Revised treaties to address unlawful acts at sea set to be adopted at international conference

Diplomatic Conference on the Revision of the SUA Treaties: 10-14 October 2005

Amendments to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988 and its related Protocol, which provide the legal basis for action to be taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships (and against fixed platforms located on the continental shelf) are set to be adopted by the Diplomatic Conference on the Revision of the SUA Treaties, which meets from 10 to 14 October 2005 at the London headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialised agency responsible for safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

The SUA treaties complement the practical maritime security measures adopted by IMO - including SOLAS1 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 - in that they regulate the legal situation in the unfortunate event that a terrorist attack should occur.

The principal purpose of the SUA treaties is to ensure that anyone committing unlawful acts against the safety of navigation will not be given shelter in any country but will either be prosecuted or extradited to a State where they will stand trial. Among the unlawful acts covered by the SUA Convention are the seizure of ships by force; acts of violence against persons on board ships; and the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it.

The two draft protocols to amend the 1988 treaties were developed by IMO's Legal Committee and are aimed at ensuring that the legal framework put in place by IMO continues to provide an adequate basis for the arrest, detention, extradition and punishment of terrorists acting against shipping or fixed platforms or when using ships to perpetrate acts of terrorism. The draft protocols broaden the list of offences covered by the treaties and introduce novel provisions to facilitate the boarding of ships where those offences may already be in the process of being committed, with the aim of preventing or neutralizing their potentially damaging consequences.

Work on the revision of the SUA treaties follows from the adoption, in 2001, of IMO 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.

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1International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS)

Briefing 38, 7 October 2005


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