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which was adopted in 1973. This convention, which the IMO considers a key convention, dealt with marine pollution caused by the discharge of oil, chemicals, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, and garbage. After adoption, and as it was proceeding to enter into force, several oil tanker mishaps in 1976-1977 caught the attention of the Organization. Those mishaps prompted development of the Protocol of 1978 relating to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (1978 MARPOL Protocol). It was concluded at London on February 17, 1978. The 1978 Protocol, together with MARPOL 73, which was still at the adoption stage, jointly entered into force on October 2, 1983. Commonly called MARPOL 73/78 [19]— a combination of the two conventions — the combined convention is officially known as International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 relating thereto.[20] 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. MARPOL 73/78 is by far the most encompassing international legal instrument that addresses the regulation of marine pollution. Development and historical background of this Convention and Focus on IMO: MARPOL 25 Years (although a bit dated) are good sources of information.

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. The text of Annexes I-V is available in PDF. Annex VI: Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships was adopted on September 26, 1997 and entered into force on May 19, 2005.[21] A revised Annex VI with significantly tightened emissions limits was adopted in October 2008 which entered into force on July 1, 2010. The status of the Convention and its protocols can be verified.[22] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

Provisions of this broad convention frequently work in association with other legal instruments. Therefore, updates to such provisions may appear elsewhere in this article.

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 the 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 like 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.[23] A snap-shot of the convention presents a good picture of its provisions. In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this 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, it is one of the earliest conventions to regulate pollution caused by dumping or discharging materials from ships. It was adopted on November 13, 1972 and entered into force on August 30, 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. Links such as the full text of the London Protocol and 1996 amendments, the full text of the London Convention, an information leaflet about London Convention and Protocol, London Protocol 20 years —what it is and why it is needed, and the Strategic Plan for the London Protocol and London Convention are informative. The status of convention verifies the currency of the instrument.[24] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

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

The International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation 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 November 30, 1990 and entered into force on May 13, 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. A PDF version of the Convention with annex and procès-verbal of rectification is available. The current status of the Convention can be verified.[25] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

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

This protocol, 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 protocol was adopted on March 15, 2000 and entered into force on June 14, 2007. It regulates hazardous 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 protocol, ships transporting noxious or hazardous substances are subjected to preparedness-and-response regimes. The publication The HNS Convention with links to a Presentation on HNS Incident Scenarios, a Brochure on the HNS Convention, and the HNS Convention website is helpful. A summary of the protocol is a good descriptive source. Current status can be ascertained.[26] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

3.2. Convention of the 21st century

3.2.1. Anti-Fouling Systems Convention

Officially known as the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships, and by the acronym AFS, is truly the first convention of this century because it was adopted on the October 5, 2001. It entered into force on September 17, 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.”[27] 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 adds resistance to the 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 as well as the ongoing efforts via GloFouling initiative is informative. Current status can be ascertained.[28] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

3.2.2. BWM Convention

The Ballast Water Management Convention, also known as the BWM Convention, is officially referred to as the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments.[29] 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 or both, 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 February 13, 2004 and entered into force on September 8, 2017. 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. Globallast, a special program and initiative of the IMO, gives background and supplementary information about this convention. GloBallast videos, GloBallast Publications, and The IMO-GloBallast R&D Forum are educational but a bit dated. Current status of the convention can be ascertained.[30] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

3.2.3. Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks

As mentioned in the introduction, close to 90% of international trade involving all kind of goods happens via oceanic routes. In early 2020, according to Maritime Review of Transport,[31] the total world fleet amounted to 98,140 ships of 100 gross tons and above were trading this vast “marine highway”. Unfortunately, due to rough weather or human factors, these vessels get involved in mishaps and suffer damage. Besides endangerment to human life and breaking apart of the vessel(s), part of the cargo also gets dislodged. The broken parts of the vessel as well as dislodged cargo, considered as wreck, may sink or drift away. In either case, it poses hazards to other vessels navigating on the highway. The wrecks not only cause danger to marine traffic, but the dislodged cargo can cause environmental harm. This Convention, which was adopted on May 18, 2007 and entered into force on April 14, 2015, has developed regulations for safe, prompt, and effective removal of the wreckage. The Convention makes ship owners responsible for the cost of removal. The responsibility also includes warning the nearest coastal state and other ships in the area of the event. The IMO has created a summary of the Convention to familiarize novice users. Status of the convention can be ascertained.[32] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

