Voluntary audit scheme adopted at IMO’s 24th Assembly

Assembly - 24th session: 21 November - 2 December 2005

IMO Member State Audit Scheme
Piracy off the coast of Somalia
Support for the United Nations Millennium Declaration
Fair treatment of seafarers
Ship recycling
Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
Wreck Removal Convention - Conference to be held
Resolutions adopted
Election of IMO Council
Council 95th session - new chairman elected

The auditing of IMO Member States to enhance the implementation and enforcement of international maritime standards has been set in motion, following the adoption of the Framework and Procedures for the voluntary scheme by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), at its 24th Assembly, which met at the Organization's London Headquarters from 21 November to 2 December 2005.

IMO Member State Audit Scheme
The adoption of the framework and procedures for the scheme heralds a new era for IMO, in which the Organization has at its disposal a tool to achieve harmonized and consistent global implementation of IMO standards, which is key to realizing the IMO objectives of safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans.

The scheme addresses issues such as conformance in enacting appropriate legislation for the IMO instruments to which it is a Party; the administration and enforcement of the applicable laws and regulations of the Member State; the delegation of authority in terms of the implementation of convention requirements; and the control and monitoring mechanism of the Member State's survey and certification processes and of its recognized organizations.

It will help to identify where capacity-building activities would have the greatest effect and it will also enable appropriate action to be much more precisely focused. Individual Member States which volunteer to be audited will receive valuable feedback and, on a wider scale, generic lessons learnt from audits could be provided to all Member States so that the benefits may be shared. The regulatory process at IMO may also benefit from the results of this learning experience.

Alongside the audit scheme framework and procedures, the Assembly adopted a Code for the Implementation of Mandatory IMO Instruments, which will provide the audit standard.

A further resolution, on Future development of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, requests the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to review the future feasibility of including, within the scope of the audit scheme, maritime security-related matters and other functions not presently covered and also to identify any implications of broadening the scope of the audit scheme. The IMO Council is requested to develop suitable provisions for the possible future inclusion of other issues (relating to safety, environmental protection and security) in the audit scheme, taking into account the experience gained from the implementation of the scheme.

To ensure that Member States' audit can commence in 2006, an adequate pool of trained auditors is to be established by mid 2006, based on nominations by Member States of qualified auditors for training under the provisions of the scheme. It is expected that between 20 to 30 audits will be conducted during the 2006-2007 biennium. The technical co-operation global programme for the scheme will have a key role to play in supporting the training programme.

Upon receiving a request for audit from a Member State, the IMO Secretary-General will appoint an audit team leader who will discuss and agree the scope of the audit with the Member State. The audit will commence after the signing of a Memorandum of Co-operation by the Secretary General and by the Member State. The Memorandum will set out the scope of the audit to be carried out and time frame.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia
The Assembly adopted a resolution on Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia, calling for the issue to be brought to the attention of the United Nations Security Council. The resolution was submitted to the Assembly at the recommendation of IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos following its approval, in principle, at the meeting of the IMO Council which preceded the Assembly.

The resolution condemns and deplores all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships and appeals to all parties which may be able to assist to take action, within the provisions of international law, to ensure that all acts or attempted acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships are terminated forthwith; that any plans for committing such acts are abandoned; that any hijacked ships are immediately and unconditionally released; and that no harm is caused to seafarers serving in them.

The resolution authorizes the IMO Secretary-General to submit the resolution to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for consideration and any further action he may deem appropriate, including bringing the matter to the attention of the Security Council, taking into account regional co-ordination efforts. (For further details see Briefing 48/2005)

Support for the United Nations Millennium Declaration
The Assembly adopted a resolution on technical co operation as a means to support the United Nations Millennium Declaration and Development Goals. The emphasis for the technical co-operation activities is placed on meeting the special assistance needs of Africa.

The resolution notes that one of the effects of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme will be an increase in demand for technical co operation, resulting from the specific needs of Member States that, either before or after a voluntary audit, may wish to apply for technical co-operation from IMO to improve their own performance.

The resolution sets out funding arrangements for the Technical Co-operation Fund and reaffirms that technical co-operation is an essential part of the Organization's work to achieve the global ratification and implementation of IMO's instruments and to implement successfully the Voluntary Audit Scheme.

The Assembly also approved the establishment of a correspondence group to identify the linkage between the Millennium Development Goals and the IMO's Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, which will report to the Technical Co-operation Committee at its 56th session in June 2006.

The IMO Council has agreed that the World Maritime Day theme for 2006 should be Technical Co-operation: IMO's response to the 2005 World Summit.

Fair treatment of seafarers
The Assembly adopted a resolution requesting the Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Fair Treatment of Seafarers to finalize guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident as a matter of priority. The resolution echoes the serious concern about the need to ensure the protection of the rights of seafarers in view of the growing use of criminal proceedings against them, in particular their prolonged detention, as a result of a maritime accident.

The resolution urges all States to respect the basic human rights of seafarers involved in maritime accidents; to investigate maritime accidents expeditiously to avoid any unfair treatment of seafarers; and to adopt procedures to allow the prompt repatriation or re embarkation of seafarers following maritime accidents. It also invites Governments and non-governmental organizations to record instances of unfair treatment of seafarers in the event of maritime accidents and to provide data to IMO or ILO whenever requested.

