A very prominent feature of the shipping industry is its international character. Many different countries are involved in the construction, ownership, operation, manning, survey and inspection of ships. Likewise, the field of maritime medicine is probably the most international of all the different fields of medicine.

National regulation of the shipping industry is not sufficient. As there is no supranational authority, it is quite necessary to cooperate and reach consensus across national boundaries – which means – establishing multilateral treaties or conventions that can be followed by all shipping nations.

The international organizations are important forums for discussions, negotiations and contract formations between seafaring nations, resulting in mutual binding regulations for the shipping industry. This is of special importance to several fields of maritime medicine. In the following some of the most important international organizations will be discussed.