Preview of Legal Committee – 83rd session: 8-12 October 2001

IMO to consider new guidelines on abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers and revision of Athens Convention

IMO’s Legal Committee will consider new resolutions and guidelines on abandonment, personal injury and death of seafarers when it meets for its 83rd session from 8 to 12 October 2001. The guidelines will urge States to require shipowners to provide adequate financial security to cover claims from seafarers in cases of abandonment, personal injury and death.

The draft guidelines and resolutions were developed by a Joint IMO/International Labour Organization (ILO) Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers which held its 3rd meeting from 30 April – 4 May 2001.

Following approval by the Legal Committee, the draft resolutions and guidelines will then be submitted to the 22nd IMO Assembly in November for adoption. They will also be presented to the ILO Governing Body in November 2001 for adoption by that body. Once adopted, they will come into force on 1 January 2002.

The resolutions and Guidelines address the fact that, although there are international instruments covering certain aspects of the problems relating to abandonment, death and personal injury of seafarers, some are not widely implemented and none deals with these problems comprehensively.

Financial security in cases of abandonment of seafarers

The draft resolution on provision of financial security in case of abandonment of seafarers

states that abandonment of seafarers is a serious problem involving a human and social dimension and recognises that, given the global nature of the shipping industry, seafarers need special protection. The resolution includes associated Guidelines which set out the main features and scope of coverage of the financial security system and also contain recommendations for certification of such systems.

Personal injury to or death of seafarers

The draft resolution on claims for personal injury to or death of seafarers notes a need to recommend minimum international standards for the responsibilities of shipowners in respect of contractual claims in such cases. It expresses the concern that, if shipowners do not have effective insurance cover, or other form of financial security, seafarers are unlikely to obtain full and prompt compensation. It states that putting in place effective arrangements for the payment of compensation is part of the shipowners’ responsibilities to provide safe and decent working conditions.

The resolution includes associated Guidelines recommending measures to be implemented including certification and a model receipt and release form for claims.

Athens Convention revision

The Legal Committee will at this session continue its consideration of a draft protocol to revise the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974.

The aim is to hold a diplomatic conference during the biennium 2002-2003 to consider and adopt the revised regulations.

The Athens Convention of 1974 makes a carrier liable for injury to or loss suffered by a passenger if an incident causing damage occurs during the course of the carriage and is due to fault or neglect of the carrier. Liability can be limited so long as the carrier did not act recklessly or with intent to cause damage.

The draft Protocol introduces, among other things, the requirement of compulsory insurance for passenger claims, and proposes changes to the fault-based liability system.  Also to be discussed are proposals for increasing the limitation amounts to reflect contemporary conditions as well as the basis on which limits of insurance should be calculated.

Legal issues relating to the problem of providing disabled ships and ships in distress with places of refuge

The Committee has also been requested to consider the legal issues surrounding ships in distress and places of refuge. The Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation is working on developing appropriate IMO guidelines on the matter, following instructions from IMO’s senior technical body, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which agreed at its 74th session to look at the problem of places of refuge for ships in distress.

The issue had been raised following the Erika incident of December 1999 but the urgency to deal with the matter was heightened following the incident early in 2001 when the salvors of the fully-laden tanker Castor were unable to find a sheltered place to effect cargo transfer and repairs for some 35 days.

The Sub-Committee agreed draft terms of reference for future work, placing high priority on the safety of all involved in any operation concerning the provision of places of refuge, with due attention to all environmental aspects associated with these operations

Other items high on the agenda of the Legal Committee are the consideration of a draft convention on wreck removal and the monitoring of implementation of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea which was adopted in 1996.

The Convention, when it enters into force, will make it possible for compensation to be paid to victims of accidents involving hazardous and noxious substances, such as chemicals.


For further information please contact:

Lee Adamson, Public Information Manager on 0207 587 3153 ( or

Natasha Brown, Information Officer on 0207 587 3274 (