3.2.4. Polar Code

The continued trend of climate change and associated global warming has affected the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The melting of polar ice caps has increased the possibility of international shipping through newly exposed water regions. Not only the international trade, but also the tourism sector would likely travel these newly opened channels. However, the Arctic and Antarctic regions are harsh and remote areas. Rough weather conditions, relatively uncharted territory, scant of navigational aids, and poor communication systems require a well-thought-out plan to conduct rescue and cleanup operations in these pristine regions. The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), in collaboration with Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)—cognizant that the Arctic is surrounded by continents while the Antarctic is surrounded by ocean—has adopted the Polar Code with the safety of the environment and seafarers in mind.[33] The Code makes its provisions mandatory under the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS),[34] and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 73/78. The SOLAS component of the Polar Code was adopted in 2014, and the MARPOL component was adopted in 2015. The Polar Code—officially known as International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code)—entered into force on January 1, 2017. A researcher may have to look at the current status of SOLAS and MARPOL to keep current of the developments. The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) and Shipping in Polar Waters give good overview with a few links to relevant documents. In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

3.2.5. 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 and cause harm to waters beyond national boundaries.[35] With the safety of the environment and workers in mind, after consideration of input from member states and NGOs, 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.[36] The official name the convention is Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Convention deals with all issues involved in ship design to the ultimate demolition or destruction 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 July 13-17, 2009. In following years, fifteen states became parties to the Convention and later, in February 2021, Croatia acceded to the convention, bringing the number of parties to sixteen.[37] Though the number of states criterion has been met, the current level of approximately 30 gross tonnage is insufficient to bring the Convention into force. The Recycling of Ships link leads researchers to the background of the Convention and links to various MEPC Resolutions. Shipping recycling updates: What to expect in 2020—though a bit dated—provides a good checklist of the progress of the convention. Maritime Facts and Figures: SHIP RECYCLING is another informative source. Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 75, 16-20 November (virtual session) meeting summaries and documents inform about the recent developments. Current status of the convention can be ascertained.[38] In addition, researchers may want to consult IMODOCS. Registration is required to access this document repository of the IMO.

4. Current Concerns

4.1. Climate Change

Today’s increased global concern about climate change has been a concern of the IMO’s for years. Awareness of the fact that emissions of greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides, and fluorinated gases—affecting climate are emanated from international shipping, the IMO is taking steps to reduce the contribution of the shipping industry. Noticing the exclusion of shipping industry in 2015 Paris Agreement, the IMO joined the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 efforts to address climate change. The organization has adopted two mandatory measures—Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP)—through the MARPOL Annex VI regulations.[39] MEPC in its 75th session—virtually held during November 16-20, 2020—approved the draft amendments to the MARPOL and will be put up for adoption in MEPC 76 in June of 2021. New limits on the sulfur content of the fuel oils used on the ships became effective since January 1, 2020.

The Organization is studying the feasibility of using low GHG emitting biofuels and renewable energy sources as alternative energy sources, and conducted a symposium on February 9-10, 2021. Initial Strategy adopted in 2018, and the July 2020 publication Fourth IMO GHG Study: comments on the final report which updates previous versions, show the IMO’s sustained concern regarding climate change. IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 (GreenVoyage) is a project to support efforts of the developing countries to meet the GHG emissions reduction as established in the Initial Strategy. The GreenVoyage also encourages participation of the ports stated in a few dated publications (published in 2016) such as ambitious project, and mandatory system for collecting ships’ fuel consumption data to help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change. Climate Change – A Challenge for IMO Too! is an illustrative and downloadable video (produced in 2009) explaining the connection between climate change and international shipping are informative. To keep current with recent developments, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 75, 16-20 November 2020 meeting summaries, Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions from Ships, and IMO Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from International Shipping are loaded with links and will further inform about the recent developments. Researchers can get free access and explore relevant documents by registering for IMODOCS. In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 75, 16-20 November (virtual session) meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments.

4.2. Energy Efficiency and GHGs

Fuels used in the routine activities of international shipping and the related emission of greenhouse gases are unavoidable but can be controlled through regulations. The IMO has actively pursued this issue and developed regulations. In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility an initiative called Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership (GloMEEP) was developed to strengthen its energy efficiency and clean energy commitments. During MEPC (75) the IMO approved technical and operational measures that are mandatory for all ships irrespective of flag and ownership. The MEPC adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to significantly strengthen the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) “phase 3” requirements, with expected entry into force date of April 1, 2022. It has to be noted, however, that the GloMEEP has concluded in December 2019 and IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 is continuing the GloMEEP’s mission.

4.3. Sensitive Sea Areas

The IMO, considering continued growth of international shipping in the age of globalization, 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, 17 PSSAs are recognized. The latest addition to the PSSA list is Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, the Sulu Sea, Philippines (2017). 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. In addition, Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 75, 16-20 November (virtual session) meeting summaries and documents will further inform about the recent developments. Researchers can get free access and explore relevant documents by registering for IMODOCS.

