Conference to adopt new international treaty on wreck removal opens in Nairobi

International Conference on the Removal of Wrecks: 14-18 May 2007, Nairobi, Kenya

A Diplomatic Conference to adopt a new international convention on wreck removal was opened in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, on Monday (14 May 2007). The new convention 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.

If adopted, the convention will fill a gap in the existing international legal framework. Neither the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea nor IMO's Salvage Convention deals in substance with the problem of wreck removal, leaving States unclear as to the legal position, particularly with regard to wrecks located beyond the 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, has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal States and shipping in general have, if anything, become more acute.

These problems are three-fold: 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; and 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. The convention attempts to resolve all of these and other, related, issues.

The five-day Conference, being held in the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON), is taking place under the auspices of the IMO, the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for safety and security at sea and prevention of marine pollution from ships, and is being organized with the support of the Government of Kenya and UNON. The Conference is the first such event that IMO has held in Africa and is being attended by delegations from some 60 IMO Member States.

The draft convention is the result of many years' work in IMO's Legal Committee. In his opening remarks, IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos commended it to the Conference, telling delegates, "The draft convention submitted for your consideration this week combines the benefits of uniformity with flexibility; it also carefully balances the rights and obligations assigned to States Parties and shipowners through a skilful combination of private and public law provisions."

The Conference was addressed on its second day by the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency the Honourable Mwai Kibaki, following a national day of prayer, on Monday, 14 May, in memory of the victims of the recent Kenya Airlines accident in Cameroon.

The following were elected as officers of the Conference:

Hon. Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Minister for Transport (Kenya)

Vice Presidents
Admiral Miguel Angelo Davena, Permanent Representative of Brazil to IMO (Brazil)
Mr. Eddy Pratomo, Director General for Legal Affairs and International Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Indonesia)
Mr. Rafal Sylwester Wiechecky, Minister of Maritime Economy (Poland)
Mr. Jassim Mohamed Al-Manai, Assistant Chairman for Marine Ports Affairs, Customs and Ports General Authority (Qatar)
Professor Lee-Sik Chai, Dean of Korea University Law School (Republic of Korea)

Chairman, Committee of the Whole
Mr. Jan De Boer, Senior Legal Counsel, Ministry of Transport (Netherlands)

Vice Chairmen, Committee of the Whole
H.E. Mr. Julio Cesar González Marchante, Ambassador of Cuba to Kenya and Permanent Representative of Cuba to UNEP and HABITAT (Cuba)
Mr. Kofi Mbiah, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers' Council (Ghana)

Chairman, Drafting Committee
Mr. Mark Gauthier, Acting General Counsel of the Maritime Law Secretariat of the Department of Justice (Canada)

Other officers will be elected as the Conference progresses.

Briefing 11, 16 May 2007

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Head, Public Information Services on 020 7587 3153 ( or
Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (

World Maritime Day 2007
The theme for World Maritime Day 2007 is "IMO's response to current environmental challenges". The theme was chosen to give IMO the opportunity to focus on its environmental work (both of the past and present) and thus intensify its efforts to add our contribution to that of the international community to protect and preserve the environment before it is too late.

World Maritime Day will be celebrated on Thursday, 27 September 2007.