Established in 1974 to uphold International Standards of Professional Competence for Seafarers, IFSMA is a Federation with a policy to ensure Safe Operational Practices, Preservation from Human Injury, Protection of the Marine Environment and Safety of Life and Property at Sea.
The structure of IFSMA is explained in the Statutes and Bye-laws of the Federation. The responsibility of the functioning of the Federation is vested in the Executive Council which comprises a President, a Deputy President and seven Vice Presidents, who are elected by the members. Further assistance is given by the Secretariat which at present comprises a Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General and an Administration Officer.
With its Headquarters in London, IFSMAs Secretariat is located close to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In 1975, IFSMA was granted Consultative Status as a non governmental organisation at IMO which enables the Federation to represent the views and protect the interests of the serving Shipmasters unfettered and unfiltered by others. To enable IFSMA to function effectively at IMO, it is represented by the Secretary General and a team of active or former Shipmasters who attend the four main Committees, namely the Maritime Safety Committee; Maritime Environmental Protection Committee; The Legal Committee and the Facilitation Committee. This team is also active in the nine Sub-Committees of IMO, their working and drafting groups as well as attending the Council Meetings and the Assemblies.
IFSMA has always tried to support IMO in practical ways and has provided Consultants to assist in the Comprehensive Review and Revision of the 1978 STCW Convention, and actively participated in the Joint ICAO/IMO Group of Experts on the Harmonization of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue. IFSMA also sat on the Steering Committee on Ro-Ro Ferry Safety which supervised the work of the Panel of Experts and made recommendations to MSC 65.
IFSMA also provided two maritime specialists forming part of an IMO Needs Assessment and Programming Team within the framework of IMO's Integrated Technical Co-Operation Programme (ITCP).
IFSMA has a history of submitting relevant papers on various aspects to the Committees and Sub-Committees of IMO which often result in successful debates leading to MSC Circulars and improvements in various instruments. IFSMA is a strong supporter of IMO in its quest for security, safer shipping and cleaner oceans. It is the desire of The Federation to assist IMO in achieving a truly global implementation and rigorous enforcement of its International Treaties so that there is no need for any Country to resort to Regulatory Measures on either a National or a Regional basis. IFSMA fully recognises the need to establish a strong improved safety culture within the Shipping Industry and the early implementation of both the ISM Code and the 1995 Amendments to the STW Convention. IFSMA Members are provided with the facility to access the IMO Documents Web Site for research and information purposes.
IFSMA has long held the firm belief that Shipowners and Ship Management Companies should hold a Safety Management System (SMS) and Document of Compliance (DOC) issued by the Flag State Administration before being permitted to operate ships, that increased scrapping of antiquated and sub-standard ships should be speeded up, and that world wide regional Port State Control is now top priority. In particular there should be a total ban, effective world wide, on the re-registration of ships for commercial trading once they have been sold for scrap and demolition.
IFSMA also participates in the deliberations at the International Labour Organization (ILO) where recent work involved the merger of all previous conventions and recommendations regarding seafarers into a single International Maritime Labour Convention.
IFSMA is also asked by various bodies all over the world to participate in seminars, conferences and producing training and educational courses.
Furthermore IFSMA is conscious of the needs for Shipmasters in the future and has joined with the Nautical Institute, Trinity House and the Honourable Company of Master Mariners in organising periodic Command Seminars. These Seminars are arranged every two years and visit a number of maritime centres around the world to seek the views of both mariners and the industry on how Shipmasters should be prepared to meet the needs of the 21st century.
IFSMA defines Shipmasters as those who are in possession of an Internationally recognised Certificate of Competency, issued by the Government of an established Maritime Nation who are serving or have previously served, in Command of Seagoing Ships whether or not engaged upon International or Domestic Trade.
Once a man has risen to the rank of Shipmaster he is entitled to belong to IFSMA and there is no requirement in our Statutes for the periodic revalidation of his Certificate of Competency. But if he were to lose his licence due to negligence, incompetence, or misconduct then he would no longer qualify for membership of the Federation. Trade Unions, National Associations, Professional Institutes and Learned Societies are all (when representing Shipmasters) equally welcome as Organizations in affiliation with IFSMA and there is no distinction made between them.