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What's New during 2020


Webinar series on oil spill preparedness and response launched


The Global initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa, GIWACAF works alongside 22 partner countries in Africa to strengthen their national capacities for preparedness and response to oil spills. In order to continue to improve the level of preparedness during the pandemic,  GIWACAF has launched a series of webinar to keep providing capacity-building activities and best practices to its stakeholders and beyond. The webinars began in June and will run monthly through to late automn.

This series address issues ranging from the international regulatory framework to shoreline and at-se​a response techniques, all in order to protect the marine and shoreline environment. All webinars will be delivered in English and French and live events will be recorded and made available on the GIWACAF website.

The webinars include interventions from many experts from organizations such as Cedre, ITOPF, OSRL and IMO. The GIWACAF project supports implementation of IMO’s International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 1990), which promotes industry-government cooperation and encourages them to work together to address core elements of effective preparedness and response to an oil spill. 


Reducing GHG emissions from ships – discussions on short-term measures


IMO remains committed to reducing GHG emissions from ships, even though the COVID-19 pandemic has led to postponements of important marine environment meetings and forced the maritime community to focus on other pressing issues, such as crew changes. In order to keep up the momentum on the implementation of the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, IMO is holding an informal (virtual) preliminary discussion session on short-term measures for reducing GHG emissions from ships (6-10 July).

This informal session will provide a platform for all IMO Member States and international organizations in consultative status with IMO to exchange views and share updated information on various technical and operational proposals to reduce the carbon intensity of ships. Views on assessing the impacts of these proposals on States are also expected to be shared.

Due to the informal nature of discussions, the discussion session is not expected to take any decisions, but rather to progress the dialogue among stakeholders, ahead of future negotiations during the next planned Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 7) and Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 75). It is hoped that both the ISWG GHG and MEPC will be able to be held later this year. 


Governments must act to bring seafarers home


Governments have the power to solve a growing humanitarian crisis and must take action to bring seafarers home and allow their relief crews to join ships. “Get our hero seafarers home” was the plea from panelists during a webinar (26 June) hosted by IMO on the occasion of the Day of the Seafarer. IMO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) urged countries to implement protocols on safe crew change developed by the maritime industry and circulated by IMO.  

The 2020 Day of the Seafarer campaign has highlighted the essential role of seafarers on the frontline of the global supply chain, while urging  Governments to grant them key worker status so they are able to  travel and transit to and from ships. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stranded on ships and desperate to go home.  In many cases, their contracts have been extended for several months beyond the maximum time at sea permitted under international regulations.  

In his opening remarks , IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “Seafarers' work is unique and essential. Seafarers are on the front line in this global fight. They deserve our thanks. But they also need – and deserve – quick and decisive humanitarian action from governments everywhere, not just during this pandemic, but at all times.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, ships, which fundamentally depend on seafarers, have continued to carry essential goods across the globe. Leadership and action are now needed to bring back seafarers, who are fatigued and have missed weddings, births and funerals because of the crisis, said Guy Platten, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). The number of stranded seafarers is currently 400,000, with 200,000 needing to leave ships and a similar number needing to replace them. 

“Shipping is truly a global industry and we need Governments to provide a global solution,” said Mr. Stephen Cotton, General Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). The ITF has been receiving emails from hundreds of seafarers daily, expressing their concern about contracts being extended under duress. This will impact their ability to perform safe operations, putting themselves at risk as well as the global supply chain and potentially the environment, he warned.   

Fr. Paulo Prigol, Stella Maris Manila and South East Asia Regional Coordinatorhighlighted the importance of the work of seafarers for their communities and home countries, as well as the devastating financial and emotional impact of the pandemic on families of seafarers, due to the extended time at sea for some seafarers and the inability to get to work for others 

Some successful crew changeovers been happening in and via the Netherlands, thanks to collaboration between shipowners, the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and the Netherlands Government, said Mr. Niels van de Minkelis, Head, Operational Affairs, Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KNVR). Some 6,000 seafarers have been moved since May between the Netherlands and seafaring nations (Indonesia, the Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation and Ukraine), in an example of what can be done with good cooperation between the different entities involved.  

The panelists welcomed the United Kingdom Government’s initiative in calling a global summit on the issue, but warned that real action from governments everywhere was needed to solve the crisis and get seafarers home and replaced.  

A recording of the full webinar can be viewed here 


Port State control regimes cooperate with IMO on crew changes and certificate renewals


Port State control (PSC) regimes have expressed their willingness to be part of the solution to the urgent issue of crew changes and repatriation of seafarers. This is a key outcome of the second virtual meeting of all PSC regimes (17 June), organised by IMO in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to address issues surrounding surveys and certificates renewals during the pandemic.

