Maritime Security on agenda as USCG Commandant visits IMO


Secretary-General Mitropoulos (right) meets Admiral CollinsIMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos has welcomed Admiral Thomas H. Collins, Commandant of United States Coast Guard, for discussions at IMO headquarters in London.

The two covered a wide range of topics, although much of their meeting was taken up with talks on the work the Organization has done, is doing and will continue to do in the enhancement of maritime security.

Mr Mitropoulos took the opportunity to stress that IMO's efforts in this regard take fully into account the need to ensure the continuation of an efficient, uninterrupted and competitive maritime transport infrastructure, and the need to recognize, respect and uphold the traditional rights of seafarers and the rights and personal liberties of the individuals. He also re-affirmed the need to ensure that the achievements of the Organization make a meaningful contribution to the security agenda of United Nations and to the global efforts to eliminate terrorism.

The Secretary-General and Admiral Collins discussed the current implementation status of the maritime security measures adopted by the Organization in response to the increasing threat of terrorism worldwide and in particular the 9/11 atrocities in the United States. He said that figures for ships subject to the ISPS Code1 the information available indicates a high degree of compliance and almost no disturbance of the world trade while, for ports, information suggests that almost 94% of the Contracting Governments to the SOLAS Convention2 have approved security plans for 97% of the declared port facilities, which in total number in excess of 9,600 worldwide.

In the context of maritime security, the two also discussed the United States' proposals on long-range tracking of ships, the importance of access to shore leave for seafarers, and IMO's technical co-operation activities to enhance maritime security.

Mr Mitropoulos and Admiral Collins agreed on the vital importance of ensuring and maintaining the security of strategic sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca, and the Secretary-General re-affirmed IMO's commitment to this key objective. Last year, the IMO Council gave the go-ahead for the Organization to convene a high-level conference to consider ways and means of enhancing safety, security and environmental protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The event is due to take place in Jakarta, Indonesia, later this year. The Secretary-General also confirmed IMO's plans to hold a similar high-level, sub-regional seminar in Aden, Yemen, on maritime security and prevention of piracy and armed robbery against ships.

On broader issues, Admiral Collins and Secretary-General Mitropoulos discussed IMO's work on the voluntary Member State audit scheme, goal-based standards for ship design and construction, passenger ship safety and formal safety assessment.

The Secretary-General thanked Admiral Collins for the valuable contribution that the United States continued to make to the work of the Organization, and stressed once again the crucial importance of a universally-accepted regulatory framework for such an international industry as shipping. Admiral Collins expressed his appreciation to the Secretary-General for his continued efforts to enhance safety, security and environmental protection, and for his strategic management of the Organization during his first year as Secretary-General.

Notes

1. The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) is a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The purpose of the Code is to provide a standardized, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling Governments to offset changes in threat with changes in vulnerability for ships and port facilities through determination of appropriate security levels and corresponding security measures.

2. The Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) is generally regarded as the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships. It has 155 Contracting Governments which together are responsible for more than 98 per cent of the world shipping fleet by tonnage.

17 February 2005


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