Ship recycling
The Assembly agreed that IMO should develop a new legally-binding instrument on ship recycling. The relevant resolution requests the Marine Environment Protection Committee to develop a new instrument that would provide regulations for:

  - the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships so as to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling, without compromising the safety and operational efficiency of ships;
  - the operation of ship recycling facilities in a safe and environmentally sound manner; and
  - the establishment of an appropriate enforcement mechanism for ship recycling, incorporating certification and reporting requirements.

The aim is to complete the instrument in time for its consideration and adoption in the 2008-2009 biennium. The resolution refers to the urgent need for IMO to contribute to the development of an effective solution to the issue of ship recycling, which will minimize, in the most effective, efficient and sustainable way, the environmental, occupational health and safety risks related to ship recycling, taking into account the particular characteristics of world maritime transport and the need for securing the smooth withdrawal of ships that have reached the end of their operating lives.

The Assembly also adopted amendments to the existing Guidelines on Ship Recycling, relating to the inventory of potentially hazardous materials present in a ship's structure and equipment and the Green Passport for ships.

Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas
The Assembly adopted revised Guidelines for the Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs). A PSSA is an area that needs special protection through action by IMO because of its significance for recognized ecological, socio-economic, or scientific attributes where such attributes may be vulnerable to damage by international shipping activities. An application for PSSA designation should contain a proposal for an associated protective measure or measures aimed at preventing, reducing or eliminating the threat or identified vulnerability. Associated protective measures for PSSAs are limited to actions that are to be, or have been, approved and adopted by IMO, for example, a routeing system such as an area to be avoided.

The guidelines provide advice to IMO Member Governments in the formulation and submission of applications for the designation of PSSAs to ensure that in the process, all interests - those of the coastal State, flag State, and the environmental and shipping communities - are thoroughly considered on the basis of relevant scientific, technical, economic, and environmental information regarding the area at risk of damage from international shipping activities.

Wreck Removal Convention - Conference to be held
The Assembly approved, subject to progress made by the Legal Committee, the holding of a Conference during 2007 in Nairobi, Kenya, to adopt a new Wreck Removal Convention. The proposed new convention is intended to provide international rules on the rights and obligations of States and shipowners in dealing with wrecks and drifting or sunken cargo which may pose a hazard to navigation or pose a threat to the marine environment of coastal states. The draft Convention currently being considered by the Legal Committee is intended to clarify rights and obligations regarding the identification, reporting, locating and removal of hazardous wrecks, in particular those located in the exclusive economic zone.

The Assembly was attended by 817 delegates representing 153 Member States and three Associate Members; the United Nations and specialized agencies, one Non-Member State, five intergovernmental organizations and 27 non-governmental organizations.

The Assembly normally meets once every two years. All 166 Member States and three Associate Members are entitled to attend as are the intergovernmental organizations with which agreements of co-operation have been concluded and non-governmental organizations which have consultative status with IMO.

Resolutions adopted
The Assembly adopted 23 resolutions:

A.966(24) Relations with non-governmental organizations
A.967(24) Arrears of contributions
A.968(24) Presentation of accounts and audit reports
A.969(24) Work programme and budget for the twenty-fourth financial period 2006-2007
A.970(24) Strategic plan for the Organization (for the six-year period 2006 to 2011)
A.971(24) High-level action plan of the Organization and priorities for the 2006-2007 biennium
A.972(24) Adoption of amendments to the International Convention on Load Lines, 1966
A.973(24) Code for the implementation of mandatory IMO instruments
A.974(24) Framework and Procedures for the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme
A.975(24) Future development of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme
A.976(24) Ships' routeing - establishment of an Area to be Avoided in the Galapagos Archipelago
A.977(24) Ships' routeing
A.978(24) Amendments to the existing mandatory ship reporting system "In the Great Belt Traffic area"
A.979(24) Piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia
A.980(24) Amendments to the IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling (Resolution A.962(23))
A.981(24) New legally-binding instrument on Ship Recycling
A.982(24) Revised guidelines for the identification and designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs)
A.983(24) Guidelines for facilitation of response to a pollution incident
A.984(24) Facilitation of the carriage of the IMDG Code Class 7 radioactive materials including those in packaged form used in medical or public health applications
A.985(24) Revision of the Guidelines for the prevention and suppression of smuggling of drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals on ships engaged in international maritime traffic
A.986(24) The importance and funding of Technical Co operation as a means to support the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals
A.987(24) Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident

Protocol of 2002 to the Athens Convention: reservation concerning the issue and acceptance of insurance certificates with special exceptions and limitations

Election of IMO Council
The Assembly elected the new 40-Member IMO Council for 2006-2007. (See Press Briefing 49/2005).

Council 95th session - new chairman elected
The new Council met on Thursday 1 December and elected Mr. Johan Franson (Sweden) as Chairman and Mr. Dumisani Ntuli (South Africa) as Vice Chairman.

Briefing 51/2005 7 December 2005

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