Draft SUA protocols ready for October Conference

The consideration of draft protocols to amend the 1988 Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA) Convention and Protocol was completed by the Legal Committee when it met for its 90th session from 18-29 April 2005, ahead of a diplomatic conference to be held later this year.

The Committee reviewed the draft protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (draft protocol to the 1988 SUA Convention) and the draft Protocol to the 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, which will be forwarded for consideration and subsequent adoption by the Diplomatic Conference on the Revision of the SUA Treaties, scheduled to be held at IMO Headquarters in London from 10 to 14 October 2005.

The main purpose of the 1988 SUA Convention is to provide the legal basis for action to be taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships. These acts include the seizure of ships by force, acts of violence against persons on board ships and the placing of devices on board which are likely to destroy or damage the ship. Under the Convention, Contracting Governments are obliged either to extradite or prosecute alleged offenders. Similar provisions are contained in the SUA Protocol, relating to unlawful acts against fixed platforms located on the continental shelf.

The aim of the two draft Protocols is to strengthen the SUA treaties in order to provide an appropriate response to the increasing risks posed to maritime navigation by international terrorism.

Proposed amendments to the treaties in the draft Protocols include a substantial broadening of the range of offences included in Article 3 of the SUA Convention and the introduction of provisions in Article 8 to allow for the boarding of vessels suspected of being involved in terrorist activities.

The Conference will consider these amendments as well as a number of other, related, issues including the political offences clause, the transfer of prisoners clause and the entry into force criteria.

Work on the revision of the SUA treaties follows from the adoption, in 2001, of Assembly resolution A.924(22) which called for a review of the then existing measures and procedures to prevent acts of terrorism which threaten the security of passengers and crews an the safety of ships. The SUA amendments will complement the provisions of SOLAS chapter XI-2 (Special measures to enhance maritime security) and the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which entered into force in July 2004, by providing a legal basis for the arrest, detention and extradition of terrorists in the unfortunate event that a terrorist attack against shipping nevertheless occurs.

Other Legal Committee items
The Legal Committee also continued work on a number of other agenda items.

The Committee continued its consideration of the draft Wreck Removal Convention (WRC) with a view to finalizing as many outstanding issues as possible in order to present as final as possible a draft for consideration by a diplomatic conference tentatively scheduled to be held in the forthcoming biennium. The WRC is intended to provide international rules on the rights and obligations of States and shipowners with respect to wrecks and drifting or sunken cargo which may pose a hazard to navigation and/or pose a threat to the marine environment.

The aim of the Convention is to clarify the rights and obligations regarding the identification, reporting, locating and removal of hazardous wrecks, in particular those found beyond territorial waters. The proposed Convention will also cover the issue of compensation in the event that the coastal State itself needs to take relevant action.

Fair treatment of seafarers
The Committee reviewed the report of the first session of the Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on the Fair Treatment of Seafarers in the Event of a Maritime Accident, which met in January 2005. The Committee approved a draft resolution for adoption by the twenty-fourth IMO Assembly (which meets in November-December 2005) and by the ILO Governing Body. The resolution calls for the adoption of guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident as a matter of priority.

Claims for death, personal injury and abandonment of seafarers
The Committee received a progress report on the work of the Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers. In particular, the Committee noted that ILO has created a database to record information on incidents of abandonment of seafarers. The database is intended to facilitate monitoring of the size and scope of the issues involved.

Implementation of the HNS Convention
The Committee was updated on the status of implementation of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea, 1996.

The HNS Convention is intended to add a vital component to the international regime for compensation for pollution damage at sea. At the end of April 2005, it had been ratified by eight States, representing 5.38 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage. For entry into force, the HNS Convention requires ratification by 12 States, four of which have not less than two million units of gross tonnage, provided that persons in these States who would be responsible for paying contributions to the general account have received a total quantity of at least 40 million tonnes of contributing cargo in the preceding calendar year. It was noted that the contracting States, as well as the States which in future will accede to the HNS Convention, are legally obliged to submit information on contributing cargo received when depositing their instruments with the Secretary-General of IMO and annually thereafter.

3 May 2005


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