The field of shipping is extensively international. Global legislations, conventions and standards that regulate shipping are therefore desirable and play a vigorous part in harmonizing the regulation transverse the national regulation. Examples of international organisations are: IMO (International Maritime Organisation), ILO (the UN’s international workers organisation), EMSA (the European Maritime Safety Agency) and The Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment launched by the working group PAME.
International efforts have traditionally been organised under the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and have reflected the interest of flag states in uniform global technical standards for ships and crews, although the interests of coastal states have also been safeguarded. In recent years, the EU has been playing a more active part in this work, in response to accidents in European coastal waters, and the interests of coastal states have been given more weight. The EU has also expedited the implementation of international legislation by adopting it as community law. This has influenced the work of the IMO.
The IMO has adopted a number of global conventions to protect the marine environment from the negative impacts of maritime transport. In the present context, 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). The requirements in 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 the control of harmful antifouling systems and in 2004 a new convention regulating ballast water intake, discharge and management. Another example is the Ballast Water Convention which was approved in February 2004, and which Norway has ratified. This compels the 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 must treat their ballast water, and prior to that year all vessels must discharge their ballast water in the open sea.
As part of its work on maritime safety and antiterrorism measures, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee has initiated the establishment of a long-range vessel identification and tracking system (LRIT). The design of the system has not yet been finalised. The system can also be used to supplement maritime safety and oil spill response measures, just as the land-based AIS network is used to identify traffic in near-shore waters.