IMO to hold maritime security conference in December 2002
In the wake of
the September 11th terrorist attacks on the USA and the subsequent global reaction,
the issue of maritime security was to the fore at the 22nd Assembly of the International
Maritime Organization (IMO), which met at the Organization’s London headquarters
from 19-30 November 2001.
The resolution calls for a review of the existing international legal and technical measures to prevent and suppress terrorist acts against ships at sea and in port and improve security aboard and ashore. The aim is to reduce risks to passengers, crews and port personnel on board ships and in port areas and to the vessels and their cargoes.
Addressing the Assembly, IMO Secretary-General O’Neil said that he was “anxious to ensure that, through prompt action by IMO under the direction of the Council and taking into account the work of other international organizations, including industry organizations, necessary technical and legal measures to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism directed against shipping are put in place without delay.”
Mr. O’Neil said he shared the view of the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan, who, speaking in the aftermath of the attacks in the United States, had said that “there can be no acceptance of those who would seek to justify the deliberate taking of innocent civilian life, regardless of cause or grievance. If there is one universal principle that all peoples can agree on, surely it is this.”
The Conference on Maritime Security is scheduled to meet alongside the scheduled session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in the Autumn of 2002, and is to consider any new or amended regulations proposed by the MSC. These would involve the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) chapter XI on Special Measures to Enhance Maritime Safety – the title of which might need to be amended to include maritime security. Other amendments might be proposed in relation to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
An intersessional Working Group will meet prior to the conference from 11 to 15 February, well in advance of the next session of the MSC in May 2002, and will start work on the review called for in the Assembly resolution. It will prepare a list of subjects to be further discussed. These will be forwarded to the MSC and, it is expected, to the Legal and Facilitation Committees; consider proposals and information on maritime security issues submitted by Member Governments and international organizations; and prepare a work plan and timeframe. The intersessional Working Group meeting, which will be funded by the United States, will submit a report to the MSC – which itself will convene a special Working Group at its May meeting to progress the work further.
During the Assembly, the delegation of the United States identified a number of specific areas that it felt should be considered, including a review of the issues related to the installation of automatic identification systems on ships; consideration of the need for security plans on ships, port facilities and off-shore terminals; reviewing the need for identification, verification and background security checks for seafarers; and ensuring a secure “chain of custody” for containers from their port of origin to their destination.
During its 22nd session, the Assembly also adopted another resolution submitted by the Secretary-General addressing the plight of refugees and asylum seekers who become rescued from by merchant vessels. The resolution recommends a comprehensive review of safety measures and procedures for the treatment of rescued persons. It follows a number of recent incidents involving asylum seekers, refugees and stowaways, which the Assembly noted had brought to the fore issues relating to the thoroughness of IMO legislation and the degree of preparedness of the maritime and coastal community to deal with such people satisfactorily.
Addressing the Assembly, Mr. O’Neil said: “Unless the matter is considered in all its respects and action is taken at the appropriate level, such incidents may have a negative impact on the integrity of the search and rescue system which the Organization has put in place globally to assist those found in distress at sea.”
Mr. O’Neil recommended that early and prompt action should be taken to enhance the preparedness of the maritime and shore-based communities to respond to emergencies caused by such incidents in a co-ordinated manner.
Mr. O’Neil noted that a review of the current procedures should ensure that co-ordination and co-operation among all parties concerned are strengthened so that rescued persons are promptly and effectively delivered to a place of safety, regardless of their nationality and status or the circumstances in which they are found. Survivors, including undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, as well as stowaways, should be treated, while on board, in accordance with relevant international agreements and long-standing humanitarian maritime traditions.
The resolution on Review of safety measures and procedures for the treatment of persons rescued at sea recalls IMO measures and recommendations which are aimed at ensuring that the life of persons on board ships, including small craft, whether underway or at anchor, is safeguarded at any time pending their delivery to a place of safety.
The resolution requests IMO to review all IMO instruments so that any existing gaps, inconsistencies, ambiguities, vagueness or other inadequacies can be identified and any action needed can be taken.
