Comite Maritime International (CMI): How does it work?
When we talk about being members in international maritime organizations, typically the discussion on these pages circles around the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO). While BIMCO is important regionally, the most significant maritime organization globally, next to perhaps the International Maritime Organization (IMO), is the venerable Comite Maritime International (CMI). The CMI is reflected downward in diverse national maritime law associations. In the United States, for example, this is the Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLAUS), of which we are big supporters. In Germany, it is the German Association for International Maritime Law (Deutsches Verein für Internationales Seerecht - DVIS), which is headquartered in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
From time to time, the CMI will launch national questionnaires about maritime topics which are distributed to the national maritime law associations. The goal of such questionnaires generally is to poll national maritime law associations and gain insight into different jurisdictions.
As a worldwide group, the CMI's mission is to harmonize (i.e. make the same) national rules. The idea behind this is that shipping is global, so the rules governing shipping should be global. This way, the people involved in shipping, be it sailors or lawyers, will know what to expect no matter where they're sailing and no matter what jurisdiction they're under. It's a noble goal but hard work, especially given that when the CMI was established in the late 19th century, there were far fewer nations (and fewer rules!) than there are now.
As members of the German Association for International Maritime Law, we had the opportunity recently to pitch in and answer questions regarding German national rules on unmanned ships. We will, of course, report back on the conclusions of the working group. But for now all of the questions have been distributed to experts in the relevant fields and a second meeting is scheduled. Harmonizing global shipping rules is requires experts to contribute their time free of charge for the sake of disseminating information in a commonly intelligible language, typically English; then, these same experts will need to work together across borders to craft and draft legal solutions to new issues in merchant shipping.
It's not easy organizing, managing and processing all of this work. However, it's clear that shipping is, as always, special. Few other industries have experts happy to commit in this way to ensure that global frameworks are devised so goods can get from A to B safely and securely, both legally and otherwise. It helps create similar expectations when shipping issues arise, and with similar expectations, it makes it easier to solve issues in a friendly and, ideally, non-confrontational manner - another reason why shipping professionals prefer to make money rather than war when confronted with differences of opinion.
We're impressed that the CMI and the national maritime law associations treat problem solving, cross-border communication and building common rules so seriously. Having a common language is one thing, but maritime professionals luckily often have a common understanding, too. This is rare and certainly should be jealously guarded by us all.