The thirty-second extraordinary session of the Council was held from 4 May to 3 August 2020, by correspondence, with a series of six informal virtual sessions held to facilitate discussions.
IMO Council stresses importance of the flow of trade by sea during the pandemic
The IMO Council has stressed the importance of keeping trade flowing during the pandemic, recognising the role of seafarers and emphasising the urgent need for action on crew change.
In a statement adopted by the Council at its thirty-second extraordinary session, the Council recalled its appreciation for the crews, seafarers, shore-based workers and personnel of the maritime community for enabling international trade to continue in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMO Council recognized that the ability of shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical equipment, to the populations around the world was critical in responding to the pandemic.
Recalling that due to COVID-19 restrictions, a large number of seafarers had had to extend their service on board ships after many months at sea, unable to be replaced or repatriated after long periods of service, the IMO Council emphasized the need for urgent action on crew changes and the designation of key workers so that sea workers could be safely relieved and repatriated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facilitation of shipping during the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Council encouraged the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and interested Member States to submit proposals related to facilitation of shipping to the Facilitation Committee, with a view to consideration of amending recommended practices in the Facilitation Convention.
The Council also invited Member States, the ICS and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), who had submitted proposals to the Council, related to the impact of COVID-19 on infection control, surveys and other matters, to submit them to the relevant Committee, including the Facilitation, Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Protection committees.
Member States were also encouraged to establish and/or review their national maritime preparedness and response plan for an outbreak of a communicable disease posing a public health emergency of international concern as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). They were encouraged to consider the inclusion of procedures and measures which would facilitate maritime trade during a public health emergency of international concern, as well as ensure that there are no obstacles to ship and seaport operations, including the movement of seafarers, marine personnel and seaport workers.
The Council adopted a priority list for meeting reconstruction, giving priority to a regular session of the IMO Council, followed by meetings of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) – to be preceded by the 7th meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships - and to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and Facilitation Committee.
The Council requested the Secretary-General to calendar meetings in accordance with the adopted priority list for in-person and remote sessions, based on the availability of meeting dates, and taking into account the workload strain for delegations to participate in multiple matters of substance simultaneously, and of the Secretariat to support the same meetings.
(Note: a calendar of meetings for September-December 2020 has now been issued, download CL.No. 4213/Add.6 Reconstruction of IMO 2020 and 2021 meeting schedules).
The Council agreed to allow the submission of additional documents, where a meeting has been postponed for six months or more. Resuming physical meetings will depend on guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UK Government, as well as the situation of IMO Member States.
Interim guidance to facilitate remote sessions adopted
The Council adopted interim guidance to facilitate remote sessions of the IMO Council during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the guidance is to facilitate the work of the Council using a structured and transparent methodology aimed at standardizing the conduct of remote sessions in view of exceptional circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance is intended for temporary use during the COVID-19 pandemic and should be kept under review as necessary, to incorporate experiences gained in the conduct of remote sessions.
The Council invited the Maritime Safety Committee, the Legal Committee, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee, the Technical Cooperation Committee, the Facilitation Committee and the governing bodies of the London Convention and London Protocol, to consider using the interim guidance when developing the way forward for future work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council noted proposed modalities for holding a simultaneous, remote extraordinary session of all Committees, to address procedural matters.
(Note: The Secretary-General has begun to receive requests for a simultaneous, extraordinary session of all the committees. The notional date for this extraordinary session is 16 to 18 September 2020.)
The Council invited the Secretary-General to further explore ways to make the best use of virtual meetings, until in-person meetings can resume, and at the same time enhance the meeting capacity at the Headquarters building so that in the future, the holding of hybrid meetings (in person/remote) can be considered.
Rescheduling of audits under the IMO Member State Audit Scheme
The Council endorsed the revised overall audit schedule, including the postponement of the audits scheduled for 2020 to 2021, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rescheduling of the audits originally planned for 2021 and 2022 to 2022 and 2023, respectively.
Celebration of 2020 World Maritime Day
The 2020 World Maritime Day will be celebrated on 24 September 2020, with an online event organized by the IMO Secretariat.
Postponement of World Maritime Day Parallel Event
The Council accepted the proposals to postpone the 2020 World Maritime Day Parallel Event to be held in South Africa to 2021 due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the subsequent events be shifted forward. The 2022 World Maritime Day Parallel Event would be held in Iran (Islamic Republic of); the 2023 event in the Russian Federation; and the 2024 event in the United Arab Emirates.
2021 World Maritime theme – "Seafarers: at the core of shipping's future"
The Council endorsed the proposal by the Secretary-General that the 2021 World Maritime theme should be: "Seafarers: at the core of shipping's future". This will also become the new theme for the 2021 parallel event in South Africa.
COUNCIL STATEMENT ON RECOGNITION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FLOW OF TRADE BY SEA DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
The Council, at its thirty-second extraordinary session:
(i) recalled its appreciation for the crews, seafarers, shore-based workers and personnel of the maritime community for enabling international trade to continue in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic;
(ii) recognized that the ability of shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical equipment, to the populations around the world was critical in responding to the pandemic;
(iii) also recalled that, due to COVID-19 restrictions, a large number of seafarers had had to extend their service on board ships after many months at sea, unable to be replaced or repatriated after long periods of service; and
(iv) emphasized the need for urgent action on crew changes and the designation of key workers so that sea workers could be safely relieved and repatriated during the COVID-19 pandemic.