4.4. Translocated Aquatic Species

The shipping industry not only facilitate international transfer of goods or offer pleasures of travel via cruise lines. Many living organisms also hitch rides—either via ballast water or by fouling the exterior surfaces of ships. Some of these hitchhikers cause trouble in their new surroundings. Mitigation of the dangers presented by such translocated species to the life of local organisms and ecosystems is the concerns of the IMO. Through the BWM Convention, the IMO is addressing the problem caused by species translocating 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),[40] is becoming apparent.[41] While the provisions of the BWM Convention controls such migration, restrictions on the use of antifouling coatings on the exterior surfaces of ship can ease the transfer of species. After deliberations, Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships’ Biofouling to Minimize the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species were approved by MEPC at its sixty-fifth session in May 2013. GloFouling—a collaborative effort of UNDP, GEF, and IMO—took off in 2018 and will continue through 2023, working on a range of governance reforms at the national level. The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)—a consultative NGO of the IMO—is working to find a satisfactory resolution for the conflict with the expertise of its Ballast Water (BWEG) and Biofouling Management (BMEG) teams. Virtual Library and Publications tab is well worth exploring. Protecting the environment from harmful aquatic invasive species and pathogens introduced via ships ballast water or on ships hulls, published on April 15, 2020, is IMarEST’s informative work.

4.5. Sustainable Shipping

The IMO, the agency of the United Nations responsible for international maritime affairs, is working in parallel with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and striving to develop and monitor sustainable shipping goals. On the fifth anniversary (September 2020) of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations released a documentary titled “Nations United – Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times” about worldwide efforts. Sustainable shipping relates to SD Goal 14 which deals with life under water. Achieving energy efficiency, controlling and minimizing GHG emissions, and making the aquatic environment livable for all organisms by addressing the issue of invasive species are examples of the IMO’s continuing efforts to make international shipping sustainable. Noise pollution is another issue, which is becoming prominent on the IMO’s RADAR; sounds created by gigantic vessels particularly negatively affect marine animals. The IMO and anthropogenic underwater noise and Trends and developments in international regulation of anthropogenic sound in aquatic habitats, published in Spring of 2020, address the complexities of the issue and describes interrelated efforts of the IMO and other organizations. Speed with which ships travel generate noise, which may affect the underwater environment of organisms. The IMO in collaboration with its technology group is working on GloMEEP project to study the issue of speed management. Speed management may also relate to GHG emissions.

4.6. Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

The IMO’s concern about the marine environment does not stop where national jurisdictions end. It is extending its expertise to enhance protections offered by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea. In December 2017, in view of developing a new treaty, its members from the Marine Environment Division and Legal Affairs and External Relations Division actively participated in Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The Fourth Substantive Session was held in 2020. The past and the future progress of the convention can be tracked through the Conference link given above.

4.7. Poseidon Principles

The IMO’s goal of safe navigation on clean oceans makes it responsible for regulating all operations of international navigation—from construction of ships to their safe operation. Financial institutions worldwide, involved in financing shipping industry, have joined efforts of the Organization by considering the climate change implications of the financing shipping industry. In June 2019, a global framework to integrate climate considerations into lending decisions to incentivize maritime shipping’s decarbonization was created. It is recognized as the Poseidon Principles. At time of this update, 24 major banks have become signatories and are supporting IMO’s mission.

5. Resources

The IMO, as the UN Agency responsible for international maritime affairs, strives to keep the general public informed about its involvement in the reduction of environmental harms caused by international shipping. However, carrying out its responsibility involves interaction with entities such as national governments, the shipping industry, and civil society. Such interactions play a role in shaping the international instruments by supporting or opposing the views of the IMO. The expressed encouragement or criticism of these entities form a rich source of valuable information. A few of such sources are described below.

5.1. IMO Website

The webpage opens with an eye-catching photographic feature “Top Story.” Five prominent events within approximately a month’s period are presented. Of course, a click on “learn more” brings forth all the details of each event. Just above “Top Story” is a time-appropriate COVID-19 Information Resources feature describing the pandemic’s effects on seafarers and maritime operations. And above it are, somewhat inconspicuously, five tabs for nitty gritty categories. A list of access points, with links, within each category is provided below. Amongst all the attractive photographical icons are somewhat subdued tabs for five categories. A sixth tab IMO at Glance appears below the photographic feature “Top Story” repeats all the features of “About IMO” category. Hidden in the right-hand top corner is the usual “search” icon. Inclusion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals icon in the bottom left-hand corner is noticeable, which, in my view, indicates increased efforts of the Organization to make its consideration of other UN programs visible and making international shipping more environmentally and socially responsible.

Despite best efforts to maintain access to information, researchers need to exercise patience and perseverance. While updating this article, quite often, my information quests from the website resulted in “coming soon” or similar unproductive responses. Contact points seem burdened. This may be a temporary situation created by COVID-19 and hopefully information retrieval, which the researchers are used to, will resume as the pandemic weakens.

About IMO is the first tab, which provides several useful links within links. 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. The Membership link leads to three lists: 174 Member States along with the years of their joining the Organization, IGOs with Observer Status and links to their descriptive websites, and NGOs in Consultative Status accompanied with links to their informative websites.

