The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) says shipping accidents can be avoided if governments change their attitude and adopt a culture which puts safety at the top of their priority lists. IMO secretary-general William O'Neil, in a message to mark World Maritime Day 1997, said that during the past two decades, the IMO had been emphasising that more should be done to ensure proper implementation of existing regulations. Adding more regulations was not a way to avoid an accident, he said. 'Over the past few years, IMO has devoted more and more attention to achieving this goal and has taken steps to improve the way governments implement IMO standards on ships under their flag,' Mr O'Neil said. The IMO, of which Hong Kong is an associate member, had encouraged regional agreements for carrying out ship inspections by port states, he added. The IMO is a United Nations agency dealing with maritime affairs. The body and its 155 member states celebrate World Maritime Day annually. This year's celebrations started on Monday and end today. Mr O'Neil said the IMO was focusing on two initiatives - the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and the revision of the Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). He said the ISM Code, which comes into force next July, had been developed by IMO to ensure that shipping companies around the world were serious about safety. The code requires shipping firms to develop a safety management plan and appoint a senior official to be responsible for its implementation. 'This could involve changes to the structure and organisation of shipping companies, and we believe that it will result in major improvements to the safety of shipping,' Mr O'Neil said. He said the code, which would be mandatory, would apply to virtually every ship in the world, putting to rest the idea held by some that the code was voluntary. Companies without proper certification as prescribed in the code could find themselves out of business as their ships would be denied entry to ports around the world, Mr O'Neil said. These companies also would be in violation of the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas), he said. The second IMO initiative, which concerns the 1995 amendments to the STCW, came into force on February 1 this year. It is intended to raise the quality of seafarers who operate the global merchant fleets. Mr O'Neil said the STCW, which would improve efficiency and enhance seafarers' safety, also could not be avoided. By next year, parties to the convention would be required to submit to IMO details of their administrative, educational and certification procedures, he said. These will then be considered by the Maritime Safety Committee, the IMO's senior technical body, which is open to all member states. Shipping companies had to prove that seafarers who held certificates met with international standards or ports would refuse to berth their vessels, Mr O'Neil said. By concentrating on management and seafarer standards, the moves focused attention where it was most needed - on people, he added.