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Legal Committee, 106th session, 27-29 March 2019

29/03/2019

Addressing fraudulent ship registration – measures agreed

The Committee agreed on a series of measures to prevent unlawful practices associated with the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships.

The move follows reports of fraudulent use of their flag by a number of IMO Member States. Information compiled by the IMO Secretariat on the cases received included:

  • the registration of ships without the knowledge or approval of the relevant national maritime administration.  
  • The continuous operation of a ship registry after the contact with the registration company has expired or has otherwise been terminated.
  • The submission of fraudulent documentation to IMO, without the knowledge of the cognizant flag State authority, in order to obtain IMO documentation and ship identification numbers.
  • The intentional manipulation of AIS data to materially alter the ship's identifying information or to reflect the AIS data of an entirely different ship. 
  • The operation of an illegal international ship registry.

The Committee supported the creation, in the publicly available Contact Points Module in IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), of a comprehensive database of registries, which would contain the names and contact details of the national governmental body(ies), or authorized/delegated entities in charge of registration of ships.

The database would also contain information on the date from which authority to register ships for the country has been given to the registry and the date from which withdrawal of authority to register ships for the country takes effect. Specific information would be entered for countries which do not operate a ship registry, be it domestic or international.

The Committee agreed on a procedure for the communication of this information to the Organization, through authorized diplomatic mechanisms. The procedure is annexed to a draft Assembly resolution on measures to prevent the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships, approved by the Committee, to be submitted to IMO’s 31st Assembly session, in late 2019, for adoption.

Recommended best practices to assist in combating fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships were also approved by the Legal Committee.

The recommended best practices cover:

  • verifying IMO numbers of vessels when receiving an application for registration;
  • ensuring Flag State Administration contact point information is up-to-date;
  • ensuring the application of the requirement for the Continuous Synopsis Record, which is intended to provide an onboard record of the history of the ship;
  • a recommendation for prospective flag States to review  the United Nations Security Council Sanctions List Search webpage at https://scsanctions.un.org/search/; and
  • verifying the relevant information pertaining to Registries of ships in the “Contact Points” module in  GISIS.

An intersessional Correspondence Group was established to discuss some issues further and to consider various proposals in more detail, including enhancing capabilities for the detection and reporting of fraudulent registration documentation, working with the IMO Secretariat, Member States, port State control authorities, vessel owners and operators, non-government organizations, the private sector (including the maritime insurance industry), ship brokers and relevant maritime stakeholders.

The Correspondence Group will report back to the next session, LEG 107, in March 2020. 

The Committee also agreed that IMO should work with the United Nations Security Council to establish an easily searchable database, by IMO number and vessel name, of vessels currently the subject of, or designated pursuant to, United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Abandonment of seafarers - a growing concern
The Committee discussed the growing number of cases of abandonment and the orchestrated action needed to address this issue.

The Committee was updated on the latest cases, including those which have been successfully resolved, following intervention by the IMO Secretariat, the International Labour Organization (ILO), relevant flag States, port States, seafarers' States and other organizations.

As at 31 December 2018, there were 366 abandonment incidents listed in the database since it was established in 2004, affecting 4,866 seafarers. Of those incidents, 175 cases were resolved, 77 cases were disputed and 52 cases were inactive. There were still 52 unresolved cases. From 2011 to 2016, the number of cases per year ranged from 12 to 19.

In 2017 and 2018, the cases reported increased drastically. In 2017, there were 55 cases reported, 14 of which were resolved that year and 8 were resolved in 2018. In 2018, the total number of reported cases was 44 and of those, 15 cases had been resolved as of 31 December 2018. Of the cases reported in 2018, 8 involved flag States which had not ratified MLC, 2006. No additional cases reported in 2018 had been resolved in 2019.  As of the end of March 2019, there had been 13 new cases reported in 2019, none of which had been resolved

Amendments to the ILO Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006, which were adopted in 2014 and entered into force in 2017, require shipowners to have compulsory insurance to cover abandonment of seafarers, as well as claims for death or long-term disability of seafarers.

The Committee was informed that, following the entry into force of the 2014 amendments to MLC, 2006, 97 abandonment cases had been reported to the IMO/ILO joint database. Furthermore, between 18 January 2017 and 31 December 2018, there were 11 reported cases of abandonment where the flag State was a Party to MLC, 2006 but had not yet sent to the ILO their declaration of acceptance of the 2014 amendments.

The International Group of Protection and Indemnity Associations (P & I Clubs) said it had been involved in 41 abandonment cases after the entry into force of the 2014 amendments to MLC, 2006 on 18 January 2017, and the vast majority of these cases were effectively resolved within a reasonable timeframe, in cooperation with ITF.

Some States indicated that they would submit proposals for guidelines on cooperation between flag and port States to resolve abandonment cases to the next session of the Committee relating to the issue of abandonment of seafarers, and were encouraged to do so.

The Committee encouraged those Member States that had not already done so, to consider ratifying MLC, 2006, at their earliest convenience; and those who had ratified MLC, 2006 after the adoption but before the entry into force of the 2014 amendments, to send to ILO their declaration of acceptance at their earliest convenience.