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. The Strategic Plan for the Organization is explained. Strategic Plan for the Organization for the six-year period 2018 to 2023 (Resolution A.1110(30)) and other related documents are accessible.

An Introduction to how Conventions are developed along with a List of the Conventions and their amendments, provides recent 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 that 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. Moreover, Ratifications by State in a spreadsheet format, Ratifications by Treaty, Recent ratifications also in a spreadsheet format, and Action Dates for amendments expected to enter into force in near future and ease the researcher’s task.

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

Media Centre is the second tab, provides a link to press briefings going back to 2010. Researchers will find Meeting Summaries of the Organization’s bodies very useful. Online access to the current issue of the IMO News Magazine updates users about new projects such as GloLitter and the newly established Department of Partnerships and Projects. Its archival issues going back to 2018 is a good resource. What’s New somewhat duplicates IMO News Magazine’s information, but the archives go back to 2014. In Focus is a collection of webpages packed with information on many issues. The webpages, in turn, provide links to various documents and reports.

Our Work, the third tab, informs about areas of the IMO’s responsibilities such as Maritime Safety, Maritime Security and Privacy, and Marine Environment. The responsibilities to deliver logistical and interpretation services and provide documentation and translation services to the meetings of the Organization are detailed at the Conferences link. The documents link is handy. Links and references lead users to the websites of IMO related conventions and action programs. A link to ODS—the Online Documents Service of the UN—opens a floodgate to other UN resources where issues of interest can be further explored. Translation and Terminology and Reference Section provide linguistic support to the Translation Services, interpreters, external translators, and other users is valuable source.

The IMO’s multilingual terminology portal IMOTERM is no longer updated and has migrated to UNTERM, a linguistic tool that serves an important function by providing terminology and nomenclature relating to subjects the United Nations work. As such, it performs the important function of maintaining linguistic consistency. Savvy researchers certainly recognize the significance of UNTERM. The database is searchable. A request can be made to open an account, but the information is sketchy.

Publications, the fourth tab, takes a researcher to Catalogue & Code Listings and several links to facilitate ordering. These self-explanatory links are: Distributors’ Details, Just Published (titles), Future Titles, Newsletters & Flyers, Supplements (to various codes), Copyright and Permission Requests, warning of proliferation about Counterfeit copies, IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code), The IMO Bookshelf (an e-reader that is fully bookmarked, indexed and presented in ebk file format, which is viewed using the free software), The IMO-Vega Database (a powerful database with a sophisticated search function that includes historical data and up-to-date texts of core IMO requirements—including IMDG Code, SOLAS, MARPOL and IAMSAR Manual—as well as pollution prevention and safety-related documents in English), Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), and a Listing of current IMO publications.

Knowledge Centre (MKC), the fifth and final tab, refers to the Maritime Knowledge Centre (MKC) of the IMO. The Centre provides collections, information resources and services to support the IMO Secretariat, Member States, representatives, and delegates. It also provides access to international, academic and research libraries by “Sharing Maritime Knowledge.” The MKC also collects resources covering maritime affairs, shipping, and other subjects relevant to the work of the Organization.”[42] It is a part of the global network of United Nations System Libraries,[43] cooperating with other libraries in the system. The tab’s last position on the bar functions like an index of a book and should be the first place to start information exploration.

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, functions like a GPS for a car driver and enables 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 Index of Resolutions; IMO Meeting Summaries; Member States, IGOs and NGOs; and Piracy Reports help researchers to follow an appropriate path.

The Index of IMO Resolutions, offering access to the resolutions of the Council (C), Facilitation Committee (FAL), London Convention (LDC, LC) and London Protocol (LP), , 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.

Current Awareness Bulletin, a monthly publication, provides free downloads of monthly issues going back to January 2019. Each issue notifies about recent or upcoming events/meetings and developments related to marine environment from several aspects including the IMO. The Bulletin has brief description of each entry and includes links to complete articles or abstracts when possible. A good source to keep abreast of happenings at the national as well as international levels in the maritime arena. Requests for notification of new issue can be emailed.

Information Resources on Current Topics is missing many of its research aids included in my previous update. IMO Conferences, Meetings and Travaux Préparatoires has retained its usefulness. Archives of the IMO staff articles are accessible but, for the recent items, the searchers are directed to the Our Work tab.

MKC Online Catalogue has a search box allowing searches by such usual search categories as title, subject, keyword, author, LC Call Number, and IMO Doc Number, and the results can be limited to the entire collection, main collection, or IMO publications. The results can be sorted by relevance, date, or title. The Login link opens up requesting library account information. Apparently, this is a different account than the one that public users of IMO can use but no further information is given.

Maritime Facts and Figures is a searchable treasure trove! It is the source of statistical information of many maritime aspects. Starting with introduction it offers loads of access points such as Fleet, Casualties, IMO, Industry, Maritime Security, Piracy, Ports, National / Regional statistics, Research, Seafarers, Ship Recycling, Terminology, and Women In Maritime for exploring. This, in my view, is an encyclopedia!

