Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965

Adoption: 9 April 1965
Entry into force: 5 March 1967

Introduction
FAL convention - objectives
Standards and recommended practices
FAL Forms
Amendment procedure
The 1973 amendments
The 1986 amendments
The 1987 amendments
The 1990 amendments
The 1992 amendments
The 1993 amendments
The 1996 amendments
The 1999 amendments
The 2002 amendments

The 2005 amendments

Introduction
Most human activities are regulated, either by precedent, convention or regulation. Most regulations are essential - but sometimes they come to be regarded not only as unnecessary but also as a significant burden on the activities they are supposed to control. Few activities have been more subject to over-regulation than international maritime transport.

This is partly because of the international nature of shipping: countries developed customs, immigration and other standards independently of each other and a ship visiting several countries during the course of a voyage could expect to be presented with numerous forms to fill in, often asking for exactly the same information but in a slightly different way.

As shipping and trade developed and grew in the early part of the twentieth century, so did the paperwork involved. By the 1950s it was being regarded not simply as an inconvenience but as a threat.

The actual number of separate documents required varied from port to port; yet the information on cargoes and persons carried that was sought was often identical. The number of copies required of some of these documents could often become excessive. To the variety of forms and the number of copies required could be added other burdens such as local language translations, consular visa requirements, variations in document size and paper stock used and the necessity for authentication by the shipmaster of the information submitted.

By the early 1960s the maritime nations had decided that the situation could not be allowed to deteriorate further. International action was called for and to achieve it Governments turned to IMO, which had held its first meeting in 1959.

In 1961 the 2nd IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.29 (II) which recommended that IMO take up the matter. An Expert Group was convened which recommended that an international convention be adopted to assist the facilitation of international maritime traffic.

In October 1963 the 3rd IMO Assembly adopted resolution A.63 (III) which approved the report of Expert Group and in particular recommended that a convention be drafted which would be considered for adoption at a conference to be held under IMO auspices in the spring of 1965. The conference duly took place and the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), 1965 was adopted on 9 April.

FAL convention - objectives
The Convention's main objectives are to prevent unnecessary delays in maritime traffic, to aid co-operation between Governments, and to secure the highest practicable degree of uniformity in formalities and other procedures. In particular, the Convention reduces to just eight the number of declarations which can be required by public authorities.

Standards and recommended practices
In its Annex, the Convention contains "Standards" and "Recommended Practices" on formalities, documentary requirements and procedures which should be applied on arrival, stay and departure to the ship itself, and to its crew, passengers, baggage and cargo.

The Convention defines standards as internationally-agreed measures which are "necessary and practicable in order to facilitate international maritime traffic" and recommended practices as measures the application of which is "desirable".

The Convention provides that any Contracting Government which finds it impracticable to comply with any international standard, or deems it necessary to adopt differing regulations, must inform the Secretary-General of IMO of the "differences" between its own practices and the standards in question. The same procedure applies to new or amended standards.

In the case of recommended practices, Contracting Governments are urged to adjust their laws accordingly but are only required to notify the Secretary-General when they have brought their own formalities, documentary requirements and procedures into full accord.

This flexible concept of standards and recommended practices, coupled with the other provisions, allows continuing progress to be made towards the formulation and adoption of uniform measures in the facilitation of international maritime traffic.

The IMO Standardized Forms (FAL 1-7)
Standard 2.1 lists the documents which public authorities can demand of a ship and recommends the maximum information and number of copies which should be required. IMO has developed Standardized Forms for seven of these documents. They are the:

· IMO General Declaration

· Cargo Declaration

· Ship's Stores Declaration

· Crew's Effects Declaration

· Crew List· Passenger List

· Dangerous Goods

Two other documents are required under the Universal Postal Convention and the International Health Regulations.

The general declaration, cargo declaration, crew list and passenger list constitute the maximum information necessary. The ship's stores declaration and crew's effects declaration incorporate the agreed essential minimum information requirements.

Amendment procedure

The 1965 Convention included the traditional amendment procedure whereby changes to the Convention had to be positively accepted by two-thirds of contracting Parties.

Minor amendments adopted in 1969 and 1977 entered into force in 1971 and 1978 respectively, but it was obvious that major improvements to the Convention would take a while to achieve the required acceptances.

