Compared to land-only transport, overseas shipments pose unique challenges to businesses. They require careful consideration during each step of the transport process, from the type of shipping container you choose to how the products are moved and handled along the shipment route. You also have to consider and abide by International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations. Learn more about the IMO and the critical role it plays in overseas shipments.
What Is the IMO?
International shipments account for more than 80% of worldwide trade as people across different countries and communities use overseas shipments to send and receive critical products and consumer goods. Airplane transport cannot sustain the weight and quantity that ship freight can. Without dependable maritime transport, it would be virtually impossible to move things like pharmaceuticals, perishable foods, explosives and flammables across seas in a timely and cost-efficient manner.
The IMO is associated with the United Nations and makes all this possible through carefully designed international standards for all areas of overseas shipping, including:
- Ship design and construction
- Environmental hazards and pollution prevention
- Safe and proper material disposal
- Onboard operational regulations
- Security and piracy
All countries and businesses use IMO standards as their framework for maritime shipment. A set of global standards is essential to avoid conflicts in local regulations that vary from country to country. The IMO works to continuously evaluate existing standards and introduce new ones as maritime technology and shipping requirements shift. They are responsible for adopting legislation, but not implementing it. Local governments who participate in the IMO Convention make their own laws based on these standards and enforce them as necessary.
Safety of Life at Sea
After details of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic emerged, it became clear that passenger and commercial vessels needed additional safety guidelines for operation, like a required amount of lifeboats and emergency equipment on board. IMO adopted The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and began implementing its provisions in 1974. SOLAS standards are designed to keep passengers, employees, crew members, captains, vessels and cargo safe from onboard and external threats.
SOLAS is responsible for many of today’s maritime regulations, including:
- Fire protection, detection and extinction
- Safe navigation and distress signals
- Radio communications for cargo and passenger ships
- Lifesaving appliances and protocols
- Structural stability and strength
- Water ingress alarms
- Safety codes for high-speed boats
- Shipping packaged dangerous cargo, including gas and chemicals
International Convention for Safe Containers
The International Convention for Safe Containers (CSC) focuses on freight container shipping. CSC covers important shipping considerations, like guidelines for testing, inspecting and maintaining overseas shipping containers and procedural tests to gauge structural safety. Its goals are to promote the safety of human life during transport and facilitate global trade with established international safety regulations.
You can display CSC compliance with a CSC plate attached to the outside of a container. The CSC plate includes information regarding when and how the container was inspected, its serial number and relevant figures, like dimensions, maximum gross weight and manufacture date.
The IMO has established numerous conventions, like SOLAS and CSC, to target critical areas of maritime travel, such as:
- MARPOL, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
- STCW, the International Convention of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers
- COLREG, the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
Impact on Maritime Shipping
Many IMO standards for shipping are focused on protecting marine environments from pollution, like chemicals, trash, sewage and sulfuric fuel. IMO 2020 is a new set of emissions standards implemented on January 1, 2020. The IMO established these new regulations to minimize sulfur emissions by as much as 80%.
Excess sulfur poses a significant threat to the environment, ocean habitats and human life. By minimizing the use of fuels with sulfur, there is a smaller risk of asthma, stroke, cancer and diseases in crew members and less environmental infiltration that could cause fallout like acid rain.
Shipping vessels can maintain IMO 2020 compliance by:
- Using a low-sulfur fuel
- Reducing total fuel consumption
- Optimizing shipping routes to include increased fuel stops and weather conditions
Despite concerns over higher fuel costs, the IMO 2020 impact on shipping overseas has had minimal disruptions to the shipping industry. This is largely due to the level of pre-planning IMO and overseas shipment companies engaged in to get vessels ready for the change.
The IMO Maritime Knowledge Centre
The Maritime Knowledge Centre (MKC) is a division of the IMO and part of the global United Nations System Libraries. It’s a database of resources for any party interested in learning more about maritime regulation, history and shipping, including up-to-date health information and protocol. Here, you get access to resources like:
- IMO documents and resolutions
- Collected affiliations and programs
- IMO meeting summaries
- Quarterly and annual maritime piracy reports
- Education and training resources for seafarers
- Crew libraries with self-help, education and recreation books
- Trade and professional organizations
- Information regarding seafarer welfare
- Maritime facts, figures and reports
- Relevant news and publications
Shipping Containers for Dangerous Goods
The IMO has specific criteria for shipping and handling dangerous goods, like:
- Explosives: Explosives include items that pose the risk of minor and massive blasts, projection and fire hazards.
- Gases: Dangerous gases include flammable, non-flammable, toxic and non-toxic gases, like butane, helium or chlorine.
- Flammable liquids: Flammable liquids are any substance that will ignite or explode, like fuel.
- Flammable solids: Flammable solids include self-reactive and spontaneously flammable substances, desensitized explosives and anything that emits combustible gases.
- Substances and peroxides: These substances include oxidizing and corrosive substances, like sulfuric acid and ammonium nitrate. Toxic and infectious substances are any that may cause death or sickness upon contact or inhalation, like methanol or human secretions.
- Radioactive material: IMO criteria encompasses numerous radioactive materials with varying levels of hazard.
Klinge Corporation has dual refrigerated containers that meet IMO requirements for dangerous transport. Each container contains two full reefer units, each with a separate thermostat and circuit and genset power for continuous operation. They are suitable for products requiring a constant temperature between -13 degrees and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Additional options include remote monitoring, GPS communication, lighting, shelving and alarm notifications.
Learn More at Klinge Corporation
Klinge Corporation is a global leader in temperature-controlled reefer containers for maritime shipping. Businesses across many industries rely on our shipping containers, including:
- Military and government organizations
- Chemical, oil and gas businesses
- Pharmaceutical development
- Food and beverage production and processing
- Shipping and freight forwarding companies