Resources for Seafarers is a starting point to identify relevant information sources for and about seafarers. Seafarers’ Rights, as the name suggests, provides resources so that the seafarers become aware and can exercise their rights.

The United Nations and the Oceans research guide, created by the IMO Knowledge Center, is included in this section. Its six tabs—Introduction, IMO, UN Observances, UNCLOS, Related UN Links, and Publications—are several convenient access points. Amongst them, Related UN Links interested me the most as it leads to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) – Oceans Economy and Fisheries, UN Development Programme (UNDP) – Water and ocean governance, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) – Clean Seas, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) – Oceans & Seas, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Global Compact – Ocean Action, UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

5.2. IMO Components and Affiliates

5.2.1. Marine Environment Protection Committee

The Marine Environment Protection Committee is one of the five main committees of the IMO. The committee plays a vital role in developing legal instruments to protect the marine environment. In particular, it is concerned with the adoption and amendment of conventions and other standards and measures to ensure their enforcement.[44] Often, the committee consults and collaborates with the Maritime Safety Committee, Legal Committee, Facilitation Committee, and Secretariat of the IMO when appropriate. A final report providing a record of the issues discussed and actions taken is prepared at the end of each meeting. The Provisional Agenda of the upcoming sessions and the Final Reports are accessible through IMODOCS. Meeting Summaries with appropriate links, going back to 2010, are accessible electronically. Similarly, information about the activities of the IMO Assembly, Council, other main committees, and subcommittees, along with links to relevant session documents, is easily accessible from the tabs in the left-hand column.

5.2.2. United Nations

The United Nations (UN) is the parent organization of the IMO. By sharing experience in maritime matters with siblings the IMO gets an opportunity to keep abreast of the developments and issues that may affect its work and permit it to take timely steps.

United Nations Oceans (UNOceans) maintains coherence and coordination with the assistance of International Seabed Authority (ISA) as it relates to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) while being mindful of the competencies, priorities, and mandates of participating organizations. So, the UNOceans will be relevant for tracking—through its Documents—participation of the IMO in maritime related activities.

Oceans and Seas (OAS), one of the aspects of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), is engaged in promoting the protection and sustainable management of the world’s marine and coastal environments. OAS, having common interests as of the IMO, benefits greatly from the expertise of the IMO. The IMO also benefits from the UNEP’s involvement in control of Land Based Pollution as 80% of marine pollution originates on land. The Science and Data tab, available on the UNEP website, is a rich searchable resource, which has recent releases relating to marine environment.

5.2.3. GESAMP

GESAMP is the acronym for the joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection. It is an advisory body consisting of experts from approximately 20 environment-related fields. As of 2019, the body was working through the following Working Groups which will be of interest to us:

GESAMP is sponsored by the IMO, Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (FAO), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC), World Metrological Organization (WMO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UN, United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Meeting-related information and documents are also publicly accessible at no charge. The Group deals with all scientific aspects of the prevention, reduction, and control of the degradation of the marine environment; conducts studies; and provides authoritative, independent, interdisciplinary scientific analyses and advice to organizations and member governments to support the protection and sustainable use of the marine environment. GESAMP publications include reports of its sessions and in-depth scientific studies, which are accessible in PDF format at no cost.

5.2.4. GloLitter

GloLitter is a partnership between the IMO and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. Marine litter, although beyond the range of the average human’s eyesight, poses considerable risk to the marine environment. Large relicts of human activity in the form of broken plastic nets, and containers are easy to locate. However, the tiny plastic fragments are difficult to spot. An informative and illustrative micro-plastics report magnifies the problem created by tiny plastic balls used in the cosmetics and other industries. The “very slow rate of degradation of most marine litter items, mainly plastics, together with the continuously growing quantity of the litter and debris disposed, is leading to a gradual increase in marine litter”[45] is an apt description of the problem.

5.3. National and/or Regional Webpages

As the nations, which are parties to the conventions, are responsible to enforcing the provisions, the knowledge and awareness of national laws is imperative. Such laws and regulations affecting marine environmental protection, may not always be 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):

5.4. Marine Environmental Protection Associations (MEPAs)

Besides the efforts of national governments, or collaborative efforts of the governments in a region to protect marine environment, many likeminded individuals in different walks of life are forming associations or societies and increasing awareness of the challenge of caring for the marine environment and living organisms in the sea. MEPAs are good conduits to take IMO conventions and regulations to common people uninvolved in maritime affairs and at the same time bring their concerns to the IMO’s attentions. Thus, the associations assist in furthering IMO’s goal of “safe shipping on clean oceans” through their awareness raising activities. Here are some examples.

The Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association (HELMEPA) can be regarded as “the pioneer” of voluntary efforts to create consciousness about the challenge of protecting seas and oceans from the ills of human activity that negatively impact health of marine waters. Shortly after the coming into force of MARPOL 73/78 on June 4, 1982, the initiative of enthusiastic shipowners like George P. Livanos and seamen, materialized in the form of HELMEPA. It has joined hands with 1% for the Planet to encourage corporate social and environmental responsibility. In keeping up with the electronic age it has developed e-learning programs relating to the safety and environmental aspects of maritime operations. In addition, training on a NAUTIS Full Mission Bridge Simulator to offer refresher courses and webinars, and the creation in 2014 of the Network of Volunteer Teachers are a few of the ways HELMEPA is striving to achieve its mission to “save the seas.” The website not only promotes its own efforts but also lists eight other MEPAs engaged in similar work. However, BRITMEPA in the UK, PHILMEPA in the Philippines, and URUMEPA in Uruguay lacked linkage at the time of this article. The other five MEPAs are as follows.

The Cyprus Marine Environment Protection Association (CYMEPA) is another MEPA in the Mediterranean Sea area and is alternatively known as the Cyprus Union for the Protection of the Sea Environment. It is a not-for-profit organization funded entirely by its members, which actively assists all efforts to reduce all forms of marine pollution from any and all sources. The IMO’s efforts to protect oceans from pollution—including ratification and implementation of the IMO conventions—are supported by the CYMEPA.

The North American Marine Environment Protection Area, USA (NAMEPA), following the example of HELMEPA, is on the mission to “save the seas”. A not-for-profit entity, it participates in the efforts of the shipping industry, governments, and conservation enthusiasts to preserve the oceans and its resources. It fulfils its objectives by making the public aware by conducting events and education, and involving communities in beach cleanups. Free of charge downloads of guides and brochures are interesting and informative. NAMEPA supports the Poseidon Principles and encourages its members participation in their Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmentally Responsible Social Governance initiatives.[46] The webpage lists other MEPAs and their resources, but many links fail to connect.

The Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA) was a voluntary partnership formed by individuals representing a wide range of shipping industry, government, and non-government organizations. However, The Australian Marine Environment Protection Association has closed its doors after more than 20 years of working to protect Australia’s precious marine environment. While AUSMEPA was functioning, it developed the Maritime Emissions Portal (MEP) in collaboration with RightShip.[47] The Portal analyzes the impact of pollutants from ships’ emissions on the port community and provides an opportunity to develop projects to help reduce emissions from shipping activity. It aims to work with the shipping industry to assist it become even more environmentally sustainable. This online portal can record and maintain emission data of individual vessels at berth, at anchor, and at a port’s boundary.

Turkey participates in protecting the marine environment via Sea Clean Association, also known by the acronym TURMEPA. Its website is searchable, however, the heavy presence of tabs and access points in Turkish language may require the assistance of a translator.

The Ukrainian Marine Environment Protection Association (UKRMEPA) focuses on the Black Sea region. This is a non-governmental organization. A description of its activities and projects is documented under News.

The following are some MEPAs that were not included in the HELMEPA list:

  • The Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society (CMEPS) is a charitable organization formed through voluntary efforts to educate Canadians about the need to protect the ocean’s remaining natural ecosystems for their biological and cultural importance, now and for the future.[48] The CMEPS work involves the protection of sponge reefs.
  • There is news of the reactivation of the Uruguayan Marine Environment Protection Association. However, the information access is skimpy. The portions that are in Spanish could be translated in English through a web translator.
  • More welcome news is the formation of the UAE Marine Environment Protection Association (UAEMEPA) in 2018.[49] A first of a kind in the region, the Association has joined hands with HELMEPA and has taken a step to participate in the IMO’s mission. Hopefully its progress will be accessible through a webpage soon.
  • The International Marine Environment Protection Association (INTERMEPA) took shape on June 6, 2006 and shares the HELMEPA headquarters. Four founding MEPAs—AUSMEPA, CYMEPA, HELMEPA, and TURMEPA—were joined later by the NAMEPA, UKRMEPA, and URUMEPA. Its objectives are similar to those of the HELMEPA, and it takes pride in keeping its operation independent of national politics. Essentially, it functions as a network of national MEPAs and promotes the coordination of efforts to keep the marine environment free of pollution. Its coordination and cooperation with international agencies such as the IMO and UNEP, as well as national entities such as coast guards, governments, and port authorities. This is kind of unique website where you must click Enter Site to access the information. The other peculiarity is the way of contact—electronic access is only available after filling a form, which is provided.

5.5. Websites of Educational Institutions

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

In addition, features such as Top International Law Schools by SSRN, Best Environmental Law Schools by U.S. News and World Report, and Academic Institution Links that have a special category of academic institutions with programs in ocean science or other similar entities can be explored to find relevant educational institutes and resources they provide.

5.6. Associations

Associations’ web pages are a good resource to learn about members’ mindsets and clues regarding 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. The membership lists of these organizations could be a valuable source to learn about various participating entities.

