Legal Committee (LEG), 92nd session: 16-20 October 2006, Paris

Legal Committee approves draft wreck removal convention
A draft convention on the removal of wrecks has been approved by the IMO's Legal Committee, which met for its 92nd session from 16 to 20 October 2006 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.

The draft text will now be forwarded to a Diplomatic Conference, scheduled to be held from 14 to 18 May 2007 at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Once adopted and in force, the new convention will provide the legal basis for States to remove, or have removed, from their exclusive economic zones (EEZs), wrecks that may pose a hazard to navigation or, because of the nature of their cargo, to the marine and coastal environments, or to both. The new convention will also require shipowners to take out insurance to cover costs of removal and provide States with a right of direct action against insurers.

Proposals to extend the scope of the new convention to the territorial sea of States Parties are still under consideration and will be the subject of consultations by interested delegations before the Diplomatic Conference.

Athens 2002 - reservation and guidelines adopted
The Legal Committee adopted the text of a reservation, intended for use as a standard reservation, to the 2002 Protocol to the Athens Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea (2002 Athens Protocol) and Guidelines for the implementation of the Athens Convention, to allow limitation of liability in respect of claims relating to war or terrorism.

The aim is to put States in a position to ratify the 2002 Protocol and thereby afford passengers better cover. The 2002 Athens Protocol has, to date, been ratified by just four States (representing only 0.13 per cent of the world's merchant shipping tonnage) - against the 10 States required for its entry into force - which is, in part, due to concerns relating to the ability of the insurance market to provide compulsory cover up to the general limits established under the Protocol and its ability to provide insurance cover for injury and damage arising out of acts of terrorism.

The text of the agreed reservation states that the Government concerned reserves the right to and undertakes to limit liability to 250,000 units of account in respect of each passenger on each distinct occasion; or 340 million units of account overall per ship on each distinct occasion. This relates in particular to war insurance which, under the guidelines, shall cover liability, if any, for loss suffered as a result of death or personal injury to a passenger caused by:

  war, civil war, revolution, rebellion, insurrection, or civil strife arising therefrom, or any hostile act by or against a belligerent power;
  capture, seizure, arrest, restraint or detainment, and the consequences thereof or any attempt thereat;
  derelict mines, torpedoes, bombs or other derelict weapons of war;
  act of any terrorist or any person acting maliciously or from a political motive and any action taken to prevent or counter any such risk;
  confiscation and expropriation.

Fair treatment of seafarers
The Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident were adopted by the Legal Committee at its last session and by the Governing Body of the ILO at its 296th session on 12 June this year.

The Legal Committee, at this session, discussed submissions relating to possible changes, but decided, at this point in time, that it would be premature to amend the Guidelines. The Committee agreed, however, that review and monitoring of the Guidelines should be kept on its agenda.

Claims for death, personal injury and abandonment of seafarers
The Committee invited the Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers to make arrangements to hold a seventh session, with a view to developing a standard and guidelines in relation to such claims.

This invitation was extended, in part, following a resolution adopted by the ILO International Labour Conference which, at its 94th session in February this year, adopted the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention. The ILO Resolution notes that the text in the Convention does not address many of the provisions set out in the Guidelines on Shipowners' Responsibilities in respect of Contractual Claims for Personal Injury to or Death of Seafarers and the Guidelines on Provision of Financial Security in Cases of Abandonment of Seafarers, which have been adopted by both the IMO Assembly and the ILO Governing Body. The resolution, therefore, recommends to both Organizations that the way forward would be for the Working Group to develop a standard accompanied by guidelines, which could be included in the Maritime Labour Convention or another existing instrument, at a later date.

The Committee was also updated on the Database on Abandonment of Seafarers which can be viewed on the ILO website ( The database currently includes 40 reported cases, 22 of which had been agreed as resolved.

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

The HNS Convention currently has eight Contracting States (Angola, Cyprus, Morocco, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Slovenia and Tonga). Entry into force will occur 18 months after 12 States have accepted the Convention, four of which have not less than two million units of gross tonnage, provided that persons in these States who would be responsible to pay contributions to the general account have received a total quantity of at least 40 million tonnes of contributing cargo in the preceding calendar year.

The Committee was reminded of the obligation, pursuant to Article 43 of the Convention, for States to submit information on contributing cargo received, or, in the case of LNG, discharged in that State, when depositing their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General, and annually thereafter, until the Convention has entered into force.