chapter  6
27 Pages

Disaggregating delegation: multiplying agents in the international maritime safety regime: Kendall W. Stiles


International regulatory organizations have generated relatively little attention in the academic literature on international institutions. This is true even with respect to the principal-agent (PA) literature.1 This, in spite of the fact that regulatory agencies in general have developed considerable autonomy from the states that instigated them, and have instead developed interesting and significant ties to non-state actors. PA concepts and propositions can therefore be tested directly. In particular, I will consider whether delegation chains are clearly

understood in the PA literature, especially where principals have created mechanisms that deliberately limit the autonomy of agents through the creation or empowerment of alternative agents. I will show that in the case of maritime safety rules, principals have empowered the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in recent years. Principals have approved a procedure that makes new staff-generated regulations automatically binding on all members, thereby increasing the credibility and uniformity of state commitments, as well as an audit scheme that will put the IMO in a position to “name and shame” non-compliant member states. At the same time, principals have obstructed the IMO’s monitoring and enforcement powers in areas such as anti-piracy and port safety. They organized various “Memoranda of Understanding” (MOU) to exercise control over port safety issues and empowered the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) to monitor and assess anti-piracy measures. They also have tended to delegate much of the enforcement of

ship safety rules to private non-state actors such as insurance companies. We will see that clarifying the nature of principals’ options with respect to their choice of agents provides important insights to explain the ebb and flow of a particular agent’s autonomy and influence. With respect to the volume’s framework, this chapter will focus on

two types of decisions: rule-creating and rule-supervisory. Further, it will disaggregate the first category into rule advocacy and rule adoption. By rule advocacy, I mean the conceptual and framing activities that actors do to persuade principals and other agents to adopt certain rules and regulations. Rule adoption is the formal articulation and ratification of those rules. Many of the framework’s hypotheses are confirmed in this study, a few of which will be articulated here. To begin, the executive head of the IMO (the secretary-general) has become increasingly influential with respect to rule-creating decisions. This is particularly true with respect to rule advocacy. The forum structure of the IMO plays a key role in both dimensions of the rule-creation process. Powerful states play a key role in rule supervisory decisions, as predicted. Further, with respect to the nature of the issues, increased salience is correlated with increased major power engagement. We will see that this explains in large part the weakness of the IMO with respect to the anti-piracy regime. The lack of agreement between principals is also correlated with increased opportunities for the IMO, particularly as the open registry flag states gained in importance during the 1970s (see Table 6.1). The more technical the issue, the more the IMO has been able to establish its influence, although the link is not as strong as might be expected. Finally, with respect to international organization (IO) characteristics,

most of the predictions are borne out. The IMO’s lack of influence overall correlates with its small size and an institutional culture that discourages

Table 6.1 Disaggregation of agent functions

Policy initiation

Policy ratification

Policy implementation

X International Law Commission

X UN General Assembly Plenary

X X International Labour Organization

X X X International Monetary Fund

staff creativity and policy initiation in favor of technical service provision. The IMO’s relatively weak integration in the UN system has also hampered its autonomy. The existence of networks is examined here although the results are not exactly what one would expect given the hypotheses in the opening chapter. On the other hand, as the organization has matured and its staff increased its expertise relative to other agents, its influence and autonomy have increased. A point that was not brought out in the theoretical overview to this volume is the interaction between these factors, specifically the fact that it was the staff’s impartiality and technocratic culture that allowed its maturity to eventually become an asset: states felt confident that the staff would not abuse its new powers based on these many years of self-denial. With an eye towards what has come in previous chapters, I will

begin with an overview of some relevant aspects of the principal-agent approach in order to more clearly articulate the uniqueness of the approach that disaggregates the agent’s roles and places multiple agents in a competitive environment with respect to principal delegation. The role of the IMO becomes clearer when placed in this competitive environment stemming in large part from conflicts between principals’ aims and their desire to delegate different facets of agent roles to different agents at different times.