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The Year in Review 2015


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In 2015, IMO once again actively pursued its targets and objectives in a wide range of subject areas. In these pages we present some of the highlights of what was a busy, varied and successful year for the Organization.

To see even more, visit our “What’s New​” archive which forms a colourful and engaging retrospective of IMO’s deep global engagement in a diverse and multi-faceted array of topics.


Domestic ferry safety

An IMO conference in Manila, the Philippines, adopted guidelines on the safe operation of coastal and inter-island passenger ships not engaged in international voyages. The guidelines address purchasing, converting or modifying second-hand ships for use in domestic passenger services, changes in operating limits, counting passengers and voyage planning. The guidelines can also be used to check the daily operation of ships that are already providing passenger services. The conference urged States that need it to seek technical assistance relating to domestic ferries from IMO or from other States.



Gas fuel safety

A new mandatory code for ships fuelled by gases or other low-flashpoint fuels (IGF Code), together with associated SOLAS amendments, were adopted. The use of gas as fuel, particularly LNG, has increased in recent years due to its lower sulphur and particulate emissions than fuel oil or marine diesel oil. But such fuels pose safety challenges. The IGF Code contains mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, to minimize the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment. Ships constructed after the code’s expected date of entry into force of 1 January 2017 must comply with its requirements. The related amendments to the STCW Convention and Code on requirements for training and certifying personnel serving on ships subject to the IGF Code were also adopted.



Bulk cargo liquefaction

IMO took action to warn ship Masters of the possible dangers of liquefaction associated with carrying bauxite. This followed consideration of the investigation into the loss of the 10-year-old bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter, which was carrying 46,400 tonnes of bauxite when it sank rapidly with 18 fatalities in January 2015. The investigation suggested cargo liquefaction led to loss of stability. Further research to evaluate the properties of bauxite is being carried out, with a view to amending the IMSBC (International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes) Code in future.



Guidelines on fatigue

A review of the IMO guidelines on fatigue was initiated by the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping. The review will take into account a holistic, risk based approach looking at the impact of fatigue at all levels and will provide practical tools for fatigue management. The work will be completed over the Sub-Committee’s next two sessions.



Training for polar regions

Requirements for training and certifying personnel serving on ships operating in polar waters were agreed, in the form of amendments to the STCW Convention (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) and Code. The draft amendments reflect the training requirements in the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code).



Passenger ship training

Mandatory crowd management training for key personnel was agreed, in principle, in a review of passenger ship training requirements. The review is part of the long-term action plan on passenger ship safety agreed following the Costa Concordia incident in January 2012 and is expected to be finalized in 2016.



Review and modernization of the GMDSS continued

Progress was made on the review of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). The GMDSS defines the radiocommunication equipment and procedures to be used in distress situations, and it became fully operational in 1999. A modernization plan, which will take into account new technologies, is expected to be completed in 2017 and approved in 2018.



Passenger ship safety - draft SOLAS amendments on evacuation analysis approved

Requirements for evacuation analysis will be extended to all passenger ships, not just ro-ro passenger ships, as part of the ongoing work programme to improve passenger ship safety. Draft amendments to SOLAS to clarify when watertight doors may be opened during a voyage were also approved. These will apply to all ships. The long-term action plan on passenger ship safety was updated, to include among other initiatives, development of guidelines for comprehensive risk assessment, passage planning and position monitoring; effective bridge resource management and to remove distractions.

Polar Code environmental provisions adopted

The environmental part of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code) was adopted. The Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in waters surrounding the two poles. The environmental part of the Code is mandatory and covers prevention of pollution by oil, control of pollution by noxious liquid substances in bulk, prevention of pollution by sewage and garbage from ships, adding additional restrictions to the discharges permitted under MARPOL.



Fuel consumption data collection

IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) progressed development of a data collection system for ships’ fuel consumption, to help analyse energy efficiency. Proposed text refers to data from ships of 5,000 GT and above, to include the ship identification number, technical characteristics, total annual fuel consumption by fuel type and in metric tons. The collection of transport work and/or proxy data including “design DWT” for cargo weight/volume, distance travelled as being from “berth to berth”, and service hours as “hours not at berth” has been recommended. The method for collecting the data would be outlined in the ship-specific Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP). Data would be aggregated into an annual figure and reported by the shipowner or operator to the flag State administration, which would submit them to IMO for inclusion in a restricted-access database.



Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait protection extended

The eastern limit of the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) was extended to encompass the south-west part of the Coral Sea, part of Australia’s Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve (CMR), a remote ocean ecosystem which provides refuge for a wide range of threatened, migratory and commercially valuable species. Associated protective measures to reduce the risk of ship collisions and groundings by separating opposing traffic streams, while ensuring ships keep clear of reefs, shoals and islets were adopted.



Ballast water roadmap

Ships that install ballast water management systems approved in accordance with the current Guidelines (G8) should not be penalized, according to the “Roadmap for the implementation of the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention” agreed this year. This means that those systems will not have to be replaced nor sanctions imposed due to the application of the new Guidelines (G8) or due to occasional lack of efficacy, provided they are installed, operated and maintained correctly. The roadmap also invited the MEPC to develop guidance on contingency measures and to expand the trial period associated with the guidance on ballast water sampling and analysis into an experience-building phase.



Implementing the BWM Convention

Progress has been made in reviewing the guidelines for approval of BWM systems (G8), including agreement on several amendments and, in principle, on making these guidelines mandatory. The MEPC also agreed to amend regulation B-3 of the convention with regard to the schedule of compliance with the ballast water performance standard for ships once the convention enters into force. Both these activities are expected to be finalized at MEPC 69 in April 2016.



Fuel review initiated

The availability review of fuel oil compliant with the global requirements that the sulphur content of fuel oil used on board ships shall not exceed 0.50% m/m on and after 1 January 2020 was initiated, with a view to the final report being submitted to IMO in autumn 2016. A steering committee of 13 IMO Member States, one intergovernmental organisation and six international non-governmental organizations was established to oversee it.



Oil spill response guidance approved

Two sets of guidelines to assist in oil spill response were finalized and approved – Guidelines on international offers of assistance in response to a marine oil pollution incident and Guidelines for the use of dispersants for combating oil pollution at sea - Part III (Operational and technical sheets for surface application of dispersants). Parts I (Basic information on dispersants and their application) and II (Template for national policy for use of dispersants) have already been approved and Part IV, covering sub-sea dispersant application, is currently under development.



Microplastics report published

A report published the IMO-hosted group GESAMP entitled ‘Sources, fates and effects of microplastics in the marine environment - a global assessment’ identified a number of recommendations to reduce the growing threat from microplastics in the marine environment. GESAMP is the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection, an advisory body to the United Nations system.



Marine geoengineering study commenced

GESAMP also established a working group on marine geoengineering which could assist London Protocol Parties to identify geoengineering techniques that might be listed listing in the Protocol’s new annex 4. It is expected that the group will prepare a study to provide a better understanding of the potential ecological and social impacts of different marine geoengineering approaches. This group, led by IMO, gained the support of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and the World Meteorological Organization.



Coordinated approach

Agencies concerned about the loss of life, injury, trauma and serious human rights violations affecting migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees traveling by sea met at IMO in March and pledged to work together in a coordinated approach. The High-Level Meeting to Address Unsafe Mixed Migration by Sea heard predictions that 2015 would turn out to see significantly higher numbers of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in inherently unsafe vessels than during 2014 – a prediction sadly borne out by International Organization for Migration (IOM) figures as the year closed.


Safer pathways needed

A special session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) on unsafe mixed migration by sea was held in June. The MSC commended the efforts of rescue services, merchant vessels and others in saving lives and condemned the actions of people-smugglers. It agreed that greater focus needs to be placed on addressing unsafe migration by sea through developing more safe and regular migration pathways. The issue was placed on the agenda of the MSC and other IMO bodies.


Legal debate

The Legal Committee’s 102nd session in April discussed mixed migration by sea from a legal perspective. An informal meeting to review the legal framework for the rescue of mixed migrants at sea met in September and a report on its discussions will be submitted to the 103rd Legal Committee session in June 2016.


Merchant shipping’s contribution

The IMO Assembly’s 29th session in November-December commended all merchant vessels and their crews who had participated in rescuing migrants at sea for their bravery, professionalism and compassion, upholding the highest traditions of the sea. It requested the Secretary-General to issue special certificates, retroactively, from 1 January 2014, to any merchant vessel and its crew participating in the rescue of mixed migrants at sea, recognizing the risks involved to both rescuers and the rescued, in particular in those cases involving multiple survivors.