Even though crew changes and repatriation are not directly under the realm of port State control authorities, they can still play an important role, as they are in charge of carrying out inspections onboard ships to monitor and enforce compliance with international regulations. For example, safety issues resulting from crew fatigue may be examined by port State control, especially when extensions of seafarers' contracts violate the maximum stipulated in ILO's Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). PSC regimes can also help IMO's Seafarer Crisis Action Team resolve individual cases by providing valuable information about specific situations

Opening the meeting, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim praised the collaboration and cooperation demonstrated by PSC regimes, since the beginning of the crisis.

PSC regimes shared their appreciation of the release by IMO of Guidance regarding surveys and renewals of certificates during the COVID-19 pandemic, developed in cooperation with the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) (CL.No.4204/Add.19,) They also welcomed the dissemination by IMO of the Singapore Crew Change Guidebook (CL.No.4204/Add.22 ).

The second video meeting for the Port State Control (PSC) regimes during the  COVID-19 pandemic was attended by ILO and IACS, as well as representatives from all 10 PSC regimes. Click here for a full summary of the meeting.


Act on seafarer crew changes to avert humanitarian crisis


Governments need to urgently act to ensure ships’ crew changeovers can take place to keep world trade flowing and avert a humanitarian and ship safety crisis, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has told Member State representatives. “We are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis and a real safety issue - we cannot expect seafarers currently on ships to stay at sea forever. It is the responsibility of Governments to allow shipping to continue moving, and for seafarers to return to their homes, or get to their ships to begin work,” Mr. Lim said during a virtual meeting organized by IMO (9 June) to brief permanent representatives and liaison officers from IMO Member States. It is estimated that some 150,000 seafarers are urgently waiting to leave their ships since their contracts as well as any extensions have expired and they need to be replaced by a similar number, since travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have severely hampered crew changeovers.   

Mr. Lim thanked countries which have made progress by designating seafarers as key workers, by facilitating crew changes through implementing crew change protocols which have been endorsed by IMO, by easing travel restrictions including facilitating the issuance of passports and visas, and by giving seafarers access to medical care. But I remain very concerned about countries where restrictions are still in place for seafarers,” Mr. Lim said. 

The meeting was updated on the ongoing work by the IMO Secretariat, in liaison with UN entities and international maritime industry bodies, to monitor how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting shipping, and to develop and issue guidance and recommendations on a wide variety of issues, disseminated by Circular Letter (No.4204 series) and published through the IMO COVID-19 web page.  

The meeting was also briefed onthe status of IMO meetings and other work.

Read full summary of the meeting here. 

Enhancing regional maritime security cooperation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic


IMO is continuing to support work on information sharing to boost maritime security in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. 

A virtual meeting of the Steering committee* of the revised Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden Area (also known as the Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct 2017) was held (9 June) to discuss ways of continuing to enhance regional maritime security efforts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The meeting, chaired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, agreed to proposals presented by Kenya and Madagascar to develop an enduring regional information sharing network, anchored on multiagency National Maritime Information Sharing Centres in all the participating countries. 

Proposals by Ethiopia and Mozambique were also presented. These called for better coordination of capacity building efforts, based on regional needs and priorities. 

The meeting also called on IMO members and other appropriate organizations and the industry to provide assistance to participating States to help implement the code of conduct through the DCoC Trust fund, in order for all Member States to benefit.

* Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia and Seychelles


Shipping and ports collaboration - beyond COVID-19


The importance of collaboration between all maritime sectors has been thrown into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic and will be needed more than ever in the recovery phase, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim told a webinar on ship-shore relations. Mr. Lim highlighted ongoing challenges, including the need for crew changeovers for some 150,000 seafarers who need to leave their ships. However, the pandemic has led to intensive collaboration on a digital and virtual basis between the shipping and port communities, as well as with and between Governments and international organizations. Many Governments had acted in collaboration with shipping and ports to address crew change and other issues, but more needed to be done. “I would like to encourage all Governments to pay attention to these issues, which impact not only on shipping but also the global economy and the global supply chain,” Mr. Lim said.  

The webinar speakers agreed that the pandemic situation has highlighted the relevance of digitalization and new ways of working, which should continue beyond the immediate crisis situation. One example is electronic data exchange, for information which needs to be exchanged between ship and shore. Electronic data exchange is mandatory under IMO’s FAL Convention. IMO is looking at ways to support countries to fully implement electronic data, exchange and the recommended single window approach, whereby all data is sent through a single portal. For IMO’s regulatory work, the way ahead may mean holding virtual meetings to ensure the work on important agenda items, including action on climate change and safety issues, is advanced.   