5.7. Shipping Organizations/Associations

These sites inform about the views and concerns of the industry about the existing as well as upcoming IMO regulations and codes. As the industry—which is expected to comply with the IMO regulations and ultimately affect the Organization’s success level—they are more influential, in my view, than associations in shaping conventions and offer more benefits. The membership lists of these organizations could be a valuable source to learn about various participating entities

BIMCO, the Baltic and International Maritime Council, is the world’s organization with 1,900 members from 120 countries. The membership includes outfits of all sizes, such as shipowners, ship operators, port facilities, and law firms. It represents the views of the shipping industry and influences IMO’s position on various issues. Press releases and statements of BIMCO are informative and could be helpful in taking a legal position.

INTERTANKO, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, deals with a wide range of operational, technical, legal, and commercial issues affecting tanker owners and operators around the world. The Infocenter is a useful resource that includes member-accessible submissions to the IMO, a searchable library of model clauses, and searchable guidance documents.

The Chamber of Shipping of America (CSA) represents U.S. based companies that either own, operate or charter oceangoing tank, container, or dry bulk vessels engaged in both the domestic and international trades and companies that maintain a commercial interest in the operation of such oceangoing vessels. Current members include companies that own or operate U.S. flag or foreign-flag vessels.”[50] Of interest is the Resources tab that provides link to International Chamber of Shipping which will be discussed next.

In contrast to CSA, the national entity described above, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), a not-for-profit entity that represents and advocates the interests of shipowners and operators—dealing with dry bulk carriers, oil tankers, chemical tankers, gas carriers, container ships, general cargo ships, offshore support vessels, and passenger ships—from about 40 countries. The Publications and News tabs offer searchable entries, which are filtered as well as sorting enabled. Explaining shipping is a good source to understand the complexities of global shipping.

5.8. Miscellaneous

Before proceeding to the links in this category, due recognition must be given to the power of internet browsers. They have an 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 that 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.

  • Google Scholar produces results from all aspects of scholarship including marine environment as it relates to shipping. Users can search scholarly articles or legal cases. The advanced search allows to perform professional level research by using capabilities such as phrase and Boolean type searching with the capability of excluding a word. The search could be targeted by selecting whether the term(s) appears in the title, abstracts, or the entire document. An interesting feature is searching by a specific publication. Specifying the date range of publication is a good way to control the currency. Relevant results can be stored in a library for future use. In some ways, the capabilities are similar to those offered by WorldCat, which has additional capability to identify an institution that can lend the publication.
  • Lexology is a comprehensive source of international legal updates, and analysis. Contributions by law firms provide valuable insights. Its entire collection is searchable and the results can be refined multiple times. The ability to limit the results by Content type, Tags, Firm name, Author, Territory, Jurisdiction, Work area, and Language are helpful features. RSS feeds provides daily updates on any desired issue or interest. The service, of course, is free of charge!
  • SSRN, Social Science Research Network, 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. The Ocean Sciences eJournal and International Environmental Law eJournal are good resources. Its LSN Subject Matter eJournals and SRPN subject matter eJournals compilations may also be of interest. 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.
  • WorldCat is the largest network of library content and services, spanning 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 an “Ask a Librarian” feature, which should not be overlooked. For all this, there is no charge.
  • All About Shipping is a true candidate for this category. Amongst the mishmash of several categories with links the nuggets of shipping related categories do exist. This is a good site to explore.
  • ECOLEX, dubbed the “gateway to environmental law,” is a service jointly operated by FAO, IUCN, and UNEP.
  • EUR-Lex – EU law and other public EU documents, and the 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 providing access to recent papers in International Marine Environmental Law.
  • International Shipping Federation (ISF) is a mixed bag of information categories, which are closely or distantly related to maritime activities. The strength of this site is the currency of the information; however, serendipitous encounters cannot be ruled out.
  • Science Direct – a browsable collection of 4,408 journals and 31,126 books.
  • SpringerLink – provides researchers with access to millions of scientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols, reference works, and proceedings.
  • Todd Kenyon’s Admiralty Law Guide – the Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide includes over 1,500 annotated links to admiralty law resources on the internet and a growing database of admiralty case digests, opinions, and international maritime conventions
  • Library of Congress Call Numbers – K3589.6; K3590.4

5.9. Periodicals

Some relevant periodicals are listed below. The full texts of some of them are searchable and accessible electronically through Lexis and Westlaw, however, as a retired librarian who lacks access to these services, the coverage could not be verified. In addition, HeinOnline offers electronic searching and retrieval capability for some of the publications listed below. Its International Resources collection with treaties and conventions is worthy of exploring. By offering the documents in PDF, HeinOnline distinguishes itself from some commercial information-retrieval services.