As a result, Parties to the Convention in 1973 adopted amendments to introduce the "tacit acceptance" procedure, whereby amendments would be deemed accepted by a specified date unless a required number of Parties objected. The 1973 amendments entered into force on 2 June 1984 and subsequent amendments entered into force much more speedily.

Amendments are generally considered and adopted by IMO's Facilitation Committee, while Contracting Governments can also call a Conference of Parties to the Convention to adopt amendments.

The 1973 amendments
Adoption:
November 1973
Entry into force: 2 June 1984

The 1973 amendments introduced the "tacit acceptance" procedure included in many other IMO conventions.

The 1986 amendments
Adoption:
7 March 1986
Entry into force: 1 October 1986

The new "tacit acceptance" procedure made it possible to update the Convention speedily and the 1986 amendments were designed primarily to reduce "red tape" and in particular to enable automatic data processing techniques to be used in shipping documentation.

The 1987 amendments
Adoption:
September 1987
Entry into force: 1 January 1989

The amendments simplify the documentation required by ships including crew lists, and also facilitate the movement of ships engaged in disaster relief work and similar activities.

The 1990 amendments
Adoption: May 1990
Entry into force: 1 September 1991

The amendments revise several recommended practices and add others dealing with drug trafficking and the problems of the disabled and elderly. They encourage the establishment of national facilitation Committees and also cover stowaways and traffic flow arrangements.

The 1992 amendments
Adoption:
1 May 1992
Entry into force: 1 September 1993

The amendments concern the Annex to the Convention and deal with the following subjects:

· electronic data processing/electronic data interchange (EDP/EDI)

· private gift packages and trade samples

· consular formalities and fees

· submission of pre-import information

· clearance of specialized equipment

· falsified documents.

The annex was also restructured.

The 1993 amendments
Adoption:
29 April 1993
Entry into force: 1 September 1994

The amendments to the Annex to the Convention deal with unmanifested parcels and the handling of stowaways.

The 1996 amendments
Adoption:
1 January 1996
Entry into force: 1 May 1997

The amendments concern the passenger list, national facilitation committees, inadmissible persons, immigration pre-arrival clearance, pre-import information and cruise passengers.

The 1999 amendments
Adoption:
9 September 1999
Entry into force: 1 January 2001

The amendments relate to the combating of illicit drug trafficking; arrival, stay and departure of ships, passengers, crews and cargo; and the use of electronic data interchange (EDI) for ship clearance purposes.

The 2002 amendments
Adoption:
10 January 2002
Entry into force: 1 May 2003

The amendments add new standards and recommended practices for dealing with stowaways. Another amendment relates to the Dangerous Goods Manifest (FAL Form 7), which becomes the basic document providing public authorities with the information regarding dangerous goods on board ships.

The 2005 amendments
Adoption:
7 July 2005
Entry into force: 1 November 2006

The amendments are intended to modernize the Convention in order to enhance the facilitation of international maritime traffic.

The amendments include the following:

  • a Recommended Practice for public authorities to develop the necessary procedures in order to use pre-arrival and pre-departure information to facilitate the processing of information, and thus expedite release and clearance of cargo and persons;
  • a Recommended Practice that all information should be submitted to a single point to avoid duplication;
  • encouragement of electronic transmission of information; and
  • the addition of references to the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code and SOLAS chapter XI-2 in the Standards and Recommended Practices which mention security measures; and
  • amendments to the IMO Standardized FAL Forms (1 to 7).
Persons rescued at sea

As amendments to the SOLAS and SAR Conventions adopted in May 2004 (expected to enter into force on 1 July 2006), relating to persons rescued at sea will place for the first time, obligations on Contracting Governments to "co-ordinate and co-operate" in progressing the matter so that assisted survivors are disembarked from the assisting ship and delivered to a place of safety within a reasonable time; a further amendment relates topersons rescued at sea, to be included in a standard in Section 2 - Arrival, stay and departure of the ship, in section H Special measures of facilitation for ships calling at ports in order to put ashore sick or injured crew members, passengers, persons rescued at sea or other persons for emergency medical treatment. The amendment will require public authorities to facilitate the arrival and departure of ships engaged in the rescue of persons in distress at sea in order to provide a place of safety for such persons.