The Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences had emerged from the Maritime Station established in 1953 in Sopot by the Institute of Water Engineering Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1956 it was transferred to the Department of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1971, the Department of Geophysics Polish Academy of Sciences gained the rank of the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the Marine Station became the Institute of Oceanology of the IGF PAS. As a result of further development on January 1, 1976, by resolution of the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences was separated from the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences and became an independent Institute of Oceanology with headquarters in Sopot. After meeting formal requirements, in 1983 the Department was transformed into the Institute of Oceanology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The Institute is run by the director of the Institute. The current director of the institute is prof. Jan Marcin Węsławski. The Institute is organized into two divisions - a scientific division and an administrative and economic division, dealing with current affairs of the Institute and project settlements.
The institute also runs a doctoral study, library and editorial office. One of the most important resources of IO PAN is the S/Y Oceania research vessel, which for the greater part of the year conducts research over Baltic Sea and the North Sea.
The mission of the Institute is to conduct basic research of the marine environment and deepen knowledge of phenomena and processes occurring in it. The Institute of Oceanology conducts research on the Baltic Sea and in the area of the European Arctic.