The IMO is the international body responsible for designating areas as PSSAs and adopting APMs. An application to the IMO for designation of a PSSA may be submitted only by an IMO Member Government or Governments.
Before submitting an application to the IMO, it must be determined that there is a threat to the recognised attributes of an area from international shipping activities. Threats to the marine environment from international shipping can generally be separated into three categories: impacts from ship accidents; operational discharges; and physical damage to marine habitats or organisms.
If there are concerns in the proposed area relating to biodiversity conservation, sustainable fisheries, sustainable tourism, or integrated coastal management, a PSSA is unlikely to be the most appropriate protection mechanism. In these circumstances, establishing Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are widely seen as more appropriate. Similarly, if the identified threat is caused primarily by domestic shipping activities, it may be more appropriate to address the threat through domestic law.
While PSSA designation might serve as a useful tool in conjunction with a Marine Protected Area (MPA), it is neither appropriate nor necessary that it be applied to all MPAs. Many MPAs will experience minimal pressure from international shipping activities. The value of PSSA designation will be undermined if the process is used everywhere – a PSSA should be seen as a unique designation and a management tool to be used in certain circumstances.