National Park Service - Maritime Heritage Program
Historic Ships

Organizations addressing the current maritime world
This collection of citations includes links to international organizations, government agencies, sources on maritime law, classification societies, and sites addressing maritime labor and safety at sea. Many of these sites also provide extensive collections of links to shipping companies, port authorities, maritime industry publications, and more. As well, some sites include history sections that aid in understanding the continuity of past and present maritime worlds.

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The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations provides advice and assistance regarding the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention on the Law of the Sea sets forth a framework of rules and legal concepts governing use of the world's oceans. Included on this comprehensive web site are the Convention and related Agreements, reports and conventions relating to marine resources and the marine environment, and links to institutions established under the Convention.
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The International Maritime Organization (IMO), "is the United Nations' specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships." Their site includes an overview of IMO, FAQs, briefings, circulars, news items and publications of the IMO, as well as an extensive collection of links to such topics as arrest of ships, arbitration, conventions, treaties and legal instruments, ports, shipbuilding, salvage repair, and marine engineering. Also available are useful detailed summaries of all IMO Conventions. Among the Conventions included are: International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), International Convention on Load Lines (LL), International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG), International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships (TONNAGE).

The site also lists IMO Member States, inter-governmental organizations which have concluded Agreements of Co-operation with IMO, and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with IMO. As well, it provides a useful summary of the process involved in adoption, entry into force, amendment and enforcement of international conventions.
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The International Labour Organization (ILO), "is the UN specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights." Through the International Labour Conference, consisting of government, employer, and worker delegates from member States, the ILO formulates international labor standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations.

The site provides an informative overview of the mandate, history, and structure of the organization. It also includes a section on the formation and implementation of international labor standards. Through this section you can access ILOLEX the ILO's database on international labor standards as well as NATLEX, a database of national laws on labor, social security and related human rights. By conducting a subject search on ILOLEX using the term "seafarers" you can retrieve all conventions and recommendations on this area of employment.

The office of the legal adviser provides information on the ILO's relations with other international organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO). To learn about the U.S. role in the ILO, link to the ILO Washington Branch Office.
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Both the IMO and the ILO web sites provide a helpful introduction to the global nature of shipping and the maritime trades. By reading through the materials included on these sites, it is possible to gain an understanding of the international cooperation involved in maintaining safety at sea and how this international cooperation, through various treaties and conventions, influences maritime law.

Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute is a very good online source for learning about maritime law. The web site provides access to U.S. state and federal maritime laws and regulations, relevant House and Senate committees, Supreme Court and Circuit Court decisions on admiralty, state maritime court decisions, international conventions and treaties as well as an informative overview of maritime law:
    Admiralty law or maritime law is the distinct body of law...governing navigation and shipping. ...Under admiralty, the law of the ship's flag determines the source of law. For example, a ship flying the American flag in the Persian Gulf would be subject to American admiralty law; and a ship flying a Norwegian flag in American waters will be subject to Norwegian admiralty law. ...
Also included are links to several federal agencies with maritime interests. The U.S. Navy site provides access to the Office of General Counsel, the Office of the Judge Advocate General as well as current data on all aspects of naval command structure and operations (see also, the Naval Historical Center, previous section). The U.S. Department of Transportation site links to the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) which "promotes the development and maintenance of the US merchant marine." This site provides information on MARAD that includes annual reports, vessel inventories, a useful compilation of maritime laws, and links to related sites such as the US Merchant Marine Academy, state maritime academies as well as U.S. ports and shipyards. The DOT site also links to the U.S. Coast Guard (see also this section below and previous section). The Federal Maritime Commission, which is responsible for "the regulation of shipping in the foreign trades of the United States," is also available through Cornell's site.

As well, Cornell links to several other useful maritime law web sites. The Maritime Law and Admiralty Law Page ( is hosted by a law firm in Vancouver, British Columbia. The site deals primarily with maritime issues related to Canada and of special note is the comprehensive set of links. A clearly articulated introduction to some of the basic principles of admiralty law, provided by the West Legal Directory, can be accessed through the Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide link.

