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This essay discusses the contribution of the IMO and other regional bodies in improving safety and pollution prevention in shipping.  Three most important conventions of the IMO, the Safety of life at sea (SOLAS), the Marine Pollution (MARPOL) and the Standards Of Training, Certification And Watchkeeping (STCW), will be discussed along with the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) to highlight the safety and pollution prevention commitment of the IMO and the United Nations (UN) .Additionally the  European Union (EU) will be utilized as an example of the contribution of regional bodies  to improve the standards of maritime safety globally.IMO’s contribution can be adjudged by its standard setting record. So far it has adopted some 50 international conventions and protocols and well over 800 codes to enhance maritime safety, security and pollution prevention (Veiga, 2002). SOLAS is one such convention, which deals with maritime safety.SOLAS was the first maritime convention, which was developed by the international maritime community in the wake of the Titanic disaster in 1914, to deal with matters of safety at sea. Hence it is considered as the birth of the maritime safety system (Kopacz et al. 2001). IMO, through 14 chapters of SOLAS, lays down minimum standards for construction, navigation and the safe management of the ship, making the signatory flag state responsible for implementing the convention on their respective vessels (IMO, 2017). Although, all the chapters of SOLAS are equally important for  maritime safety, chapter V and IX are worth mentioning. Chapter V deals with safety of navigation, specifying master’s responsibility in case of reception of a distress call, reporting of navigational hazards, use of life saving signals. It also lays down criteria for ice patrol and safe manning of vessels for all types of vessels on all kinds of voyages (MCA, 2014). On the other hand, Chapter IX lead to the implementation of Safety Management System on-board, thereby making International Safety Management code (ISM) mandatory, leading to the reduction of accidents at sea (Anderson 2015). Thus, SOLAS not only offers guidance to various organisations and contracting government for the minimum safety standards of ships, it also assists port states in taking action against vessels belonging to another state, if it has clear evidence that SOLAS regulations are being violated (Anderson, 1998). While SOLAS deals specifically with maritime safety and security,  MARPOL 73/78 deals with pollution from maritime activities (Mensah, 2007). MARPOL, after coming into existence in 1973 and amended in 1978 has played a significant role in ensuring cleaner seas (Latarche, 2016). As per Peet (1992), MARPOL has been a very effective international instrument in combating marine pollution resulting in a reduction of oil entering into the oceans. The Convention provides guidance to contracting governments and ship owners regarding noxious substances, harmful substances, sewage and garbage generated from a ship and of lately air pollution (Becker, 1997). Nevertheless, the major impact of MARPOL is in arresting accidental and operational oil spill from vessels via implementation of Annex 1 (Bao-Kang, 1987). Annex 1 sets the criteria for discharging operational waste from cargo and machinery spaces by demarcating special areas for the same along with the requirement for oil filtering equipment and tanks for the accumulation of sludge. In addition,  it provides for phasing out single-hull tankers as per section 13G depending on their age and develop guidelines for setting up of the shipboard contingency plan  in case of oil spill (Curtis, 1984;Duruigbo, 2000). As such, operational oil discharge from ships reduced from 2 million metric tons in 1980 to 450,000 metric tons per year in 2007 (Szepes, 2013). While technical aspects were regulated, it was realised that proper execution of these conventions was not possible until the human element was considered. This “Human, Machine and Environment” factor led to the evolution of the STCW (Wei, 2013). STCW was adopted in 1978 and came into force in 1984 in order to standardise the training of seafarers in response to technical development and the advent of multinational crews (Etman, 2004). As per Hetherington et al. (2006), 70% of the accidents at sea are attributed to human errors which in turn relates to crew competence (Squire, 2005). As a consequence of amendments in STCW in 1995 and more recently in 2010, Officers have to prove their competency by appearing for examinations based on international standards (Haugsbakk, 1995), along with undergoing  ship specific training in order to handle a particular kind of vessel. For instance, personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters have to be trained accordingly (Madariaga et al. 2014).  Moreover, the simulator based training have added more practical aspect to the marine training (Yicheng and Yong, 2012). Overall, due to the STCW convention there has been marked improvement in safety at sea, as it has not merely led to fewer loss of ships and  lives, but also reduction in oil pollution, as fewer accidents resulting from well trained crew means less oil spills, as compared to a decade before (O’Neil, 2002). In addition to the above mentioned conventions, a framework convention, which has played a significant role in the maritime safety is UNCLOS.The UNCLOS, was adopted in 1982 and came into force on November 1994. It sets the  legal regime for seas and oceans and regulates the use of ocean resources along with setting environmental standards and pollution prevention measures (Dzidzornu, 1997). Navigational rights, territorial limits, passage through narrow straits, conservation of marine resources and settling of disputes, are among many areas which UNCLOS covers (UN, 2017a). As a matter of fact, it has helped in harmonising international waters by means of setting limits, thereby assisting in dispute resolution between various states (UN, 2017b). With respect to pollution prevention, UNCLOS chapter twelve lays down the framework for vessel source pollution by stating general duties and rights of states to prescribe, establish and implement vessel source pollution standards. Along with that, it has laid down minimum standards for flag state (section 217) to order and enforce vessel source pollution and has specified jurisdiction of coastal and port state through section 218 and 220 on vessels of other states with regards to pollution (Bodansky, 1991). In fact, IMO relies on UNCLOS to define degree of jurisdiction that a coastal state can exercise on foreign ship in innocent passage, territorial waters or Exclusive Economic Zone to enforce its regulations (IMO, 2014). Apart from the conventions, IMO has been greatly supported by regional bodies in living up to its vision of “safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans” (Biermann and Siebenhu?ner 2009). The EU is one such body with the mandate to develop safe trade in a safe sea.

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