OCIMF was formed in April 1970 in response to the growing public concern about marine pollution, particularly by oil, after the Torrey Canyon incident in 1967.

In the early 1970s, a variety of anti-pollution initiatives were starting to emerge nationally, regionally and internationally, but with little coordination. Through OCIMF, the oil industry was able to play a stronger, coordinating role in response to these initiatives, making its professional expertise widely available through cooperation with governments and intergovernmental bodies.

OCIMF was granted consultative status at the IMO in 1971 and continues to present oil industry views at IMO meetings. Since then, its role has broadened to take account the changing maritime activities of its membership. Its remit now covers tankers, barges, offshore support vessels and terminals and its advice extends to issues like shipping in ice and large-scale piracy, which rarely troubled the oil industry when OCIMF was first created in the 1970s.

The current membership of OCIMF comprises 105 companies worldwide.

Today, OCIMF is widely recognised as the voice of the oil industry providing expertise in the safe and environmentally responsible transport and handling of hydrocarbons in ships and terminals and setting standards for continuous improvement. Membership is extensive and includes every oil major in the world along with the majority of National Oil Companies.

OCIMF has much to be proud of. Not only has it contributed to a substantial quantity of regulation at the IMO aimed at improving the safety of tankers and protecting the environment, but it has introduced important new guidance on pressing current issues such as piracy and Arctic shipping. With the process of introducing new Internationally-accepted regulation necessarily slow as it crosses many individual countries and jurisdictions, OCIMF is in the unique position of being able to leverage the expertise of its membership to press ahead with much needed guidance on important industry issues. This provides the means to improve practices in the membership and in the wider industry, and serves as a valuable reference for developing regulation.

In addition to its extensive publications library, OCIMF has a rich portfolio of tools including its Ship Inspection Report (SIRE) programme and Tanker Management and Self Assessment tool (TMSA), both of which have gained worldwide recognition and acceptance. It continues to develop new tools, with OVID the latest to be launched in January 2010, and a new Terminals inspection tool in development.