GLOMEEP project launched

A major new project on technology transfer in the energy efficiency field was launched. The GEF-IMO-UNDP Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships Project (GloMEEP) aims to support increased uptake and implementation of energy-efficiency measures for shipping by building understanding and knowledge of technical and operational measures in order to lead maritime transport into a low-carbon future. The GloMEEP project is focusing on developing countries, where the world’s fleet is increasingly based. One component of this project will facilitate a public-private partnership at global level in order to identify a range of emerging technologies. These could include sleeker ship designs to reduce friction and drag, more efficient propellers, the use of renewable energy on ships (like wind, wave and solar power), waste-heat recovery and intelligent routeing to avoid adverse tides and currents – all of which could make significant improvements to a vessel’s efficiency and help reduce its carbon footprint.


Future-Ready Shipping conference

Singapore hosted the Future-Ready Shipping 2015 Conference in September. This joint IMO-Singapore International Conference on Maritime Technology Transfer and Capacity Building kick-started a global dialogue on removing barriers to energy-efficiency technologies and measures. Discussions focused on how these efforts might be accelerated. IMO’s regulations on energy efficiency of international shipping include a requirement for States to support each other through capacity building and technology transfer.


Brand new premises for World Maritime University

The World Maritime University (WMU) celebrated a move into expanded, state-of-the-art, premises centred on the refurbished historic Malmö Harbour Master’s Building as new WMU President Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry took office. The Nippon Foundation, a Japanese philanthropic organization that promotes social innovation, announced it was willing to establish a US$100 million endowment fund to support expansive and innovative activities at the WMU.

Djibouti Regional Training Centre completed

The Djibouti Regional Training Centre building was formally opened in November, as signatories to the Djibouti Code of Conduct agreed to work towards extending its remit to address other illicit maritime activity that threatens safety and security in the region, such as marine terrorism, environmental crimes, human trafficking and Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Training under the auspices of the regional training centre took place throughout 2015, including the first in a planned series of national table top exercises on maritime contingency planning in the western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.


Supporting West and Central Africa

Capacity-building activities aimed at enhancing flag State implementation and port State control in Western and Central Africa continued apace during 2015 under the so-called FlagPort WACAF Project. IMO also continued its series of national table top exercises and other activities under its strategy for implementing maritime security measures in West and Central Africa, in order to counter piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit activities and to support the development of a vibrant, sustainable maritime sector.

Protecting the marine environment in south-east Asia

A number of activities were carried out under the IMO-Norwegian Development Cooperation Agency (Norad) marine environment project in south east Asia, including support for effective ratification and implementation of a number of IMO's environmental treaties. Progress was also made in supporting countries in the region to work towards establishing particularly sensitive sea areas (PSSAs) in South East Asia. PSSAs are marine areas that need special protection due to ecological or socio-economic or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities.


Maritime single-window project moved forward

IMO’s ‘Maritime Single Window’ project forged ahead during 2015. The aim is to develop a prototype maritime single window for the electronic exchange of arrival and departure information, in order to meet anticipated new requirements for the electronic exchange of information under the revised Facilitation Convention, set to be adopted in April 2016. The Technical Cooperation Committee was informed that the first two phases have been completed, including information gathering and assessment of the user requirement and the design criteria. The third phase, developing the prototype, is underway. The fourth phase will be to implement the maritime single window prototype in one target country. During 2015, IMO and the World Customs Organization met to share experiences in implementation of national single window systems.


Training for ballast water management implementation

A new online learning portal including a free e-learning course entitled Operational Aspects of Ballast Water Management (BWM) was launched by the GloBallast Partnerships Programme implemented by IMO under its Global Industry Alliance (GIA). The e-learning course is based on the GloBallast Advanced Training Course on Operational Aspects of BWM and is aimed at all stakeholders who will have to deal with operational aspects of ballast water management, such as Port State Control Officers and seafarers. Meanwhile, practical workshop on sampling and analysis of ballast water were held across the globe under the IMO-GloBallast “Train-the-Trainer” scheme.


