Shipping is an extensively international industry. Therefore, global legislations, conventions, and standards which regulate shipping are desirable and play an important role to harmonize the regulations across nations. Major international organisations which contribute to regulations are: IMO (International Maritime Organisation), ILO (the UN’s international workers organisation), and EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency). Regional initiatives are also helpful, such as the
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment conducted by the working group PAME (Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment) under the Arctic Council.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) protects the interests of flag states by providing uniform global technical standards for ships and crews, although the interests of coastal states are also safeguarded. In response to accidents in European coastal waters, the EU has played a more active part in this work, and the interests of coastal states have been given more weight. The EU has also expedited implementation of international legislation by adopting it as community law. This has influenced the work of the IMO, which has adopted a number of global conventions to protect the marine environment from the negative impacts of maritime transport. Presently, the most important of these conventions are the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS, 1974) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL, 1973/78). Requirements under these conventions are under continuous revision; one example is the adoption of an accelerated phase-out schedule for single-hull tankers. In October 2001, the IMO also adopted a new convention on control of harmful antifouling systems; in 2004 a new convention was adopted to regulate ballast water intake, discharge, and management. Another example is the Ballast Water Convention approved in February 2004, which Norway has ratified; this convention compels signatory nations to ensure, by 2016, that all ballast water in both old and new ships is treated before being discharged. By 2012, all new ships were required to treat their ballast water; prior to 2012, all vessels were required to discharge their ballast water in the open sea.
As part of its maritime safety and antiterrorism measures, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee initiated establishment of long-range vessel identification and tracking systems (LRIT); design of these systems has not yet been finalised. Such systems can also be used to supplement maritime safety and oil spill response measures, just as land-based AIS (Automatic Identification System) networks can be used to identify traffic in near-shore waters.
Cooperation between Russian and Norway to protect against oil pollution in the Barents Sea has been ongoing for more than 20 years. It is built upon an “Agreement between the Kingdom of Norway and the Russian Federation concerning Cooperation to Combat Oil Pollution in the Barents Sea (1994); and a Memorandum of Understanding (2006). The Joint Norwegian-Russian Contingency Plan for the Combatment of Oil Pollution in the Barents Sea was signed in Moscow on 28th of April, 1994. The cooperation has had practical joint activities during which oil pollution protection authorities from both countries have gained experience through conducting joint exercises both in Norway and in Russia. Earlier these joint exercises were organised every other year; in recent years such exercises have been conducted at least once each year. The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, the Norwegian Environment Agency, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, and the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation — represented by its oil pollution protection unit, the Murmansk Basin Emergency-and-Salvage Department — are the main responsible institutes in this cooperation. Joint exercises include both search-and-rescue and combating oil spills.