Current legislation relevant for shippingThe following are the major international shipping conventions, adopted by the International Maritime Organization (and the International Labour Organization). However, many other maritime instruments concerning more specific issues are also in force worldwide.
- SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974) lays down a comprehensive range of minimum standards for the safe construction of ships and the basic safety equipment (e.g. fire protection, navigation, lifesaving and radio) to be carried on board. SOLAS also requires regular ship surveys and the issue by flag states of certificates of compliance.
- MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973/1978) contains requirements to prevent pollution that may be caused both accidentally and in the course of routine operations. MARPOL concerns the prevention of pollution from oil, bulk chemicals, dangerous goods, sewage, garbage and atmospheric pollution, and includes provisions such as those which require certain oil tankers to have double hulls.
- UNCLOS (The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982), also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world's oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources. The Convention, concluded in 1982, replaced four 1958 treaties. UNCLOS came into force in 1994, a year after Guyana became the 60th nation to ratify the treaty.  As of June 2016, 167 countries and the European Union have joined in the Convention. It is uncertain as to what extent the Convention codifies customary international law.
- COLREGS (Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972) lays down the basic "rules of the road", such as rights of way and actions to avoid collisions.
- LOADLINE (International Convention on Loadlines, 1966) sets the minimum permissible free board, according to the season of the year and the ship's trading pattern.
- ISPS (The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, 2002) includes mandatory requirements to ensure that ships and port facilities are secure at all stages during a voyage.
- ISM (The International Safety Management Code, 1993) effectively requires shipping companies to have a licence to operate. Companies and their ships must undergo regular audits to ensure that a safety management system is in place, including adequate procedures and lines of communication between ships and their managers ashore.
- STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978/1995/2010) establishes uniform standards of competence for seafarers.
- ILO 147 (The ILO Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1976) requires national administrations to have effective legislation on labour issues such as hours of work, medical fitness and seafarers' working conditions. This was superseded by the ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006) which entered into force on 30 August 2013.
The diversity of regulations, dealt with on an international level, proves the necessity of this international approach. Due to the multi modal aspect of shipping, regulations are best tackled in the International Maritime Organization where 168 member countries decide on the regulations for shipping.
Did you know? A ship is a micro world on its own!
Even one ship itself can be a world of its own. For example, the ship owner can be Greek, but the ship sails under the Panama flag. The ships officers are Italian and Ukraine, but the crew is Philippine. The manager Hong Kong, cargo Middle East and the insurance companies are from other states.