The Assembly welcomed the news that Mr. O’Neil had proposed that a review of the existing legislation concerning the delivery of persons rescued at sea to a place of safety, regardless of their nationality and status or the circumstances in which they are found, should be undertaken by an inter-agency group within the UN system, with a view to strengthening and harmonizing the competence of the agencies involved. The proposed review would identify any existing gaps, inconsistencies, duplications or overlaps in that legislation. Mr. O’Neil has received positive responses to this proposal from the High Commissioner of UNHCR, the Executive Director of UN Drug Control and Crime prevention and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Assembly noted that Mr. O’Neil had also proposed the establishment of a co-ordinating mechanism (possibly in the form of an inter-agency co-ordinating panel to be activated when the circumstances require it) to ensure that the response of the United Nations in any future emergency can be co-ordinated in a consistent manner.
While matters of security and the related issues of how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers received a great deal of attention at the Assembly, the meeting also focussed on other important work in the many disciplines in which IMO operates. IMO’s tireless struggle to implement measures that will improve the environment was reflected in several Assembly resolutions.
Recognizing the importance of reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, resolution A.929(22) urged Governments to accept the 1997 Protocol to MARPOL 73/78, which introduced a new MARPOL Annex VI containing regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships. Ratification of the protocol to date has been slow and the entry-into-force criteria have not yet been met. The resolution also invites Governments to provide support to States which request technical assistance for the development of national legislation to give effect to the Protocol and for the introduction of other measures for its effective implementation. If the conditions for entry into force have not been met by 31 December 2002, the Marine Environment Protection Committee will review the situation to identify any impediments that may be preventing States from ratifying it.
New guidelines designed to help Contracting Parties to MARPOL 73/78 to formulate and submit applications for the designation of Special Areas under Annexes I, II, and V to the Convention were adopted, together with new guidelines for the identification and designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs). A PSSA is an area that needs special protection through action by IMO because of its significance for ecological, socio-economic, or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international shipping activities.
The new guidelines are designed to ensure that all interests - those of the coastal State, flag State, and the environmental and shipping communities - are thoroughly considered on the basis of relevant scientific, technical, economic, and environmental information and provide for the assessment of such applications by IMO. There are currently two designated PSSAs: the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, and the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago in Cuba).
Underlining the invaluable work done by the MEPC leading to the adoption of an international convention to phase-out the use of harmful anti-fouling coatings on ships is an Assembly resolution calling for the early and effective implementation of the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships, 2001, which was adopted by a diplomatic conference earlier this year. A resolution adopted at the conference requests Member States to do their utmost to ensure the Convention enters force without delay. Under the terms of the Convention, the effective date for phasing-out the application of anti-fouling systems containing organotins is 1 January 2003. The Assembly resolution urges Governments to provide any information available regarding any anti-fouling systems they have approved, restricted or prohibited under domestic law as soon as possible and requests the IMO Secretary-General to make this information available.
The importance of IMO’s work in establishing a compensation regime for victims of pollution damage was endorsed with the adoption by the Assembly of a resolution aimed at encouraging ratification of International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea, 1996. The resolution notes that only eight States are signatories to the HNS Convention and that only two States have become party to it. It therefore urges all States to place a high priority on working towards the implementation of the Convention and to resolve any practical difficulties in setting up the new regime that may be hindering their ratification or accession to the Convention. A Correspondence Group has been established by the Legal Committee for this purpose.
The 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 effective arrangements in place for the payment of compensation is part of the shipowners’ responsibilities to provide safe and decent working conditions, and includes associated guidelines recommending measures to be implemented including certification and a model receipt and release form for claims.
Many delegations to the Assembly cited technical co-operation as the key element in securing a general increase in the rate of implementation by developing countries of IMO conventions and standards. In recognition of the increasing importance that the transfer of technology plays in securing IMO’s objectives, it was proposed that the scope of the Technical Co-operation Committee could be extended to encompass the wider significance of technical assistance in terms of an exchange of information and technical expertise.
