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What's New during 2018


Distress and safety at sea


Seafarers depend on a robust distress and safety system when life is in danger at sea. This week’s meeting of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (19-23 February) will be focusing on core areas of IMO’s work relating to safety at sea.

The meeting will review progress in its ongoing work to modernize the Global Maritime Distress and Safety system (GMDSS). The GMDSS was adopted in 1988 to ensure full integration of maritime radio and satellite communications so that distress alerts can be generated from anywhere on the world’s oceans. The modernization plan aims to update the provisions, including allowing for the incorporation of new satellite communication services.

The meeting will consider updates to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual, which contains detailed guidance for a common aviation and maritime approach to organizing and providing search and rescue services. Draft amendments prepared by the October 2017 meeting of the meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)/IMO Joint Working Group on the Harmonization of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue include a new section related to search and rescue operations in areas remote from search and rescue facilities; and updates to the section on mass rescue operations.

E-navigation matters are also on the agenda, focusing on harmonization and standardization which is key for the effective implementation of the e-navigation strategy, which aims to harness the benefits of integrated high-tech navigation solutions. Draft Guidelines on standardized modes of operation (S-mode) will be considered.

Amongst other regular agenda items, the Sub-Committee will review proposed new or amended ships' routeing measures and consider matters relating to the functioning and operation of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT).

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim opened the session, which is being chaired by Mr. Ringo Lakeman (Netherlands). (Click for photos).


Policy planning lessons for maritime law students


Students from the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) in Malta are being introduced to key policy planning issues as part of IMO's on-going work to support the future leaders of the maritime world (15-16 February). 

The event focused on National Maritime Transport Policy (NMTP) formulation, which is being promoted by IMO as a good governance practice to guide planning, decision making and legislation in the maritime sector, and a key driver for a country's sustainable development. IMO has been providing training to its interested Member States on developing, adopting and updating NMTPs.

The end of the seminar will see students participate in a practical group exercise, in which they themselves will practise formulating the key aspects of a maritime transport policy. The students were introduced to the topic by IMO's Jonathan Pace and World Maritime University (WMU) Associate Professor George Theocharidis.

The seminar is being held for a second consecutive year and is the result of continuing, fruitful collaboration between IMO and its two global maritime training institutions – WMU and IMLI


UN Environment visits IMO


​When it comes to ocean protection and delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals, IMO and UN Environment share a great deal of common ground. Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, paid a visit to IMO today to talk with IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim about collaboration between the two Organizations, particularly how to address SDG 14 -  life below water. The issue of microplastic and how to curb its presence in the ocean was discussed as a high priority, and a potential partnership with the World Maritime University, particularly its new Ocean Institute, was explored. There are clearly many areas where the two agencies can find synergies and this visit was a positive step in that direction. 


Qatar accedes to Ballast Water Management Convention


​Sixty-eight countries have now signed up to IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, with Qatar being the latest to accede to the treaty helping to protect the marine environment. The signatories now represent more than 75% of the world's merchant fleet tonnage. Under the treaty, ships are required to manage their ballast water, which can contain thousands of aquatic or marine microbes, plants and organisms, which are then carried across the globe.

H.E. Mr. Yousef Ali Al-Khater, Ambassador of Qatar to the United Kingdom, met IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim at IMO Headquarters, London (8 February) to deposit the instrument of accession.

Find out more about the Ballast Water Management Convention, including FAQs, videos, infographics and more, here.​


Implementing the 2020 sulphur limit


The 0.50% limit on sulphur in fuel oil on board ships (outside designated emission control areas) will come into effect on 1 January 2020. Ensuring consistent implementation of the 0.50% requirement is a key item on the agenda of IMO’s Sub-committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) which meets this week (5-9 February) at IMO headquarters, London. The meeting will also continue to look at how to measure black carbon emissions from shipping. 

Other matters on the agenda include the development of further guidance to support the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention, including ballast water sampling and analysis. Revised guidelines for the use of dispersants for combating oil pollution at sea, which take into account experience from the Deepwater Horizon incident, are expected to be finalised.

The ongoing revision of the product lists and index in the international code for carriage of chemicals in bulk will continue, as well as consideration of requirements to address the discharge of high-viscosity solidifying and persistent floating products (such as certain vegetable oils). The meeting will also consider including new controls on the biocide cybutryne in the convention for the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (AFS Convention).

The meeting was opened by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and is being chaired by Mr Sveinung Oftedal (Norway).

Click for photos.


Fine-tuning ballast water testing


Experts from ballast water testing facilities from around the world gathered in London (1-2 February) to discuss the science behind ballast water management. They were meeting as part of the Global TestNet – a forum of organizations involved in standardization, transparency and openness of land-based and/or shipboard testing for the certification of ballast water management systems.