Preparing for the mandatory audit scheme

A number of regional and national workshops were held during 2015 to support countries to prepare for the mandatory IMO Member State Audit Scheme. The first training course for audit team leaders (covering audit planning, audit team and auditee management, effective in-audit communication, audit reporting and assessment of a corrective action plan) was held at IMO Headquarters in October. A new module containing information on audits carried out under the scheme was launched on IMO’s web-based information portal, GISIS (the Global Integrated Shipping Information System). Up to 25 Member State audits per year are expected under the mandatory scheme. The scheme is intended to provide an audited Member State with a comprehensive and objective assessment of how effectively it administers and implements mandatory IMO instruments covered by the scheme. The scheme becomes mandatory for all IMO Member States from 1 January 2016. .


UN Sustainable Development Goals welcomed

IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the UN as an ambitious set of targets with the potential to transform the world. IMO’s capacity-building activities will continue to support the implementation of the SDGS. Three of the SDGs have particular resonance for IMO: Goal 7 – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all; Goal 9 – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; and Goal 14 – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.


Wreck Removal Convention entered into force

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal Wrecks entered into force on 14 April 2015. It 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. It also provides uniform international rules for the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond territorial seas. The Nairobi Convention was adopted at an IMO international conference held in Kenya in 2007. On entry into force, it had 22 Contracting States which represented 37.64% of world merchant shipping tonnage. As of 16 December 2015 there are 25 Contracting States to the Convention representing 58.09% of world merchant shipping tonnage.



Limitation of liability for maritime claims

Increases in the limits of liability in the 1996 Protocol to amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976 (the LLMC Protocol 1996) entered into force on 8 June 2015. The amount claimable for loss of life or personal injury on ships (not exceeding 2,000 gross tonnage) was raised to 3.02 million Special Drawing Rights (SDR), up from 2 million SDR. Additional amounts are claimable on larger ships. The LLMC Protocol had 50 Contracting States which, between them, represent 57.41% of the world merchant shipping tonnage, when the increases entered into force.



Support for drafters and their national legislation

IMO has been helping some of its Member States with the task of drafting national legislation to reflect the provisions of key IMO instruments. A regional workshop on legislative drafting was held in Kingston, Jamaica (14-18 September), aimed at government lawyers, parliamentary drafters and legal advisers to ministries. The overall objective was to assist IMO Member States in the region to implement their rights and duties as States Parties to various IMO treaty instruments, including those dealing with maritime safety, security, protection of the marine environment and liability and compensation.



Legislative run-down for Myanmar officials

Government officials from Myanmar were invited to IMO Headquarters to attend a five-day workshop. The participants gained insight into IMO treaties on liability and compensation and the benefits, rights and obligations of Parties to these conventions. The workshop also reviewed the Myanmar Merchant Shipping Law in the framework of the assistance provided by IMO to Myanmar in the development of their national maritime legislation and looked at fair treatment of seafarers.

Launching the theme

2015’s World Maritime Day theme: “Maritime education and training” highlighted the need for quality education and training as the bedrock of a safe and secure shipping industry. IMO Secretary-General Sekimizu launched the theme at the World Maritime University, Sweden, in January, telling students and staff that maritime education and training was essential for the long-term sustainability of the sector, both at sea and on-shore.



Japan hosts parallel event

This year’s World Maritime Parallel Event was hosted by Japan. The two-day event was attended by some 400 representatives from the global maritime community, including the maritime industry, government, non-governmental organizations and academia. Topics included maritime human resources, human resources related to the seas and the oceans, education for future generations, and next steps in education and training.



All around the world

Maritime education and training was in focus at a number of events around the world throughout 2015. These included: an international symposium at the new World Maritime University; the North American World Maritime Day conference on “Securing Maritime's 21st Century Workforce”; the first World Maritime University Regional Alumni Conference in Yangon, Myanmar – focusing on current developments in maritime education; and the national World Maritime Day celebrations in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran. There were also technical cooperation activities surrounding the theme, including an IMO fact-finding mission to the Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute. IMO Secretary-General Sekimizu highlighted the importance of maritime education and training throughout the year, including at the Kenya National Maritime Conference, and in visits to educational institutes such as Plymouth University – one of the many academic establishments worldwide that work to provide highly-qualified professionals to the maritime industries.



World Maritime Day Symposium

IMO held a symposium addressing the future of maritime education and training on World Maritime Day (24 September). Young cadets from around the world were among those participating as speakers from the maritime industry and academia discussed the topic "Shipping's future needs people: Is global maritime education and training on course?".



