The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, was adopted by an international conference held in Kenya in 2007. the Convention provides the legal basis for States to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have the potential to affect adversely the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine environment.
The Convention provides a set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea.
The Convention also includes an optional clause enabling States Parties to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea.
Although the incidence of marine casualties has decreased dramatically in recent years, mainly thanks to the work of IMO and the persistent efforts of Governments and industry to enhance safety in shipping operations, the number of abandoned wrecks, estimated at almost thirteen hundred worldwide, has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal States and shipping in general have, if anything, become more acute.
These problems are three-fold: first, and depending on its location, a wreck may constitute a hazard to navigation, potentially endangering other vessels and their crews; second, and of equal concern, depending on the nature of the cargo, is the potential for a wreck to cause substantial damage to the marine and coastal environments; and third, in an age where goods and services are becoming increasingly expensive, is the issue of the costs involved in the marking and removal of hazardous wrecks. The convention attempts to resolve all of these and other, related, issues.
The Convention provides a sound legal basis for coastal States to remove, or have removed, from their coastlines, wrecks which pose a hazard to the safety of navigation or to the marine and coastal environments, or both. The treaty also covers any prevention, mitigation or elimination of hazards created by any object lost at sea from a ship (e.g. lost containers).
The Convention makes shipowners financially liable and require them to take out insurance or provide other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal. It also provides States with a right of direct action against insurers.
The Convention defines "Wreck", following upon a maritime casualty, as:
(a) a sunken or stranded ship; or
(b) any part of a sunken or stranded ship, including any object that is or has been on board such a ship; or
(c) any object that is lost at sea from a ship and that is stranded, sunken or adrift at sea; or
(d) a ship that is about, or may reasonably be expected, to sink or to strand, where effective measures to assist the ship or any property in danger are not already being taken.
Articles in the Convention cover:
- reporting and locating ships and wrecks - covering the reporting of casualties to the nearest coastal State; warnings to mariners and coastal States about the wreck; and action by the coastal State to locate the ship or wreck;
- criteria for determining the hazard posed by wrecks, including depth of water above the wreck, proximity of shipping routes, traffic density and frequency, type of traffic and vulnerability of port facilities. Environmental criteria such as damage likely to result from the release into the marine environment of cargo or oil are also included;
- measures to facilitate the removal of wrecks, including rights and obligations to remove hazardous ships and wrecks - which sets out when the shipowner is responsible for removing the wreck and when a State may intervene;
- liability of the owner for the costs of locating, marking and removing ships and wrecks - the registered shipowner is required to maintain compulsory insurance or other financial security to cover liability under the convention; and
- settlement of disputes.