IMO’s “Year of the Seafarer” has reached its halfway mark, with the recent Manila Conference (convened to adopt amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978 (the STCW Convention) and its associated Code) being the most significant of the various activities included in the action plan drawn up to promote this year’s World Maritime Day theme. To take stock of the status of the plan and consider what action to take in the remainder of the year, a meeting was organized at IMO Headquarters today, the agenda of which also included the consideration of plans to mark the 2011 IMO World Maritime Day theme of “Piracy: orchestrating the response” and review progress on climate change from the IMO and shipping perspective.
Participants in the meeting, held at the invitation of IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos, were representatives of the Round Table of international shipping associations (ICS/ISF, BIMCO, INTERTANKO and INTERCARGO), the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and The Mission to Seafarers. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Marianito Roque, until recently Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines.
2010: Year of the Seafarer
Participants agreed that the Manila Conference was a key event in the calendar year so far, representing the pinnacle of efforts to improve the regulatory regime for seafarers. The Conference adopted major revisions to both the STCW Convention and Code, thereby ensuring that the necessary global standards will be in place to train and certify seafarers to operate technologically advanced ships for some time to come (see IMO Briefing 32/2010). The Manila amendments contain provisions on hours of rest for watchkeepers (see IMO Briefing 33/2010), while the resolutions adopted by the Conference include one on the “Year of the Seafarer” and another establishing 25 June annually as the “Day of the Seafarer” (see IMO Briefing 34/2010).
Beside the Manila Conference, the participants noted the actions completed or in progress to date, which aim at meeting the three main objectives of the Year of the Seafarer, namely: increasing awareness among the general public of the role of the seafarer in international trade and civil society; highlighting concern about issues facing seafarers (including fair treatment in the event of a maritime accident, piracy, abandonment in foreign ports and denial of shore leave); and making progress in the regulatory arena in matters affecting seafarers.
The participants expressed satisfaction with the positive publicity in favour of seafarers the theme has attracted worldwide so far and undertook to intensify, within their respective areas, their efforts to deliver the action plan so that 2010 would make a difference in all matters concerning seafarers.
In connection with seafarers’ welfare, the meeting heard from Mr. Roque how the Republic of the Philippines had set up a programme to assist national seafarers (who have been held hostage by pirates in Somalia) and their families, during the post-release period, to cope with the traumas the captivity has caused them. The meeting agreed that the Filipino initiative was a good example to be followed elsewhere in the world, while participants informed of charity work already being undertaken, by shipping companies and organizations, to support seafarers who had been held hostage and their families. In turn, Reverend T. Heffer, Secretary-General of the Mission to Seafarers, underlined the role of the Mission’s global network of chaplains and volunteers, who were able to provide assistance to seafarers of all nationalities and faiths, in the event of a piracy attack or any other occurrence that might have a negative impact on them.
Participants welcomed the actions taken so far by the various parties involved and pledged to continue to promote the objectives of the Year of the Seafarer and to use the yearly celebration of the 25th of June as an opportunity to enhance the status, safety and security of seafarers.
2011 – “Piracy: orchestrating the response"
Participants confirmed their willingness to contribute to the promotion of the theme for World Maritime Day 2011, “Piracy: orchestrating the response”, as approved by the IMO Council last month.
The theme links to the Year of the Seafarer, in that it will directly address the impact of piracy and armed robbery against ships on seafarers and their families. There is expected to be an increased focus on programmes, such as those outlined by Mr. Roque.
The meeting discussed possible activities aimed at addressing a number of objectives being included in an action plan for the year, such as:
- increase pressure at the political level (including at the UN Security Council) to bring about a solution to the Somali problem and facilitate and expedite the release of hostages. Calling the world’s attention to the unacceptable plight of all those being held by pirates – seafarers, in the main – and, by so doing, creating a worldwide demand for action to set them free would be part of the objective and, to that end, participants agreed to make a joint IMO/industry approach to the United Nations;
- strengthen the protection of persons and ships sailing though piracy-infested areas by constantly improving guidance to the industry; promoting even greater levels of support from navies; and providing care for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and support to their families;
- ensure that ships are aware of how to access the available naval protection, and that they are implementing the recommended preventative, evasive and defensive measures effectively;
- promote co-operation between and among States, regions and organizations in reducing the risk of attacks on ships through information-sharing; coordination of military and civil efforts; and regional initiatives, such as the Djibouti Code of Conduct; and
- build up the capacity of affected States to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, thereby enhancing maritime law enforcement and the safety of life at sea. And, while so doing, help tackle the root causes of piracy through the provision of assistance to States for the development of their maritime capacities and the protection of their maritime resources.
The participants expressed strong support for the actions the IMO Secretariat had included in a provisional action plan for 2011 and undertook to provide inputs to enable finalization of the plan before the year-end so that it may start being implemented as early as possible. In particular, industry representatives agreed on the importance of the need to ensure ship operators and ship personnel were fully aware of the existing guidance on preventing piracy attacks and how to deal with an attack once it occurred.
The meeting agreed that the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct throughout 2011 (with the establishment of the Djibouti Regional Training Centre and national Information Sharing Centres in Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen) would be critical in assisting the region to combat piracy.
In Somalia itself, building maritime capacity would focus on assisting the country to potentially develop its own coastal monitoring force or coast guard capability, while IMO would continue to work with other organizations involved at the United Nations level, including the Security Council, the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and others.
Climate change issues
Participants noted the progress being made by IMO towards putting in place of a comprehensive regulatory regime aimed at limiting or reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships, through the work of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in developing and enacting the standards, measures and mechanisms required to that effect.
Industry body representatives confirmed they would continue supporting IMO in its work on climate change through various actions, including those aiming at promoting the Organization’s work on technical, operational and market-based measures; and also at MEPC 61 (27 September to 1 October), with a view to achieving proportionate, balanced and workable measures.
They also pledged to support the outcome of MEPC 61, when presented to the meeting of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP 16), which is scheduled to meet in Cancún, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010.
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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