Australian High Commission
United Kingdom
Australia House, London

Australia and the International Maritime Organization

Australia’s long-standing engagement with the International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The IMO is the United Nations’ specialised agency with responsibility as the standards-setting body for the safety and security of international shipping. The IMO also works to prevent marine and atmospheric pollution from ships, and supports the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Australia is a foundation member of the IMO and has held a seat on the IMO Council – the Organization’s executive organ – for many years.

Australia has diverse and balanced interests at the IMO and a strong commitment to develop fair and effective shipping standards.

Australia works with every Member State to ensure IMO decisions are equitable and sustainable.

Fast Facts


  • is the largest island nation with 60,000 kilometres of coastline and 12,000 islands
  • has a Search and Rescue region covering more than 10% of the earth’s surface
  • receives nearly 29,000 ship visits per year from international trading ships
  • is home to the largest bulk export port in the world
  • ships over 400 commodities in and out of Australia using more than 1000 shipping routes
  • handles over 1.6 billion tonnes of cargo annually, 93% of which is international trade

Australia on IMO Council

Australia was one of the founding members of the IMO and has been an elected member of IMO Council for many years. Council is elected for two-year terms by the Assembly, the IMO’s governing body.

 This role allows us to shape the future direction of the Organization. Australia is again running for election to the IMO Council for the 2022-23 biennium. Australia’s campaign website  has translated brochures, videos and other information about our candidacy.

Member States are elected to Council in three categories:

  • Category A      is composed of 10 states with the largest interest in providing international shipping services. 
  • Category B      is composed of 10 states with the largest interest in international seaborne trade. 
  • Category C      is composed of 20 States which have special interests in maritime transport or navigation, and whose election to the Council will ensure the representation of all major geographic areas of the world.   

Australia is a member of Category B on Council. In 2017, Australia became the first nation to change from Category C to Category B. This result reflects Australia’s significant claims to this category as the largest bulk commodities exporter in the world.

Australia's future work at the IMO

Australia’s aims at the IMO are to:

  • Implement robust international standards to ensure safer outcomes for shipping;
  • Enhance seafarer welfare;
  • Protect the marine environment;
  • Coordinate effective search and rescue efforts in our region; and
  • Increase maritime technical capacity, and search and rescue capability within the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions

Australian Representation at the IMO 

Australia maintains permanent IMO representation in London, where the IMO Headquarters is located. Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, The Hon Stephen Smith, is Australia's Permanent Representative to the IMO (PRIMO). The PRIMO represents Australia during meetings of the IMO Assembly and plays a key role in Australia’s IMO Council election campaign.  The PRIMO provides high level Australian representation to IMO where needed.

The PRIMO is supported by an Alternative Permanent Representative to the IMO (APRIMO), who pursues Australian interests at meetings, works closely with the IMO Secretariat, and maintains a comprehensive network among other IMO representatives.

Australia initiates change

Australia is working with other nations to keep the IMO at the forefront of international developments.

Australia promotes new measures that not only complement our coastal state interests, but also balance international environmental and social considerations.

Australia is a strong advocate of openness, transparency and access to information at the IMO. Australia initiated a significant program of reform in 2018 to keep the IMO a modern, democratic and dynamic standard-setting body.

Engaging with other IMO nations

Australia is a fair and effective negotiator who seeks common-sense solutions at the IMO. Australia contributes strong leadership, technical and policy knowledge, and consistently demonstrates respect and openness when engaging with IMO members and the Secretariat.

Australia effectively represents our stakeholders by presenting ideas and position, and seeking support for our proposals among other IMO nations.