Other useful links on include the Comite Maritime International (CMI) and some of its member organizations. "The Comité Maritime International is a non-governmental international organization, the object of which is to contribute by all appropriate means and activities to the unification of maritime law in all its aspects." On their site you can access the status of ratification to maritime conventions, a brief history of the CMI, its constitution, a list of member association, newsletters, and more. Among the members with web sites are the Maritime Law Association of the United States, the British Maritime Law Association, and the Canadian Maritime Law Association each of which contain assorted reports, publications, and links.

The Institute of Maritime Law at University of Southampton, also accessible through Cornell's site, provides a very comprehensive set of links. These include access to sites for educational institutions, legal sources, individual ports and port authority associations, shipping companies, and numerous maritime organizations representing the interests of shippers, ship owners, ship builders, mariners, naval architects and marine engineers as well as classification societies.
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The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) brings together the world's major classification societies to address the development and administration of standards for the design, construction, and maintenance of ships. Members include: the American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas, China Classification Society, Det Norske Veritas, Germanischer Lloyd, Korean Register of Shipping, Lloyd's Register of Shipping, Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, Registro Italiano Navale, and the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. The IACS web site provides links to these organizations as well as information about IACS, the history of ship classification, and the continuing development of class and its relationship to the regulatory regime founded in international conventions.

The Publications page provides access to a PDF version of the Regulatory Regime Booklet- Ship Safety and Pollution Prevention. This is a very informative guide to current safety and pollution prevention requirements for ships that also includes a brief history of the origins of classification as a tool for evaluating vessel seaworthiness for insurers. As well, a number of briefing papers (available in PDF format) provide insight into IACS activities and current ship safety regulatory issues. Included among the briefing topics is a discussion of IACS relationship to the IMO, an overview of the authority of ship classification rules, and reports on IACS' role in Port State Control inspections, International Safety Management (ISM) Code implementation, and other regulatory mechanisms for ensuring the safe operation of merchant ships.

The various member web sites also provide insight into the process of ship classification and the issues of ship safety. The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) web site includes a brief description of classification and a historical timeline of ABS. The Classification Services section includes a helpful summary of the background, procedures, and reasons for classification. There are also links to lists of approved manufacturers as well as ordering information for ABS Rules and Guides, with informative supplements available online.

The Lloyd's Register of Shipping (LR) web site provides information describing both the current and historical maritime data available through LR, news briefs relevant to classification, extensive publications list with ordering information, as well as a number of technical papers addressing regulatory and compliance issues, and classification and design that are available for downloading. The site also includes a useful set of links to relevant maritime industry organizations.

As well, the IACS site also includes a nice collection of links. Included are sites for marine insurance and ship owners organizations, intergovernmental sites such as the IMO and the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control and governmental agencies such as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Canadian Coast Guard, French Maritime Administration, UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and the United States Coast Guard.
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Where as the IMO and IACS web sites provide a good overview of the practice of establishing a regulatory regime for ship design, construction, and operation, sites such as that of the United States Coast Guard provide insight into the process of implementing and enforcing such regulations.

Through the U.S. Coast Guard Units and Locations pages viewers can link to each district and unit to learn more about the marine safety offices and enforcement of marine safety and environmental protection regulations applicable to foreign and domestic vessels, as well as boating safety requirements, search and rescue operations, and law enforcement.

The Marine Safety Index, accessible through the Marine Safety and Environmental Protection web page, provides access to an extensive collection of laws, regulations, and guidance materials applicable to licensing, vessel documentation, vessel inspection, and the implementation of national and international vessel safety and pollution prevention standards. The Regulatory Home Page provides access to "information regarding proposed and final federal regulations affecting commercial vessel safety, port safety and security, and marine safety and environmental protection." The Marine Safety Manual, "the primary policy and procedural statement for the marine safety programs of the Coast Guard," is also accessible through the Index pages. Among the topics covered in this ten-volume publication are the origins of the marine safety program (vol.1), domestic and foreign vessel inspections, port state control, and international conventions, treaties, standards, and regulations (vol.2), and licensing, examinations, and manning requirements (vol.3). Most topics include a useful background discussion and references to legal authorities. As well, current Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circulars (NVICs) are available as is the Marine Safety Newsletter, a "comprehensive source regarding current marine safety news and regulations."