Youngsters learn about the world of shipping

IMO invited some inquisitive young pupils from local and international primary schools in London to visit IMO headquarters (22 September) and find out for themselves how everyday things get transported around the world, how much it costs, and what it’s like to work on a ship. The pupils enjoyed an interactive session where they learned about ships and their cargoes, regulations for ships and the whole range of careers in the maritime world. They then took turns on ship simulators, loaned by ARI World, and were interviewed about what they had learned. See the photos and video.



Teens shown a maritime future

Opportunities in the maritime sector, from officer cadet training, maritime law and marine biology, through to transport logistics, were outlined to young people who attended an open morning at IMO (23 September), as part of the Headquarters’ celebrations of World Maritime Day – an official United Nations day. The students, from local and international senior schools based in London, heard speakers from a series of maritime-related Academic institutions. The 120 students then enjoyed navigating on ship simulators, loaned by ARI World, and were able to quiz people working in the maritime field on maritime training and careers. Some 32 cadets from 16 different IMO Member States were in attendance to answer questions and share their experiences. The event was supported by Careers at Sea, Institute of Chartered shipbrokers, IMarEST, Plymouth University and Southampton Solent University (Warsash Maritime Academy). See photos here.

Maritime Ambassadors scheme

The IMO Maritime Ambassadors scheme was launched and the first nominees were appointed. Their role is to promote the maritime and seafaring professions and raise awareness of the positive benefits of choosing a career at sea or other maritime occupation. They will work to engage and inspire young people by taking part in various events and activities, which will also be shared on IMO’s social media channels. By the year end, Maritime Ambassadors from 12 IMO Member States and three IGOs/NGOs had been appointed.



A career at sea looks like…

As part of its annual Day of the Seafarer campaign, IMO launched a new video animation that aimed to inspire young people to consider a career at sea. To address the predicted global shortage of seafarers, the video also showed how diverse and exciting a career at sea can be. People from around the world watched and shared the video to engage as many young people as possible.



Day of the Seafarer - 5th edition

Another successful Day of the Seafarer was celebrated on 25 June, with millions of people worldwide engaging on social media under the campaign theme CareerAtSea. Hundreds of people shared photos of their life at sea, the result yielding a mosaic depicting what a career at sea looks like through the eyes of many maritime professionals around the globe, helping to inspire people to consider a maritime career. The campaign also saw many countries organize events and celebrations to honour those who have chosen a career at sea.



Collaboration with National Maritime Museum

IMO partnered with the National Maritime Museum in its host country the United Kingdom to take a closer look at issues surrounding migration by sea. A new space at the museum called RE•THINK, encouraged visitors to discover and reflect on a given theme from a different perspective. An exhibition on migration featured three short films produced by IMO. The films explored the following perspectives: “The migrants’ story”, “The rescuers’ story” and “The international response”. This special exhibition ran from May to November 2015 at the museum. The films can be viewed here.



IMO events celebrated

Many events were held at IMO headquarters this year, including the famous World Maritime Day celebration; the emotional Bravery Award ceremony, at which IMO recognized individuals for their courage and determination at sea; and the International Maritime Prize - awarded by the IMO Council to Mr Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation.



IMO news gets a facelift

The quarterly magazine IMO News underwent a design transformation, embracing more effective use of photography and other visual design elements as well as placing a new editorial emphasis on featuring IMO’s busy and diverse programme of fieldwork. The magazine is available on both print and digital formats.



Secretary-General's blog

IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu continued to blog from various fascinating locations including a multi-stop trip to central America, a visit to Plymouth University in the UK, a stop to attend the Panama Maritime XII conference, a visit to the ReCAAP centre in Singapore and a trip Sweden to bid farewell to the World Maritime University. His blog continued to highlight key aspects of IMO’s work and the issues currently on the Organization's agenda, as well as his own enthusiasm for maritime heritage as a way to draw attention to the importance of shipping in the modern world.



Social media presence

IMO’s social media presence has continued to increase at a healthy pace, with now more than 33,000 Twitter followers and 117,000 Facebook “likes”. This year, IMO also made the top five Twitter influencers within Maritime and Shipping industry according to a leading public relations consultancy for the shipping and logistics industry (isisCommunications).