International shipping organizations involved in importing and exporting

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August 31, 2018

International shipping organizations and bodies play an instrumental role in global importing and exporting. These international bodies play various roles including regulating maritime safety standards, as well as assisting developing countries to attain stability and economic security.

As the world has continued to become more globalized, numerous national and international organizations have stepped up to influence the fields of shipping and international trade. A lot of these international bodies work closely with state governments to make an increasing contribution towards the development of international trade. Below is a non-exhaustive list of important international shipping organizations:

World Trade Organization

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the largest intergovernmental economic body in the world.  The WTO was created in 1999 with the aim of making international trade as seamless, as predictable, and as free as possible.

Apart from coming up with trade agreements that are signed by representatives from the member countries, the WTO also creates measures like the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures or the SPS Agreement designed to protect the environment. WTO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and has a total of 164-member states.

World Customs Organization

The World Customs Organization was created to continually improve the state of global customs processes. The purpose of the WCO is to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of customs authorities in various countries in the world so that authorities can continue to collect revenue, compile trade statistics, and improve security.

The WCO is also responsible for determining customs valuations, as well as the rules of origin. Customs valuations refer to procedures used to assign a monetary value to a product being exported or imported. On the other hand, rules of origin are regulations that allow a country to claim the origin of a service or goods.

The International Chamber of Commerce

The International Chamber of Commerce is the biggest association of businesses in the world. The ICC sets rules and solves disputes, as well as advocates for the formulation of policies that make business operations better on the world stage.

It is the ICC that first published its work on Incoterms or international trade terms or International Commercial Terms, which are the terms that are used by shippers to communicate the risks, responsibilities, and costs allocated to both the buyer and seller in an international business transaction.

Shipowners’ Association


Controlling and operating ships is a commercial and competitive venture but associations such as the Shipowners’ Association lobby and fight for businesses in the shipping industry. Almost every maritime country has a national shipowner’s association. In Kenya, this association is known as the Kenya Ships Agents Association, and it was established in 1970 with the aim of:

  • Promoting the interest if shipping companies that utilize the Port of Mombasa
  • Consulting and agreeing on common matters of policy relating and affecting ship owners that use the Mombasa Port
  • Placing their members’ interest ahead of the government’s or other public bodies

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is an intergovernmental organization that was created to assist developing countries to boost their economies. UNCTAD does this by increasing access to digital technologies, working to limit rules that constrain global trade and assist technically where it can.

Some successful UNCTAD accomplishments include ensuring that imports into developed countries from developing countries receive preferential duty treatment, which evens the playing field and allows developing countries to perform more competitively.

International Maritime Organization

The International Maritime Organization is a special branch of the UN. The role of IMO is to make sure that international maritime shipping is safe, secure, efficient and legal. In particular, the IMO regulates how hazardous goods are to be transported. In Kenya, the maritime body charged with ensuring the sustainable, secure and efficient water transport and shipping is the Kenya Maritime Authority.


United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was founded by the U.N General Assembly to address any issues relating to international trade laws. By and large, UNCITRAL is mandated to decrease or eradicate legal hindrances to the stable flow of international trade and generate empowering domestic environments for trade.

International Organization for Standardization

International Organization for Standardization or ISO is made up of more than 150 national standards establishments that create specifications and systems that are applied all over the globe in the classification of materials, the manufacture of goods, as well as the provision of services to customers.

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