The webinar on Improving ship-shore relations in the post COVID-19 era. Ports and shipping working together on decarbonisation, trade facilitation and automation was organized by  the IAPH World Ports Conference 2021. IMO Secretary-General Lim participated alongside Ley Hoon Quah, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, and Guy Platten, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).   


Ensuring maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea


IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has welcomed the latest initiatives to address the serious issue of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, including a joint meeting (28 May) between the government of Nigeria and representatives from organizations representing the oil and shipping industries.   

In a statement, Secretary-General Lim said he commended the collaborative efforts to address piracy and armed robbery, which "send a strong and valuable message to the international community with respect to the considerable efforts Nigeria is making to curb piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea." Secretary-General Lim recently met Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in a virtual meeting. He said, "I would also like to commend the industry's effort to establish an open dialogue with coastal states and for the work undertaken to develop the Best Management Practices (BMP) for West Africa, and would like to highlight the importance of full application of the measures and reporting procedures contained therein." (Click here to read the full statement.) 

NIMASA, the Nigerian Navy, the oil industry (represented by OCIMF) and the shipping industry (represented by ICS, BIMCO, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and the Nigerian Shipowners' Association) held their first meeting on 28 May to discuss the current situation and how to tackle the piracy problem in the Eastern Gulf of Guinea and the daily threats faced by seafarers. (Read more here).

The number of incidents that were reported to have taken place in the Gulf of Guinea (West Africa) decreased in 2019 by 14 incidents, to 67, down from 81 incidents in 2018. However, the number of incidents involving kidnapped and missing crew in this region increased from 11 in 2018 to 20 incidents in 2019, in which 151 crew in total were reported kidnapped/missing - the highest number so far on record. The data shows the number of incidents were almost equally split between those occurring in international waters, territorial waters and in the port areas in the region. IMO works with Member States to develop their capacity to prevent and counter threats to port and maritime security through improved implementation of the international maritime security instruments and guidance. Download annual report 2019


Major boost for key ballast water treaty aimed at protecting biodiversity


An important international treaty which helps prevent the spread of potentially invasive aquatic species by ships now covers more than 90% of shipping worldwide, following China’s extension of the treaty to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Ships flagged to Hong Kong, China - the fourth largest flag Administration in the world by shipping tonnage - will now be required to apply the requirements of the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWM).  

The BWM Convention aims to protect marine ecosystems by requiring ships to manage their ballast water so that harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens are removed or rendered harmless before the ballast water is released into a new location. This helps prevent the spread of invasive species - as well as potentially harmful pathogens. 

The BWM Convention entered into force in 2017 and now has 83 Parties, representing 90.98% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping, up from 81.83% previously. Since the entry into force requirements for the treaty were met in September 2016, there have been some 30 ratifications, with the percentage of world merchant shipping tonnage covered increasing considerably, from 35.14to 90.98%.  

China notified IMO on 13 May that the Government of the People’s Republic of China has extended the BWM Convention to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, with effect from 13 August 2020.  

Find out more about the BWM Convention, including frequently asked questions and an infographic on complying with the treaty, here. 


Major IMO-industry alliance broadens scope of action to cut ship emissions


A key IMO initiative supporting ship decarbonization – the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) to Support Low Carbon Shipping – will intensify its work on the ship-port interface to reduce emissions from ships. This is one of the outcomes of a GIA task force meeting, which took place over videoconference on 14-15 May. 

During the meeting, 21 participants from the industry and the IMO Secretariat discussed progress on a number of ongoing projects and set tangible goals for the GIA up to 2023. Participants agreed to continue work under the existing workstreams, including alternative fuels and validating the performance of energy efficiency technologies, and to expand these even further. 

They also agreed to embark on an entirely new workstream aimed at creating a “holistic approach to reducing emissions in the ship-port interface”. This will support implementation by ports of regulatory, technical, operational and economic actions to help reduce GHG emissions from ships, such as providing onshore power supply and safe and efficient bunkering of alternative low-carbon fuels. This new workstream will also identify additional measures that could be taken to reduce emissions in the ship-port interface. This new workstream builds on the work undertaken by the GIA on the “Just-in-Time” (JIT) Arrival of Ships. JIT operation allows ships to optimise their speed so they arrive at their destination port when their berth is ready for them – cutting the time ships spend waiting outside ports with their engines on, thereby saving energy and cutting costs and emissions. 