5.10. Monographs

An exhaustive list of relevant monographs would certainly overwhelm this article. Therefore, a representative list of publications in English covering 2016-2021 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 located 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

Google Search

London Convention

MARPOL 73/78

Polar Regions

Ship Recycling

General Purpose

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

[2] Marine Environment. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[3] Non-Governmental international Organizations which have been granted consultative status with IMO. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[4] Intergovernmental Organizations which have concluded agreements of cooperation with IMO. Accessed on February 24, 2021

[5] An article by Heidi Frostestad Kuehl entitled Update: was published in May 2006 issue of Globalex, and most recently updated in 2017, is a good source of complementary information. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[6] Eivind S. Vagslid; IMO Activities on Prevention of Air Pollution and Control of GHG Emissions from Ships. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[7] Campe: The secretariat of the International Maritime… – Google Scholar Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[8] Id.

[9] volume-1276-I-4214-English.pdf ( Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[10] Convention on the International Maritime Organization ( Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[11] Brief History of IMO. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[12] Id.

[13] International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1954. See also: International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1954, as amended in 1962 and 1969. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[14] Structure of IMO. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] IMO Marine Environment page; Accessed on April 8, 2021. 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.

[18] Digital access to the library of searchable documents related the Conference is available. Many documents are available in PDF format. Accessed on April 8, 2021

[19] Summary made available by the IMO. Accessible from International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 ( also. April 8, 2021.

[20] UN Treaty Series; p. 61-. Accessed on April 6, 2021.

[21] Protocol of 1997 Amending MARPOL Convention, page 103-; Previous pages contain detailed analysis of the protocol. Also available at H:MPCONF. 334 ( and Protocol of 1997 to amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (London 1997) ( All sites were accessed on April 8, 2021.

[22] Comprehensive information on the status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other functions. pp. 110-185. Accessed on March 4, 2021.

[23] Id., pp. 241-257 (convention); pp 248-255 (protocol). Accessed on March 4, 2021

[24] Id., pp. 548-566. Accessed on March 4, 2021.

[25] Id., pp.489-496. Accessed on March 4, 2021.

[26] Id., pp. 494-509. Accessed on March 4, 2021.

[27] IMO Anti-fouling systems page. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[28] Comprehensive information on the status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other functions. pp. 520-526. Accessed on March 4, 2021

[29] International Convention for the control and management of ship’s ballast water and sediments. English – Text: pp. 85-97; Annex: pp.98-112; Appendix: 113-225. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[30] Comprehensive information on the status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other functions. pp. 527-535. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[31] United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. pp. 37. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[32] Comprehensive information on the status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other functions. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[33] I am including this Code even if a good portion of it deals with the safety issues because, in my view, the protection of this pristine environment is as important as the protection and safety of the seafarers.

[34] Comprehensive information on the status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other functions. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[35] Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal The PDF is available at Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. Accessed on April 8, 2021.

[36] Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009. See also: alternate link. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[37] Croatia accedes to ship recycling convention. Accessed on March 6, 2021.

[38] Comprehensive information on the status of multilateral Conventions and instruments in respect of which the International Maritime Organization or its Secretary-General performs depositary or other functions. pp. 542-547. Accessed on March 6, 2021.

[39] RESOLUTION MEPC.176(58). See also: CDOC-108tdoc7.pdf (, page 104-; MARPOL 1st January 2019 ( all sources accessed on April 7, 2021.

[40] IMO Biofouling page. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[41] “Significant progress towards managing this transportation pathway has been achieved in the last ten years through the GEF-UNDP- IMO GloBallast Partnerships Project and the entry into force on 8 September 2017 of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention). However, despite new measures to manage the transfer of invasive species through ballast water, recent research suggests that biofouling has been underestimated as a possible vector and may in fact represent the most common mechanism for the introduction of non-indigenous species. For example, some research estimates that up to 69% of introductions may have occurred via biofouling (See: Hewitt, C., Campbell, M., Thresher, R; Martin, R. 1999. Marine Biological Invasions in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. CSIRO Centre For Research on Introduced Marine Pests (Ed.). Technical Report No. 20. And Hewitt, C. Campbell, M., 2010. The relative contribution of vectors to the introduction and translocation of invasive marine species, Canberra City, The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.)” Accessed from GloFouling Partnerships on April 7, 2021. 

[42] Accessed from Maritime Knowledge Centre on April 7, 2021.

[43] United Nations Digital Library System a great resource. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[44] Structure of IMO. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[45] UNEP Marine litter page. Accessed on April 7, 2021.

[46] Strides in Sustainability– Reinforcing the Value Proposition of the Shipping Industry. Accessed on March 29, 2021.

[47] RightShip Announces Innovative Maritime Emissions Portal, International Shipping News, Hellenic Shipping News Wordlwide (November 11, 2020)

[48] Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society. Accessed on March 27, 2021.

[49] UAE Marine Environment Protection Association launched in Dubai. Accessed on March 29, 2021.

[50] Chamber of Shipping of America. Accessed on March 30, 2021.