New study claims corporations are dictating the agenda at IMO

A study published today by London-based non-profit organisation InfluenceMap claims corporations have “unmatched” power to shape regulations at the United Nations’ shipping body, the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The report – Corporate capture of the IMO – has been timed for release to coincide with the start of the next round of IMO climate talks kicking off this week.

The 38-page report claims big business and major shipping trade groups are “actively and collectively” obstructing global climate change policy at the IMO. Major flags of convenience as well as Bimco, the World Shipping Council and the International Chamber of Shipping are highlighted as barriers to getting more stringent, timely environmental rules in place.

“Despite being responsible for close to 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the shipping sector remains outside of the UN Paris Agreement on climate. It has achieved this through corporate capture of the International Maritime Organization,” the study maintained.

The authors of the report went on to claim that the IMO stood out as the UN body most influenced by corporations.

“Corporations have unmatched access and influence at the IMO compared to other UN bodies, providing the shipping industry with a clear avenue to shape policymaking,” InfluenceMap stated. An analysis of other UN agencies carried out by the British non-profit organisation indicated that while trade associations are typically granted access to committee meetings, similar to the IMO, at no other UN agency researched do corporations attend committee meetings as formal state representatives.

IMO member states are set to meet this week in the latest round of climate talks with clear divisions emerging. While Scandinavian and Pacific nations are pushing for dramatic emission cuts, others such as Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and India are keen to delay any firm emission cut commitments.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Maybe this UK based non profit know little of how this world works and the level of lobbying in all facets of policy making [EU, US, IMO, UN, my municipal council and so on]. It is striking that they just realised that lobbying exists!
    On the other side, advocates of more stringent environmental regulation of shipping, I am afraid are looking at one thing: commoditise pollution and trade it through an ETS-like market. Lots of money to be made so I stand a bit cautious here…

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