As discussed in our previous posts in this series, the endeavor to develop a sustainable maritime transportation system is gaining momentum especially because of technological advancements. The performance of the shipping industry has also been constantly improving as a result of the establishment of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas and a regime to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and prevent air pollution. In the previous posts, we discussed the action goals set by the IMO for the purpose of achieving sustainability such as ‘Safety Culture & Environmental Stewardship’, ‘Education & Training in Maritime Professions’, ‘Increased Energy Efficiency & Improved Ship-port interface’, and ‘Boosting Energy Supply for Ships’.

There is no doubt about the fact that all seafaring nations have to contribute towards establishing the sustainability of the maritime industry and we, therefore, continue with our discussions on the next two recommendations of the IMO – ‘Maritime Traffic Support & Advisory Systems’ and ‘Maritime Security’ – in this post.

Maritime Traffic Support & Advisory Systems

The oceans around the world are being used more intensively than ever before because of the tremendous increase in maritime transportation and other reasons such as oil exploration and their exploitation as a conventional and renewable energy source. There is an alarming increase in fishing activities all over the world. Further, tourism activities have also seen phenomenal growth over the years. The number of cruise ships, traversing even across the Polar waters, has increased, and people are involving in other maritime-based leisure activities.

In seas that are more crowded because of the higher traffic density of larger ships, the shipping routes have to be provided with better information systems. They may include meteorological, hydrographic, and oceanographic services; navigation aids, lights houses, and technologies such as Global Maritime Distress & Safety Systems (GMDSS), Vessel Traffic Services (VTS), and Satellite Communication Technology, which enable vessels to achieve the desired efficiency levels and enjoy enhanced safety.

Further, the technological advancements that are happening in the area of navigational aids and the lack of standardization within the shipping industry (as far systems and equipment harmonization are concerned) have the potential to impact both efficiency and safety of Maritime Transport Systems. It is, therefore, expected that E-navigation will be helpful integrating both the existing and new tools used for navigation, particularly the electronic aids, and contribute to enhancing navigational safety and reducing the burden of the navigators.

IMO has partnered with various organizations for the purpose of fructifying this action goal of establishing dependable maritime traffic support & advisory systems. They include:

  • The maritime technology support cluster consisting of ship managers, ship crew, port authorities, and flag administrations
  • Intergovernmental organizations like the International Hydrographic Organization
  • International organizations like the IALA

As such, the action goal envisaged by the IMO for the development of dependable maritime navigational systems is co-operation and harmony among the partners. Systems are to be developed for ice breaking and pilotage services, wherever necessary; intelligent routeing systems as well as weather routeing aids (this includes e-navigation that helps to optimize fuel efficiency and safety without deflating the authority and competency of the Master in the vessel’s operation); reliable charts that are based on the latest environmental, hydrographic, and oceanographic data. Further, all these have to be implemented with due consideration for scaling up of traffic information systems, especially the concept of Marine Electronic Highway.

Maritime Security

When it comes to maritime security, threats often have an adverse effect on the trade flow predictability in the shipping industry. Actually, the poorest people are affected because of the damaging effect caused by security-related incidents that often occur. In addition to affecting the food security of poorer section of people, such incidents frequently adversely impact or even threaten the world’s energy security. There are underlying causes behind armed robberies and piracies that are reported. Often, such things happen due to complex reasons and can be linked to social, political, and economic conditions prevailing in the coastal nations. The state of affairs in these nations does not only give rise to lawlessness as well as criminal acts on the land but also at sea. This is particularly true off Somalia coast.

The security and terrorism threats at sea are likely to continue or even increase as world trade expands and extends to new ports and routes. Certain regions will start experiencing congestion because of the increase in shipping traffic. On the other hand, this can give rise to new security challenges as well. The wide range of security threats that the Maritime Transportation System is subjected to include piracy, armed robbery, global terrorism, unlawful weapons trade, smuggling, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, and unreported or illegal fishing.

The agencies that are responsible for partnering with IMO and ensuring security include the following:

  • Governments of countries
  • Multilateral organizations which are responsible for maritime affairs
  • Navy and coast protection forces
  • Customs and enforcement agencies
  • Authorities responsible for protecting and ensuring the security of sea routes that are made use of for international trade
  • The entire shipping industry
  • Ports and maritime authorities
  • All others responsible for implementing and enforcing security as per the provisions of the ISPS Code

According to the IMO, partners should focus on ensuring the sustainability of the Maritime Transportation System. The agency is of the view that the communities relying on sea trade and enjoying the benefits must protect the seafarers, shipping lanes, and ships. Further, the IMO feels that the protection measures implemented must be such that they restrain the threats posed.

However, the implementation has to be effected keeping in mind the cost aspects as increased security costs can potentially erode the sustainability of the shipping industry. Finally, the enforcement of the implementation of the ISPS Code on all ships and ports that are engaged in international maritime transport must be done in all earnestness.


Sustainability-related to maritime transport encompasses three key dimensions: economic, environmental, and social. These dimensions are applied to several areas in order to achieve desired results. The direct and indirect influence of IMO on maritime transport is on the rise as the agency’s convention has declared that its fundamental purpose is ensuring conservation and the use of oceans and resources in a sustainable manner. The IMO has adopted many protocols and regulations in order to achieve desired results. As a result of these efforts, the stakeholders have started paying more attention to issues related to sustainability.

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