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Facilitation Committee (FAL), 35th session: 12-16 January 2009

January 16, 2009

FAL Convention amendments adopted
Amendments to the Annex to the 1965 Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), addressing documents required by crew and passengers, were adopted by the Facilitation Committee when it met for its 35th session, the first session as a fully institutionalized body of the IMO (see Briefing 01/2009).
 
The amendments relate to the arrival, stay and departure of the ship; measures to facilitate the clearance of passengers, crew and baggage; and the facilitation for ships engaged on cruises and for cruise passengers. The amendments are expected to enter into force on 15 May 2010.
 
They include:
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In section 2 - Arrival, stay and departure of the ship, section B. Contents and purposes of documents: deletion of Standard 2.6.3, which is related to the crew list.

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In section 3 - Arrival and departure of persons, section A. Arrival and departure requirements and procedures: to clarify the documents required, Standard 3.10 is to be amended to read: "A passport or an identity document issued in accordance with relevant ILO conventions, or else a valid and duly recognized seafarer's identity document, shall be the basic document providing public authorities with information relating to the individual member of the crew on arrival or departure of a ship

  - In section 3, section B. Measures to facilitate clearance of cargo, passengers, crew and baggage: Standard 3.15 is to be replaced by Recommended Practice 3.15, which states that: "Public authorities should not impose unreasonable or disproportionate fines upon shipowners, in the event that any control document in possession of a passenger is found by public authorities to be inadequate, or if, for that reason, the passenger is found to be inadmissible to the State
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In section 3, section D. Facilitation for ships engaged on cruises and for cruise passengers: Standard 3.21 is to be replaced by Recommended Practice 3.21, which states that: "For cruise ships, the General Declaration, the Passenger List and the Crew List should be required only at the first port of arrival and final port of departure in a country, provided that there has been no change in the circumstances of the voyage.

  - In section 3, section D: deletion of Recommended Practice 3.35, which refers to details which may not be required on the passenger list.
 
Review of the FAL Convention
The Committee agreed to undertake a comprehensive review of the FAL Convention, with a view to ensuring that it adequately addresses the present and emerging needs of the shipping industry as well as to modernize its provisions taking into account, for example, developments in the field of transmission of information and data by electronic means and the Single Window concept.
 
The review is expected to take into consideration amendments to SOLAS on maritime security adopted in 2002, including the International Ship and Port Facilities Security (ISPS) Code, the problems of disembarkation of persons rescued at sea and illegal migrants. It is also likely to address contemporary problems such as shore leave and other issues relating to the human rights and welfare of seafarers that have arisen in the ship-to-shore interface.
 
Explanatory manual to the FAL Convention and FAL compendium near completion
The Committee further developed the Explanatory Manual to the Convention and the FAL Compendium, with a view to considering the final drafts at its next session. Both documents are intended to promote the wide acceptance of the FAL Convention and the universal implementation of the measures adopted by the Organization to facilitate international maritime traffic and maritime trade.
 
Trial IMO Stowaway Focal Point to continue
The Committee agreed to continue the operation of a trial IMO Stowaway Focal Point within the Secretariat for a further year, to provide assistance for the successful resolution of stowaway cases, when parties concerned have been unable to resolve such issues within the means available to them.
 
Since the establishment of the focal point by FAL 34 in March 2007, the assistance of the Secretariat has been requested in only three cases of stowaways on board ship, with a view to the effective disembarkation of such stowaways at the next port. The majority of stowaway incidents are handled at the local level and, as a result, little or no feedback has been received. Consequently, the success or otherwise of IMO's intervention cannot be quantified. Nevertheless, the establishment of the IMO Stowaway Focal Point did focus attention on the ongoing problem of stowaways and led to better liaison with relevant bodies, including P & I Clubs, which, in turn, has been reflected in greater accuracy with the statistics on stowaways.
The Committee noted the annual report on stowaway incidents reported to the Organization, which recorded 252 stowaway cases in 2007, involving 889 stowaways. This compared with 244 stowaway cases reported in 2006, involving 657 stowaways.
 
Meanwhile, the Committee urged Member States, as provided in the terms of reference for the IMO Stowaway Focal Point, to communicate to the Organization a single national point of contact (name, title, address, office telephone, facsimile and e-mail address and after hours telephone number) through whom all communications relating to stowaways are to be routed; and to provide information to the Organization in relation to their national laws, policies, practices and procedures relating to stowaways.
 
Administrative procedures for disembarking persons rescued at sea
The Committee approved a FAL circular on Principles relating to administrative procedures for disembarking persons rescued at sea (FAL.3/Circ.194), which identifies five essential principles for Member Governments to incorporate into their administrative procedures for disembarking persons rescued at sea in order to harmonize the procedures and make them efficient and predictable:
 
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Coastal States should ensure that the search and rescue (SAR) service or other competent national authority coordinates its efforts with all other entities responsible for matters relating to the disembarkation of persons rescued at sea;

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It should also be ensured that any operations and procedures (such as screening and status assessment of rescued persons) that go beyond rendering assistance to persons in distress are to be carried out after disembarkation to a place of safety;

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All parties involved (for example, the Government responsible for the SAR area where the persons are rescued, other coastal States in the vicinity or in the planned route of the rescuing ship, the flag State, the shipowners and their representatives, States of nationality or residence of the persons rescued, the State from which the persons rescued departed, if known, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)) should co-operate in order to ensure that disembarkation of the persons rescued is carried out swiftly, taking into account the master's preferred arrangements for disembarkation and the immediate basic needs of the rescued persons.

The Government responsible for the SAR area where the persons were rescued should exercise primary responsibility for ensuring such cooperation occurs. If disembarkation from the rescuing ship cannot be arranged swiftly elsewhere, the Government responsible for the SAR area should accept the disembarkation of the persons rescued in accordance with immigration laws and regulations of each Member State into a place of safety under its control in which the persons rescued can have timely access to post rescue support;

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All parties involved should cooperate with the Government of the area where the persons rescued have been disembarked to facilitate the return or repatriation of the persons rescued; and

  - International protection principles, as set out in international instruments, should be followed.
 
Electronic access to ships' certificates and documents
A correspondence group's report on the possible methodology and features needed to archive online access to ships' certificates and documents was discussed and the Committee reiterated its view that online access to certain certificates and documents was still a long-term project and objective.
 
The correspondence group was re-established to consider the implementation aspects of a simpler procedure, in which a ship would hold electronic copies of certificates and documents and send them electronically to the port with one of its pre-arrival messages, and to advise the Committee at its next session on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of such a system.
 
Carriage of IMDG Code class 7 radioactive material
The Committee agreed to continue the operation of the ad hoc mechanism within the Secretariat to co-ordinate efforts to resolve speedily difficulties in the carriage of IMDG Code class 7 radioactive materials, whereby the Secretariat will monitor, facilitate and co-ordinate the resolution of such difficulties.
 
The IMO Secretariat would receive notification of any difficulties (such as when carriage has been denied or been delayed); would investigate the
incident; would provide facilitation/mediation action with relevant parties involved; and, finally, would record each incident in a database according to success/no success, to ensure they are brought to closure. The IMO Secretariat has been cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Labour organization (ILO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other United Nations bodies on issues surrounding the delays and denials of shipments of class 7 radioactive materials.
 
An IMO/IAEA/ICAO Denials Database has been established with more than 100 reports filed to date.