Fair treatment of seafarers in the event of detention on suspicion of maritime crimes

The Committee considered the need for the development of guidelines to address the fair treatment of seafarers in case of their detention on suspicion of committing maritime crimes.

There was broad support for the establishment of a Joint IMO/ILO/International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Working Group to look into the issue.

The Committee invited interested parties to submit a proposal for a new output to LEG 107. Meanwhile, the Committee requested the IMO Secretariat to coordinate with ILO on the potential activation of a joint Working Group on the fair treatment of seafarers detained on suspicion of committing maritime crimes, and provide relevant information at LEG 107, to be considered in conjunction with any proposal for a new output.

IMO adopted Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident in 2006, following their development by a joint ILO/IMO Working Group.

Many delegations at the current session highlighted the inadequacy of the current guidelines, as they are limited to the fair treatment of seafarers in the case of a maritime accident and do not adequately address the fair treatment of seafarers detained on suspicion of committing maritime crimes.

Ratifying and implementing the HNS convention

The Committee encouraged Member States to ratify the 2010 HNS Protocol to enable the entry into force of the 2010 HNS Convention, which covers liability and compensation in the event of an incident involving hazardous goods. The number of ships carrying HNS cargoes is growing steadily with more than 200 million tonnes of chemicals traded annually.

The 2010 HNS Convention represents the remaining gap in the global framework of liability and compensation conventions related to shipping.

The treaty has now been ratified by four States: Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey. Entry into force of the treaty requires accession by at least 12 States, meeting certain criteria in relation to tonnage and reporting annually the quantity of HNS cargo received in a State. The treaty requires a total quantity of at least 40 million tonnes of cargo contributing to the general account to have been received in the preceding calendar year.

Administrative preparations for the setting up of the HNS Fund, required under the treaty, are under way. Preliminary preparations have also been made for the first session of the HNS Assembly, which will be convened by the IMO Secretary-General, in accordance with article 43 of the 2010 HNS Convention, when all entry-into-force criteria of the 2010 HNS Protocol have been met.

Autonomous ships - regulatory scoping exercise begins

The Committee began its work on the regulatory scoping exercise of conventions emanating from the Legal Committee for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). The aim is to assess the degree to which the existing regulatory framework may be affected in order to address MASS operations.

A framework for the regulatory scoping exercise was agreed, including the list of instruments to be reviewed, a template to guide the documentation of results of the regulatory scoping exercise, and a plan of work and procedures.

A web platform (based on one used for similar work being undertaken by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), on safety-related instruments) will be used to facilitate the work.

For each instrument, and for each degree of autonomy, provisions will be identified which:

  1. apply to MASS and prevent MASS operations; or
  2. apply to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations and require no actions; or
  3. apply to MASS and do not prevent MASS operations but may need to be amended or clarified, and/or may contain gaps; or
  4. have no application to MASS operations.

Once the first step is completed, a second step will be conducted to analyse and determine the most appropriate way of addressing MASS operations, taking into account the human element, by:

  1. developing interpretations; and/or
  2. amending existing instruments; and/or
  3. developing new instruments; or
  4. none of the above as a result of the analysis.

Volunteer Member States, along with interested NGOs and IGOS, will work on the review. The aim is to complete the review and analysis for consideration by the Legal Committee at its next session, LEG 107, in March 2020.

The treaties to be reviewed include: 

Conventions under the purview of the Legal Committee:

  1. BUNKERS 2001 – International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001. 
  2. CLC 1969 – International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969.
  3. CLC PROT 1976 – Protocol of 1976 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969.
  4. CLC PROT 1992 – Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969. 
  5. FUND PROT 1992 – Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1971.
  6. FUND PROT 2003 – Protocol of 2003 to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992.
  7. NUCLEAR 1971 – Convention relating to Civil Liability in the Field of Maritime Carriage of Nuclear Material, 1971. 
  8. PAL 1974 – Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea, 1974. 
  9. PAL PROT 1976 – Protocol of 1976 to the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea, 1974. 
  10. PAL PROT 2002 – Protocol of 2002 to the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea, 1974. 
  11. LLMC 1976 – Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976.
  12. LLMC PROT 1996 – Protocol of 1996 to amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976. 
  13. SUA 1988 – Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, 1988. 
  14. SUA PROT 1988 – Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, 1988. 
  15. SUA 2005 – Protocol of 2005 to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. 
  16. SUA PROT 2005 – Protocol of 2005 to the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf. 
  17. SALVAGE 1989 – International Convention on Salvage, 1989.
  18. NAIROBI WRC 2007 – Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.
  19. HNS PROT 2010 – Protocol of 2010 to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996.

Conventions emanating from the Legal Committee, with shared cognizance with other IMO committees

  1. INTERVENTION 1969 – International Convention relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, 1969.
  2. INTERVENTION PROT 1973 – Protocol relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Pollution by Substances other than Oil, 1973.

Joint treaties with IMO and other UN bodies, emanating from the Legal Committee 

  1. International Convention on Maritime Liens and Mortgages, 1993 (joint with UNCTAD).
  2. International Convention on Arrest of Ships, 1999 (joint with UNCTAD).

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