The industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the upsurge in international commerce which followed resulted in the adoption of a number of international treaties related to shipping, including safety. The subjects covered included tonnage measurement, the prevention of collisions, signalling and others.
By the end of the nineteenth century suggestions had even been made for the creation of a permanent international maritime body to deal with these and future measures. The plan was not put into effect, but international co-operation continued in the twentieth century, with the adoption of still more internationally-developed treaties.
By the time IMO came into existence in 1958, several important international conventions had already been developed, including the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of 1948, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil of 1954 and treaties dealing with load lines and the prevention of collisions at sea.
IMO was made responsible for ensuring that the majority of these conventions were kept up to date. It was also given the task of developing new conventions as and when the need arose.
The creation of IMO coincided with a period of tremendous change in world shipping and the Organization was kept busy from the start developing new conventions and ensuring that existing instruments kept pace with changes in shipping technology. It is now responsible for more than 50 international conventions and agreements and has adopted numerous protocols and amendments.