Standardized testing helps to ensure the effectiveness of IMO measures to protect marine ecosystems from potentially harmful invasive aquatic species transported in ships’ ballast water. IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention requires ships to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard.

Another key issue on the agenda was biofouling – the build-up of aquatic organisms on ships’ underwater hull and structures – which the Global TestNet will also be addressing. IMO’s Antoine Blonce gave a presentation on the subject, introducing IMO’s new GloFouling project, which is building on the Organization’s work to help protect marine ecosystems by dealing with potentially invasive species.

Further technical issues discussed at the 9th Global TestNet meeting included so-called challenge water validations, representative sampling and ring testing between test facilities. 

The Global TestNet was created in 2013 under the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) of the GloBallast project. IMO was represented at the meeting, which took place at IMarEST headquarters, by Theofanis Karayannis, Megan Jensen, Antoine Blonce and John Alonso.


IMO collaborates to boost African security capability


As part of its continuing efforts to help African countries improve their maritime security capabilities, IMO frequently works with other partners to help support their initiatives.

The United States, for example, leads two major annual maritime security exercises in Africa and one of these, Cutlass Express, is underway now (Feb 2018). Cutlass Express puts special emphasis on encouraging different agencies and different countries to work together, as envisaged in existing frameworks such as the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) – a regional agreement against maritime crime in eastern Africa, the West Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, which IMO helped to establish.

IMO is making a contribution to Cutlass Express with two training workshops being held at the DCoC information sharing centres in Mombasa, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (29 Jan – 7 Feb). Both are designed to enhance inter-agency cooperation in dealing with maritime security issues at national level. This has been identified as one of the most pressing needs for the region during a series of “table top” exercises carried out previously by IMO.

IMO is also participating in a senior leadership seminar in support of Cutlass Express, highlighting the progress of the DCoC and the similar Yaounde Code of Conduct in building capacity, capability and co-operation in Africa to combat maritime crime and thereby help promote the “blue economy”.


Blue border security assessment


IMO’s maritime security provisions and the IMO treaties for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of navigation can be seen in the wider context of the global fight against terrorism. The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (UNCTED) carries out assessment visits to countries to assess their compliance with various international security instruments and UN Security Council resolutions. IMO has participated in a follow-up UNCTED assessment visit to Greece (31 January to 1 February), alongside the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the international police agencies Interpol and Europol.

The maritime security aspects of the visit (which was a follow-up to a 2010 assessment) focused in particular on compliance with the ISPS Code for ships and port facilities, as well as Greece's experience with inter-agency cooperation on risk assessment, amongst entities which include the coast guard, police and customs, with a view to identifying best practices.

The multi-agency inclusion in the UNCTED assessments of IMO and partner organizations demonstrates a "one UN" response and provides an opportunity to highlight maritime security responsibilities as part of wider national security policies and procedures in a dialogue involving senior levels of government departments and agencies. Henrik Madsen participated on behalf of IMO. 


Maritime graduates step out


Be ambitious. Make navigation safe, always. This was the message from IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to young, aspirational maritime transport and technology graduates in Alexandria, Egypt (26 January). Speaking at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASTMT), Mr. Lim praised the graduates’ dedication and challenged them to be ambitious in their maritime careers and, above all else, to focus on being safe when involved in ship navigation – no matter what the role. He also emphasized that the International Maritime Organization would always be a place they could call their “international home”.

Watch the full parade and ceremony speeches, here.


Data models for maritime E-business


Effective global electronic data exchange for ships entering and leaving ports depends on standardized and harmonized practices for data exchange. This can include data models which define and format data which might be transferred between automated systems, such as for export, import and transit. Such systems will be key to implementing IMO’s Facilitation Convention requirements on electronic data exchange from April 2019. 

IMO participated in the World Customs Organization (WCO) Data Model Project Team meeting (22-26 January) in Brussels, to receive updates on the latest work by the WCO. The WCO Data Model supports the implementation of a “single window” for electronic data exchange, as it allows the reporting of information to all government agencies through the unique way it organizes regulatory information.

IMO, WCO, UN/CEFACT, ISO and other stakeholders also participated in a dedicated focus group on the revision of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, which provides guidance and standardised forms for electronic exchange of information on cargo, passengers and crew, for ships, carriers, port authorities, customs, terminals, consignees and other parties in the supply chain. The Focus Group refined the contents of the draft revised Compendium, identified new issues to be addressed, and discussed additional coding possibilities.  The Focus Group also identified some data elements related to the electronic transmission of data, that should be included in the updated IMO Compendium. An update on progress with the revision will be presented to the next session of IMO’s Facilitation Committee in June 2018.

