The International Maritime Organization, the United Nations specialized agency with the responsibility for the safety and security of worldwide shipping, uses the designated day to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment. In 2013, IMO is focusing on a message of global sustainable development.

IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu said all facets of the maritime transportation system aid the goal of sustainable development, including communications, vessel registration and tracking, shipbuilding and repair, ship recycling and the education and training of seafarers.

“It is important that this discussion takes place not just within the shipping sector, but also beyond, as we need to impress upon stakeholders outside the maritime industry, the important role the maritime transportation system plays in our world,” Sekimizu said.

Several of IMO’s sustainable maritime development goals include energy efficiency, maritime port security, economic world traffic management and global maritime infrastructure development.

“These goals are designed to promote the free flow of international maritime shipping throughout the world,” said Port President and CEO Gary LaGrange. “The Port of New Orleans wants to participate to the fullest extent possible in fostering the sustainable goals of the IMO.”

World Maritime Day was first held on March 17, 1978. At the time the IMO had 21 member states. Today it has 167 member states and three associate members, including virtually all nations of the world with an interest in maritime affairs and protecting their marine environment.

Throughout history, people have understood that international regulations followed by many countries could improve marine safety worldwide. Various nations proposed a permanent international body be established to promote maritime safety more effectively, but it was not until the UN was formed that these hopes were realized. In 1948, an international conference in Geneva adopted a convention establishing the IMO to maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping. It was originally called the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization, but the name was changed in 1982 to IMO.