Turning knowledge into action at the IMO

IMarEST President Martin Shaw reflects on the papers submitted to the ninth session of the IMO Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC9) by the Human Element Industry Group, of which IMarEST is a member. 

The CCC9 focuses on all matters relating to transporting bulk solid and gas cargoes, zero and low-carbon fuels, containers, and packed dangerous goods.  

Ranging from competencies to safety, the five papers authored by IMarEST to CCC9 were generated by members. “We’ve never had a greater opportunity to change things,” says Shaw. “It’s not just us knocking on the door [of the IMO] saying, ‘We want you to listen.’ They’re coming to us.”  

Collaborating for safer transportation 

IMarEST’s ability to generate new knowledge and find solutions comes from collaborations with and between its members. To put that knowledge and those solutions into action, IMarEST also works closely with other organisations.  

For work relevant to CCC9, IMarEST has joined forces with other non-governmental organisations - professional societies, trade organisations, and charities – in a dedicated Human Element Industry Group (HEIG).  

“When you put together a whole bunch of NGOs, you get to the point where the flag states recognise the industry is coming together and saying that something needs to be done,” says Shaw. As a result, proposals for amendments and additions of existing policies, rules and regulations tend to be swiftly adopted.  

For example, work by IMarEST member Dónal Burke demonstrating how and why enclosed spaces are more dangerous than previously thought, alongside the work of members such as Steve Carroll who focused on the classification of enclosed spaces, has supported re-writing regulations for entering enclosed spaces.  

Meanwhile, efforts led by members Gordon Meadow and Ross Macfarlane are helping to ensure that seafarer competencies are kept up to date with autonomous technology developments. 

Yet, with the IMO being a large international body, a swift adoption process can still take years to be completed. For this reason, Shaw expects to see most on-the-ground changes occurring from 2025 onwards. 

Generating knowledge from the ground up 

With IMarEST becoming increasingly influential, the opportunity for members to raise concerns and make meaningful change has never been greater.  

“It’s a lot of hard work to get something ready for the IMO,” Shaw says. All papers need to be written in a particular style and language for the IMO. And they can only be submitted by a flag state and/or an IMO-recognised international non-governmental organisation, like IMarEST. 

Burke’s route to the IMO through IMarEST was a little unusual. “He contacted someone in the IMarEST office, who then contacted me and asked if I wanted to talk to him. We spoke about his work, and then [as President-elect at the time] I pushed him to the [Human Element Industry] Group,” says Shaw.  

While Burke’s route was undoubtedly effective, for the most part, the most efficient way of raising an issue, proposing solutions, and getting work in front of the IMO is to work with the appropriate Special Interest Group (SIG), in collaboration with the IMarEST’s Technical & Policy team. 

“All the SIG chairs are members of [IMarEST’s] Technical Leadership Board (TLB), which looks at what areas we need to be working on,” Shaw explains. The SIGs also provide the benefit of having many competent and experienced hands-on deck. In addition, The IMarEST Technical and Policy Team is also on hand to advise and support SIGs in preparing their work for the IMO.

If a suitable SIG doesn’t exist, all is not lost as members can work with IMarEST to create one. “If you really want to push something forward and you don’t see a way to do it with the structure that we’ve got, contact [the team] and just say so, and we’ll look at options,” says Shaw.  

The Technical & Policy Team can be contacted at [email protected].

Main image: International Maritime Organization in London; Credit: Shutterstock