The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships. The Convention establishing the IMO was adopted in Geneva in 1948 and IMO first met in 1959. New Zealand became a member in 1960. The IMO’s special role in respect of the protection of the international marine environment is implicitly recognized by Part XII of UNCLOS. The IMO has adopted a comprehensive regulatory framework for international shipping, including rules on such issues as safety and environmental standards, compensation and liability, and maritime security.
In 2005 the IMO adopted two new instruments to respond to the changing security environment and the growing threat of terrorism at sea. The Protocol of 2005 to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation and the Protocol of 2005 to the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf (collectively ‘the 2005 SUA Protocols’) establish new offences relating to: maritime terrorism (terrorist acts committed against or from ships and fixed platforms); illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction by ship; and the transport by ship of terrorist fugitives. A regime for the boarding of ships engaged in the commission of those offences is also established. The 2005 SUA Protocols are recognised by the international community as two of the 16 core international counter-terrorism instruments.
New Zealand signed the 2005 SUA Protocols in January 2007. In mid-2009 the parliamentary treaty examination of the Protocols was successfully completed. Implementing legislation, in the form of a Maritime Crimes (2005 Protocols) Bill, is currently being drafted and is expected to be introduced into the House in 2012.