Several delegations therefore proposed that the number of meeting days allocated to the Technical Co-operation Committee be increased to a total of five days in a biennium, to provide more adequate time for in-depth consideration of the wider perspectives of technical co-operation, and for the completion of that Committee’s increasingly substantive work programme.
The Assembly noted that the MSC, having endorsed a proposal by the Secretary-General, had worked on the subject of large passenger ship safety. It had approved a guiding philosophy, strategic goals, objectives and analytical approach surrounding its work on the matter; agreed to areas for consideration relating to existing and future large passenger ships; and approved the updated work plan for further work to be done by itself and sub-committees which were assigned specific tasks in this respect.
The Assembly also noted that, during the biennium, the MSC had continued work on bulk carrier safety, through a working group meeting during sessions of the MSC and also on the basis of contributions by sub-committees assigned specific tasks. It noted, in particular, that MSC 74 had taken action on the recommendations of the re-opened formal investigation into the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire and the FSA studies on bulk carrier safety reported by interested Member Governments, and had agreed on further work to be carried out on bulk carrier safety.
Altogether the session saw some 34 resolutions adopted by the Assembly. Other issues covered by resolutions included the Organization’s work programme and budget for the biennium 2002-2003 and resolutions on technical issues relating to the Organization’s work on safety of shipping and prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Speaking at the close of the Assembly, Mr. O’Neil said that the resolutions adopted were a culmination of a great deal of work, which above all focused on the principal reason for IMO’s existence – to foster the life of the seafarer.
Mr O’Neil highlighted the decisions of the Assembly to bring the issues of asylum seekers on board ships, and the concerns surrounding terrorism and its risk to maritime security, to the fore.
“This has been an extremely important Assembly, leading us into new areas for the Organization and we look forward to pursuing them in the next biennium,” he said.
A list of all resolutions adopted by the Assembly is shown below.
The Assembly agreed the work programme for the forthcoming biennium and budgetary appropriations of £39,531,100 for 2002-2003. This compares with an appropriation of £36,612,200 for 2000-2001. The Assembly also approved the long-term work plan of the organization up to 2008, including lists of indicative subjects for consideration by each Committee.
The Assembly approved the holding of the following Conferences to adopt new or amend existing regulations:
The Members of the Council elected by the 22nd Assembly in 2001 for 2002 up to 7 November 2002 are as follows:
Immediately following the Assembly the Council met for its 87th session and elected the following: Chairman, Mr Chen Tze Penn, Singapore; Vice Chairman, Mr Johan Franson, Sweden.
The 1993 amendments to the IMO Convention increase the size of the Council to 40 Members and enter into force on 7 November 2002. The expanded Council will comprise 10 States in each of Category (a) and Category (b) and 20 States in category (c).
The Assembly therefore agreed to elect the following additional States during the current meeting. These States will take their place on the expanded Council as soon as the 1993 amendments enter into force on 7 November 2002:
The Assembly elected the Hon. Mr Edward Singhatey, Secretary of State for Presidential Affairs, The Gambia, as President of the Assembly.
The Vice-Presidents were the Hon. Mr Jose Luis Lopez-Sors Gonzalez, Director-General, Merchant Marine, Spain, and the Hon. Mr Gap-Sook Lee, Deputy Minister for Maritime Safety Management, Republic of Korea.
The Assembly elected the following to chair the two Committees of the Assembly:
The Assembly was attended by more than 800 delegates representing 139 Member States and two Associate Members, 9 intergovernmental organizations and 30 non-governmental organizations.
The Assembly adopted the following resolutions:
The Assembly normally meets once every two years. All 160 Member States and two Associate Members are entitled to attend as are the intergovernmental organizations with which agreements on co-operation have been concluded and non-governmental organizations which have consultative status with IMO.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the United Nations agency concerned with maritime safety and the prevention of marine pollution from ships.