There is also a link to the Ship Structure Committee, "an interagency research and development committee for safer ship structures to enhance the safety of life at sea, promote technology and education advancements in marine transportation, and to protect the marine environment." In addition to research reports, the site includes a section on the Committee's history as well as a useful set of links. Information addressing ship design can also be found under the National & International Standards section that provides information about, and access to, the American Society for Testing and Materials - Committee F25 on Ships and Marine Technology and the International Organization for Standardization/Technical Committee 8 - Ships and Marine Technology (ISO/TC-8).

Also of interest is the STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) page, designed to "to promote a better understanding of the STCW Convention, domestic STCW regulations and requirements." As well, the Port State Control (PSC) web page provides insight into the program that allows port officers to identify foreign vessels operating in unsafe conditions and detain or deny them entry. On these pages you can access a brief overview of the origins of the Port State Control Program, an explanation of its use in enforcing the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, detention lists, denials of entry, and various PSC publications. The PSC page also includes, among its additional links, a reference to the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MOU).

The Paris MOU is an effort by 18 maritime administrations to coordinate PSC inspection procedures for identifying unsafe ships operating in European coastal and North Atlantic waters. The site provides access to the official text of the Paris MOU, including the guidelines for inspection procedures as well as an informative overview of the organization, its history, geographic scope, and executive structure. It also lists ships banned from ports in the Paris MOU region, provides a database of detained ships, and includes a link to the rust bucket of the month highlighting "the details of an interesting detention."
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The previous web sites convey how national and international cooperation works towards ensuring the safe operation of ships, safety of life at sea, and the prevention of marine pollution. The following three web sites provide an informative look at how a lack of such convention and lawlessness at sea can affect mariners and shipping.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is an umbrella organization for trade unions in all branches of the transport industry, world-wide. The ITF website contains information about its services and history, various reports, publications, press releases and links to related sites. The maritime section provides an overview of that department's work which includes involvement with the ILO, IMO, other international agencies as well as providing assistance to individual seafarers. This section includes news items, publications and reports relevant to seafarers and shipping. It also provides sections on Flags of Convenience (FOCs), crew abandonment, unpaid wages, and work-related personal injury or loss of life. The age of the world fishing fleet, growth of the FOC fishing fleet, and illegal fishing are also addressed.

Useful links from the maritime section as well as the ITF home page provide connections to international maritime organizations, government maritime offices and various Port State Control authorities, as well as individual unions and national union organizations.
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Another site addressing issues of seafarers and life at sea is the Center for Seafarers' Rights (CSR) "a worldwide resource for legal research, education, advocacy and assistance on seafarers' rights issues" that is part of the Seamen's Church Institute (SCI). The web site provides seafarers with access to online filing of incidents, documents and speeches relating to their legal rights, and a comprehensive set of links to seafarers centers world-wide, other maritime religious organizations, maritime periodicals online, classification societies, and other governmental and non-governmental maritime organizations.
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The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) web page provides insight into another facet of safety at sea by addressing issues of fraud and piracy within the shipping industry. The IMB is part of the Commercial Crime Services of the International Chamber of Commerce whose "task is to prevent fraud in international trade and maritime transport, reduce the risk of piracy and assist law enforcement in protecting crews. It tracks cargoes and shipments and verifies their arrival at scheduled ports." The site includes an overview of the bureau's services, links to news items concerning illegal acts against the shipping industry, and access to the Piracy Reporting Center which "supplies investigating teams that respond immediately to acts of piracy and collect evidence for law enforcement agencies." The Center's web pages include relevant news items and access to the Weekly Piracy Report.


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Last Modified: Fri, Sept 15 2000 10:13:42 am EDT

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