IMO Member State audit scheme is tool to eliminate sub-standard shipping, says IMO Secretary-General

The Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme will be a key tool in the battle against sub-standard ships, IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said on Monday (22 March 2004), as he opened the second session of the ad hoc Council joint working group, which meets this week to further develop the scheme.

The audit scheme presents a unique opportunity for IMO to attain its objectives in a uniform manner, Mr. Mitropoulos told the Joint Maritime Safety Committee (MSC)/Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)/Technical Co-operation Committee (TCC) Working Group on the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, which is intended to establish a mechanism whereby Member States can assess their performance as flag, port and coastal States, with a view to identifying exactly where improvements need to be made.

"Every time we adopt a new instrument or simply a new standard, we undoubtedly make progress in regulating shipping engaged in international trade; but I see the scheme as a tool to enable us to make even further progress in eliminating sub-standard shipping," he said. "It will satisfy our friends and silence those who label IMO as a 'toothless tiger' with no real control over the implementation of the rules and regulations it develops. My vision is of a scheme which, rather than causing embarrassment to those to be audited by exposing their weaknesses, will instead bring us closer together - the one helping the other in pursuit of our common goals of enhanced safety and environmental protection."

Mr. Mitropoulos emphasised the need to move forward with the scheme in a timely fashion. "The opportunity is there for the taking. Let us make the most of it and seize it now - time cannot wait."

The first session of the Joint Group, held in May 2003, developed an outline of the proposed scheme. The 23rd session of the Assembly, in November 2003, adopted resolution A.946(23) on the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme, which illustrated the acceptance by the IMO membership of the need for a structured and well-balanced methodology for determining the level of implementation and enforcement of IMO instruments by Member States.

The resolution outlined the scope of the scheme as one aiming at assisting, through the Organization's Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme (ITCP), audited States which would otherwise be unable to remedy identified shortcomings and enhance further their recognized efforts in critical areas of implementation. It is envisaged that the audit scheme will address issues such as a Member State's conformance in enacting appropriate legislation for the IMO instruments to which it is a Party; the administration and enforcement of the applicable laws and regulations of the Member State; the delegation of authority by a Member State in terms of the implementation of convention requirements; and the control and monitoring mechanism of the Member State's survey and certification processes and of its recognized organizations.

This week, the Joint Group (which meets under the chairmanship of Mr. R. Kilvington of New Zealand) is expected to consider a draft Framework for Member State Audits; draft Procedures for Member State Audits; a draft Member State Audit Standard; and a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Member Governments to be audited and IMO. The Group will also consider the modalities for a pilot audit project to be implemented in the near future.

The Group will report on its work to the IMO Council, which meets for its 92nd session from 21 to 25 June 2004.




IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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