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Treaty Vs Convention Vs Protocol

  1. A treaty is a written international agreement between two states (a bilateral treaty) or between a number of states (a multilateral treaty), which is binding in international law.
  2. In relation to shipping matters, the chief international treaty-making bodies are an internationally accepted organization such as the United Nations or one of its agencies, such as IMO, ILO, WHO or ITU.
  3. A treaty normally enters into force in accordance with criteria incorporated into the treaty itself, e.g. 1 year after a stipulated number of states have acceded to it (by signature of a government representative).
  4. A treaty signed by a state government generally has no effect in the national law of the state until there has been an act of ratification or accession and the treaty has been incorporated by statute into the national law of the state.

  1. Means coming together for a common objective
  2. A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom
  3. Earlier convention was regularly employed for bilateral agreements. Now convention is multilateral treaty documents and are the chief instruments of IMO being binding legal instrument regulating some aspects of maritime affairs of major concern of IMO.
  4. Conventions are identified by the name and year of adoption by the assembly. Eg: Marpol 73.
  5. They have technical/ provisions attached to annexes. Eg: Annexes in Marpol.
  6. They have technical provisions in an associated code. Eg: LSA code.

They are important treaty instruments made where major amendments are required to be made to a convention which, although already adopted has not yet entered in to force. Eg: Marpol 73/78. i.e, Marpol convention adopted in 1973
and protocol made in 1978 before it came into force.


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