Government Maritime Resources

Patrol boatThe maritime industry includes all types of enterprises associated with sea vessels and shipping lines.  From designing, constructing and operating to managing and repairing fleets, the maritime industry covers a wide span of enterprises.  The government, specifically the United States Department of Transportation oversees the maritime industry. 

Compiled is a list of government maritime resources and links, complete with the description of each organization’s history and structure. 

International Maritime Organization

The International Maritime Organization has been working since 1948 to improve sea safety through the development of international regulations and policies that implemented around the globe.  Through the adoption of treaties shipping nations have been able to improve safety while at sea and become more effective in the industry. 

While there have always been discussions and thoughts on improving sea safety, it was not realized until the United Nations was established.  The first international conference in Geneva in 1948 established the first IMO or Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO).  Their name was later changed to the IMO in 1982.

Today the IMO has become the United Nations’ highly specialized agency that implements and promotes the international safety of shipping.  Marine pollution is also a huge responsibility of the IMO. 

Every two years the IMO meets to discuss mission, trends, challenges, and solutions.  A Strategic Plan for the Organization is set in motion to cover a six-year period.  Performance indicators are a large portion of the plan.  Careful monitoring of the previous plan and review of the current plan take place at the IMO meeting.  During the meeting, six official languages are spoken to embrace international relations including English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic.

United States Maritime Commission

Acting as a subsidiary of the United States Department of Transportation, the United States Maritime Commission and United States Maritime Administration maintains the National Defense Reserve Fleet of readied ships that are prepared in the event of a national emergency.  The Commission also assists the fleet to fulfill its role as the fourth arm of defense for the nation and support the military in any role it requires.

The United States Maritime Commission was formed on May 24, 1950 and at the time split functions with the US Federal Maritime Board and the Maritime Administration.  At the time the US Federal Maritime Board was responsible for shipping regulations and operating merchant vessels while the Maritime Administration was responsible for subsidy programs as well as maintaining the national defense reserve fleet.  These functions changed in 1961 when assumed by the formation of the Federal Maritime Commission.  Later in 1981, the control came under the US Department of Transportation. 

·        United States Coast Guard

A three tiered system of maritime security is governed by the United States Coast Guard.  These leveling systems are in place to effectively communicate in times of potential and credible threats at sea.  The Secretary of Homeland Security oversees the system run through the Coast Guard. 

There are five armed forces and the US Coast Guard is one of those arms that operate as a military organization governed by the Department of Homeland Security.  The maritime economy, environment, and coast are protected by the Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard also works to defend the maritime borders in the event of unrest or peril. 

Some of the safety works the Coast Guard undergoes is search and rescue operations, conducting commercial inspections, performing safety or environmental exams on foreign vessels, and performing compliance checks for fishing vessels.  While there are numerous other tasks performed by the Coast Guard, these are a few of the most common procedures.

In terms of stewardship, the United States Coast Guard routinely investigates pollution incidences and conducts fishery conservation boardings each year.  Safety inspections and container inspections are often done by the USCG. 

Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide

The Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide is a virtual library of links and services related to the maritime industry.  There are over 1,500 links that relate to maritime and admiralty law.  The database of resources is continually growing as laws change and information is added.  The primary emphasis of the site is on maritime law in the United States and all information may be used by professionals, attorneys, and government officials.  Codes and rules, court opinions, conventions, publications, and references are just some of the information found on the law guide.

The author of the site is an admiralty attorney named Todd Kenyon who earned a J.D. from Syracuse University and an L.L.M. in Admiralty from Tulane University.  The guide is geared to be one of the few comprehensive research tools for admiralty and maritime law available today.  The guide has been recognized by Cornell Law Library and a comprehensive research source for the National Transportation Library and the Social Science Information Gateway. 

Open directories of law resources are broken into country specific information.  For example, Australia lists the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand while the United Kingdom lists The Maritime and Coastguard Agency as its governmental agency for publications and regulations.

Also found on the site are a number of various organizations and links to their websites.  Organizations include courts, associations, US government, international, and education.  The site is a solid resource for linking to reputable maritime sites that promote navigational safety and the law.  One of the most highly visited sites is the United States Department of Homeland Security, which is the parent organization of the US Coast Guard. 

Finding reputable maritime resources that post current news and publications can be found at the Admiralty and Maritime Law Guide.  Although filled with law publications there are a number of other resources available.  Many universities are linked to the site in order to promote their education, maritime training and research.  From the University of London to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, this governmental site offers a world of information and education related to maritime procedures and operations.