Importance of success stressed as Diplomatic Conference gets underway

IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil stressed the crucial importance of a successful outcome to the Diplomatic Conference meeting this week and next at IMO to amend the liability regime relating to damage suffered by passengers on international voyages.

In his opening remarks to the Conference, which has been convened to consider the adoption of a protocol to amend the Athens Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974, Mr O'Neil said today that the successful adoption of the protocol would ensure that all those likely to be affected by a shipping incident will receive prompt and adequate compensation based on internationally accepted criteria.

The draft protocol which the Conference will consider has been finalized during several sessions of the IMO Legal Committee and Mr O'Neil commended that body's work in preparing the document.

At its opening session, the Conference elected His Excellency Dr. Ra Jong-Yil, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Korea, as its President. Dr Ra Jong-Yil told the Conference that there was an understanding in the international maritime community that this is the right time to amend the Athens Convention, and stressed that the Conference faced a heavy responsibility in ensuring that its work resulted in a positive outcome.

Election of Officers

The following were elected as officers of the Conference:

President
His Excellency Dr. Ra Jong-Yil, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Korea

Vice Presidents
His Excellency Senhor Antonio DaCosta Fernandez, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Angola

His Excellency Mr Basil G. O'Brien, CMG, High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of the Bahamas

Ms Margit Markus, Head, Department of Marine Transport, Ministry of Transport, Estonia

Mr Evangelos Tsantzalos, Lieutenant Commander of the Hellenic Coastguard, Greece

His Excellency Mr J. Mortada, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Lebanon

Chairman, Committee of the Whole
Mr Gaute Sivertsen, Norway

Vice Chairmen of the Committee of the Whole
Dr. Beate Czerwenka, Germany

Captain Pedro San Miguel, Venezuela

Notes:

The Athens Convention of 1974 was designed to consolidate and harmonize two earlier Brussels Conventions dealing with passengers and their luggage and adopted in 1961 and 1967, respectively.

The Convention establishes a regime of liability for damage suffered by passengers carried on a seagoing vessel. It declares a carrier liable for damage or loss suffered by a passenger if the incident causing the damage occurred in the course of the carriage and was due to the fault or neglect of the carrier.

However, unless the carrier acted with intent to cause such damage, or recklessly and with knowledge that such damage would probably result, he can limit his liability. For the death of, or personal injury to, a passenger, this limit of liability is set at 46,666 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) (about US$61,100) per carriage.

As far as loss of or damage to luggage is concerned, the carrier's limit of liability varies, depending on whether the loss or damage occurred in respect of cabin luggage, of a vehicle and/or luggage carried in or on it, or in respect of other luggage.

The Convention has been in force since 1987. At present, 28 States are party to it.

The International Conference on the Revision of the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974) opens on Monday 21 October at IMO Headquarters, London, and continues on Friday 25 October through to Friday 1 November, following the 85th session of the IMO Legal Committee which meets meet from Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 October (see briefing 30/2002).

Photographs of His Excellency Dr. Ra Jong-Yil, Mr Gaute Sivertsen, Mr William O'Neil and the IMO Headquarters Building are available on request.

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