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Report No. 151

Section III

Chapter 5

International Conventions

5.1. In the case of international law, it is claimed that there must be a transformation of the international convention into state law before it can be enforced. This is not merely a formal but a substantive requirement which alone validates the extension to individuals of the rules laid down in international treaties and conventions.

Such theory rests on the supposed consensual character of international law as contrasted with non-consensual nature of State law. In particular, the transformation theory is based on an alleged difference between treaties which are of the nature of promises, and municipal statutes which are of the nature of commands. It follows from this basic difference that a transformation from one type to the other is formally substantially indispensable.

5.2. The Law of Admiralty is governed by both municipal laws as well as international law. Some aspects like registration of ships are governed by Municipal Laws of the maritime country concerned, while other aspects, specially commercial aspects, are governed by maritime international law. Maritime international law has its source either in customary law based on general practice followed by maritime States or treaty based mainly on internal conventions. Customary maritime law has developed over centuries and in different civilizations but during recent years, a substantial part of it has been codified into international conventions. Different international conventions cover different aspects of maritime law. A brief study of the development of this law will be of use.

5.3. In the pre-Second World War period all problems relating to shipping which required international agreements were dealt with by ad hoc conferences. The latter framed conventions to regulate various aspects of shipping - an industry primarily international in its operation.

The establishment of a permanent international maritime commission was contemplated as early as 1889 at the International Marine Conference held in Washington, which dealt exclusively with questions of "safety for life and property at sea". The conference came to the conclusion, however, that "for the present the establishment of a permanent international maritime commission is not considered expedient."

5.4. The first inter-governmental organisation to deal with shipping matters was, however, set up in 1944. This organisation was called the United Maritime Authority and its main task was to arrange for necessary shipping for the requirements of demobilisation, civil need, relief and rehabilitation programmes, etc. In 1946, the United Maritime Authority was replaced by another organisation, the United Maritime Consultative Council. This Council had two sessions, one at Amsterdam in June, 1946 and the other in Washington in October, 1946.

In pursuance of a Resolution of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, these Sessions of the United Maritime Consultative Council prepared a draft Convention for the setting up of a permanent inter-governmental maritime organisation. Finally, at the instance of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, a conference of representatives of Governments on a world-wide basis was called at Geneva in February-March, 1948, to consider the desirability of a permanent Governmental Shipping Organisation and to lay down its scope and functions.

The basis of discussion was the draft Convention already prepared by the United Maritime Consultative Council. The Geneva Conference successfully prepared and opened for signature a Convention on the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO), which, could come into force only after twenty-two States (including seven having at least one million gross tons of shipping) became parties to it. On March 17, 1958, Japan became the twenty-first State to accept the Convention.

The organisation which thus came into being is the twelfth specialised agency of the United Nations. Its members include not only the traditional maritime countries but all those who rely largely on the shipping services of other countries. It was the first inter-governmental organisation concerned with maritime affairs, since its raison d'etre is shipping engaged in international commerce-a most important field since more passengers and greater tonnage of goods are still earned in ships than by other means of transport.

5.5. The first objective of IMCO is to facilitate co-operation among Governments in technical matters of all kinds affecting shipping. Its aim is to achieve the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and efficient navigation. It has a special responsibility for the safety of life at sea. It also provides for the wide exchange of information between nations on all technical maritime subjects.

5.6. Another purpose of the IMCO is to discourage discriminatory, unfair and restrictive practices affecting ships in international trade, so as to promote the maximum possible availability of shipping services to meet the needs of the world for overseas transport. The IMCO is also required to give advice to other international bodies on shipping matters, including agencies of the United Nations, and to co-ordinate its activities with those of the United Nations Agencies dealing with labour questions, telecommunications, meteorology, aviation, automatic energy and health. Other responsibilities of the organisation include such matters as the prevention of pollution of the sea by oil, and the unification of regulations for the tonnage measurements of ships

5.7. In the present report it is not possible to do anything more than to refer merely to the numerous International Conventions.

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