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Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007

Adoption: 18 May 2007

Entry into force: 14 April 2015

A new international convention on wreck removal was adopted in Kenya in 2007. The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, will provide the legal basis for States to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have the potential to affect adversely the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine environment.

The Convention was adopted by a five-day Diplomatic Conference - held from 14 to 18 May, 2007 in the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON).

The Convention will fill a gap in the existing international legal framework by providing the first set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea. The new Convention also includes an optional clause enabling States Parties to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea.

Although the incidence of marine casualties has decreased dramatically in recent years, mainly thanks to the work of IMO and the persistent efforts of Governments and industry to enhance safety in shipping operations, the number of abandoned wrecks, estimated at almost thirteen hundred worldwide in 2007, has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal States and shipping in general have, if anything, become more acute.

There are a number of problems: first, and depending on its location, a wreck may constitute a hazard to navigation, potentially endangering other vessels and their crews; second, and of equal concern, depending on the nature of the cargo, is the potential for a wreck to cause substantial damage to the marine and coastal environments; third, in an age where goods and services are becoming increasingly expensive, is the issue of the costs involved in the marking and removal of hazardous wrecks; and fourth, most of the dangerous wrecks lie in shallow coastal waters, within the territorial sea, where coastal States have unrestricted rights to remove them, without engagement of the shipowner. The convention attempts to resolve all of these and other, related, issues.


Convention details

The new Convention provides a sound legal basis for coastal States to remove, or have removed, from their coastlines, wrecks which pose a hazard to the safety of navigation or to the marine and coastal environments, or both. It will make shipowners financially liable and require them to take out insurance or provide other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal. It will also provide States with a right of direct action against insurers.

Articles in the Convention cover:

  · reporting and locating ships and wrecks - covering the reporting of casualties to the nearest coastal State; warnings to mariners and coastal States about the wreck; and action by the coastal State to locate the ship or wreck;
  · criteria for determining the hazard posed by wrecks, including depth of water above the wreck, proximity of shipping routes, traffic density and frequency, type of traffic and vulnerability of port facilities. Environmental criteria such as damage likely to result from the release into the marine environment of cargo or oil are also included;
  · measures to facilitate the removal of wrecks, including rights and obligations to remove hazardous ships and wrecks - which sets out when the shipowner is responsible for removing the wreck and when a State may intervene;
  · liability of the owner for the costs of locating, marking and removing ships and wrecks - the registered shipowner is required to maintain compulsory insurance or other financial security to cover liability under the convention; and settlement of disputes.


Resolutions adopted by the conference

The Nairobi conference adopted three resolutions:


Resolution on expressions of appreciation - thanks the host country and UNON and designates the convention as the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.


Resolution on compulsory insurance certificates under existing maritime liability conventions, including the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 - urges IMO Member States to ensure the entry into force of other liability and compensation conventions, namely the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996, the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 and the Protocol to the Athens Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 2002; and invites IMO, specifically the Legal Committee, to develop a model for a single insurance certificate which may be issued by States Parties in respect of each and every ship under the relevant IMO liability and compensation conventions, including the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks.

  3. Resolution on promotion of technical co-operation and assistance - invites States Parties to the Convention, Member States of IMO, other appropriate organizations and the maritime industry to provide financial and in-kind support to IMO for technical assistance activities related to the adoption and effective implementation of the Convention.