Under a partnership agreement between IMO and WCO, WCO has responsibility for the technical maintenance of the Compendium, including liaison with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the global focal point for trade facilitation recommendations and electronic business standards (UN/EDIFACT).

IMO’s Julian Abril attended the Data Model Project Team meeting and the Focus Group on the IMO Compendium.  


IMO supports maritime security in west and central Africa


Efforts to prevent piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa are being boosted by an extended IMO mission to Yaoundé, Cameroon (18 January – 2 February). An IMO consultant is working with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC) to support the Centre’s work to carry out a regional maritime safety and security strategy under the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct was signed by governments in the region, in 2013, to enhance cooperation on maritime safety and security. The consultant is identifying the current needs, status and requirements under the Code and is supporting the ICC’s work to create a regional mechanism for collaboration in the centre – as well as the urgent need to support the regional organizations and States involved. Some of the tasks include creating a list of focal points under the Code of Conduct, developing the centre’s work programme, and creating an inventory of international laws and conventions on maritime crimes. The work will continue in March, with a further two weeks of assessments and support.

Find out more about IMO’s maritime security work, here.


The latest on e-Navigation


Reliable, user-friendly and integrated navigation and communications systems can help with decision making on a ship. That is where e-Navigation comes in. IMO attended the e-Navigation Underway International Conference which takes place every year on board a ship travelling between Copenhagen and Oslo (24-26 January 2018). IMO's Sascha Pristrom gave a presentation on IMO's plan to lead shipping into a new digital era. He updated participants on IMO's e-Navigation Strategy Implementation Plan (SIP) as well as its work with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) to develop guidance on definition and harmonization of the format and structure of Maritime Service Portfolios (MSPs). IMO also highlighted the need for a coordinated approach between regulators and the industry.   

IMO plays a central and coordinating role in harmonizing and enhancing navigation systems in order to improve safety of navigation and reduce errors. This conference is a key forum for discussions about the many challenges facing e-Navigation around the globe and a way to explore new strategies and technical progress. Some of the other topics covered included e-Navigation services in the Polar regions, e-Navigation and big data and autonomous operations.


Mooring matters


​IMO is working to prevent accidents and injury when ships are being secured at their berth in a port. A revised SOLAS regulation on safe mooring is expected to be finalised when the  Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC) meets this week (22-26 January). The meeting will also further develop new and revised related guidance to support the safe use of equipment, including mooring lines, pulleys, winches and so on.

Other important items on the agenda include guidelines and regulations for passenger ships in the event of flooding. Ships should be designed so that essential systems remain operational after a casualty. The meeting is expected to finalize draft guidelines on stability computers and shore-based support for specific passenger ships, to support draft SOLAS amendments regarding operational information after a flooding casualty for new and existing ships expected to be adopted this year. Also in development are draft amendments to SOLAS on the availability of passenger ships' electrical power after flooding from side raking damage. On other matters, the Sub-Committee will continue ongoing work, including developing a draft new SOLAS chapter and related Code on the safe carriage of more than 12 industrial personnel on board vessels engaged on international voyages; and developing second generation intact stability criteria.

The SDC Sub-Committee was opened by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, and is being chaired by Kevin Hunter (United Kingdom). Click for photos.


Myanmar accedes to treaty covering bunker oil pollution damage


The IMO treaty ensuring that adequate compensation is available to persons that suffer damage caused by oil spills, when carried as fuel in ships’ bunkers, has been ratified by Myanmar. The International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (BUNKER) applies to damage caused on the territory, including the territorial sea, and in exclusive economic zones of States under the Convention.

Under the Convention, the registered owner of a vessel is required to maintain compulsory insurance cover, and there is also the requirement for ‘direct action’ – which allows a claim for compensation for pollution damage to be brought directly against an insurer.

H.E. Mr. Kyaw Zwar Minn, Ambassador of Myanmar to the United Kingdom, met IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim at IMO Headquarters, London to deposit the instrument of accession (19 January). Myanmar’s ratification brings the number of States to accede to the treaty to 87, representing 92.5% of the world's merchant fleet tonnage.


Sanchi tanker - a message from IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim


​“Following confirmation that the oil tanker Sanchi has now sunk, after the collision off the coast of China, our thoughts and hopes remain with the seafarers still missing. Our deepest condolences go to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

“I would like to commend all those involved in the international search and rescue operations and the efforts to battle the fire and contain pollution from the ship.

“This is an ongoing situation which we are monitoring. Although the vessel has sunk, efforts to contain the pollution continue. IMO stands ready to offer any technical assistance that may be needed.

“In the longer term, a full investigation into this incident is expected and the results and findings will be brought to IMO so that we can do whatever may be necessary to reduce the chances of such an incident happening again.”