Main Issue

Seaborne trade contributes significantly to global well-being and prosperity of both the poor and the rich, as well as developed and developing countries alike. The amount of goods loaded aboard ships worldwide has been increasing since the 1970s, reaching an enormous 8.4 billion tonnes in 2010. Developing countries account for the largest share (60 percent of all goods loaded and 56 percent of all goods unloaded), demonstrating their leading role in driving global seaborne trade.

Seaborne shipping is crucial for the distribution of goods around the world. But the significant rise in shipping traffic over the past decades has led to a number of pressing global environmental, economic and public health challenges. These include the introduction of invasive alien species (IAS) and ship-related pollution and accidents.

In response, nations across the world have recognized the need for concerted global action, including developing a number of regulatory instruments. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, has been spearheading these regulatory developments.

What We Do

The GEF provides financial support to help implement regulatory instruments that address invasive alien species and ship-related accidents. Our contributions have helped reduce the frequency and harmful impact of invasive species, improve management of ports and related facilities, reduce ship waste, prevent oil spills and support contingency planning for important navigation routes in places like the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and especially Southeast Asia.


Over the last several decades, GEF investments have accelerated development of international regulations that promote environmental conservation and marine safety and security. They have also led to the creation of important tools that support legal, policy and institutional reforms.

Highlights of our achievements include:

  • Building consensus and cooperation among relevant stakeholders at local, national and regional levels
  • Enabling countries to support, sign and ratify important global conventions such as the IMO International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention)
  • Catalyzing the transformation of major global industries through unique and innovative public-private sector partnership models.