The group further discussed as to how it could support the financial recovery of the maritime sector to COVID-19. The GIA also considered in detail the aims and objectives of the IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 Project and discussed ideas for collaboration, in particular, how to catalyze demonstration and trialing solutions in the GreenVoyage2050 pilot countries 

It was the first meeting of the GIA task force since it became part of GreenVoyage2050, an IMO-executed project, funded by Norway, to initiate and promote global efforts to demonstrate and test technical solutions for reducing ship emissions. The project also aims to enhance knowledge and information-sharing to support the IMO GHG reduction strategy. 

The GIA is an innovative public-private partnership initiative of IMO that brings together maritime industry leaders to support an energy-efficient and low carbon maritime transport system. The GIA was set up as part of IMO’s Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships (GloMEEP) project in 2017, but is now running under GreenVoyage2050 following a new agreement, earlier this yearsigned by 14 companies, which have committed to financial and in-kind contributions, such as sharing expertise, until 2023.  


IMO issues COVID-19 guidance for personal protective equipment and for interactions between ship and shore-based personnel


Shipping is vital to the world supply chain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial that all personnel involved are protected from infection, including those onboard ships and shore personnel who may need to temporarily go on ships or interact with seafarers.   

IMO has circulated World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to support decisions on use of PPE to minimize the risks of COVID-19 infection for seafarers, marine personnel, fishing vessel personnel, passengers and others on board ships. This guidance also applies to shore personnel intending to go on board (such as pilots, port workers, port State control officers, shipʹs agents, etc.); and when any of these people interact with each other. The PPE  guidance is available here (CL.No.4204/Add.15 

To support decision making and risk assessment, IMO has also circulated practical measures to address COVID-19 risks for all people involved on ships and in ports when they may need to interact with each other, available here (CL.No.4204/Add.16). Recognizing that there are differences in national requirements, the guidelines propose a straightforward system to evaluate the risks and communicate the control measures that will be put in place, by mutual agreement, to reduce infection risk. They also propose simple steps and precautions to take if attendance onboard a ship is unavoidable. These include minimising the number of persons attending; using outer walkways rather than access through the crew accommodation; frequently cleaning hands and maintaining social distancing.  

The COVID-19 related guidelines for ensuring a safe shipboard interface between ship and shore based personnel were proposed by a broad cross section of global industry associations in consultative status with IMO: ICSIAPH,  BIMCOIACSIFSMAIMPA, INTERTANKOP&I Clubs, CLIA, INTERCARGOInterManagerIPTAFONASBA, and WSC; and also take account of input from the International Maritime Employers' Council (IMEC) and the International Support Vessel Owners Association (ISOA). 


Crew changeovers needed urgently to support safe flow of commerce by sea


The need for crew changeovers to take place is of the utmost urgency, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and shipping industry representatives agreed, during a virtual IMO-industry meeting hosted by IMO (30 April). 

Many seafarers on board ships (and personnel in the offshore industry) have been on enforced extended contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic, with restrictions on travel making it difficult for crew to leave ships and for new crew to join ships. These extended stays on board could have significant repercussions for crew wellbeing as well as for ship operations, several NGOs said.  

Representatives of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) highlighted their work in leading a call for "hub" airports and seaports to be established, so that crew changes could take place more easily. Work is ongoing with governments, port authorities, health authorities and others to develop protocols for crew changes and crew movements. ICS said they estimated that 150,000 seafarers were trapped at sea and needed to change over as soon as possible. 

IMO Secretary-General Lim and industry representatives highlighted their appreciation for seafarers working on the front line to keep trade of essential goods flowing during the pandemic. They reiterated the need for seafarers, port workers and related personnel to be designated as key workers.  

The meeting was updated on ongoing collaborative work underway to address specific issues during the pandemic. IMO has been working with other UN agencies and bodies to issue joint guidance and statements, and to disseminate communications received from Member States detailing their arrangements for issues such as certificate extensions. These are available on the IMO website (click here).  

The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) highlighted the efforts of IACS member surveyors to continue to certify ships for compliance with international treaty and class requirements, sometimes using techniques such as remote surveying where this was feasible. When surveyors do go on board, provision of personal protective equipment is critical.

There are legal questions over what happens when or if extensions of certificates need to go beyond the three months permitted extension in exceptional circumstances provided for under IMO treaties. The IMO Secretariat noted that this issue was under active consideration.

NGOs were invited to submit their views and updates on survey and certification, seafarer changeover and other concerns, including the prioritization and rescheduling of IMO meetings to the forthcoming thirty-second Extraordinary Session of the IMO Council, which is being held by correspondence from May to mid-July.  (see briefing).

IMO Secretary-General Lim pledged to continue to collaborate and cooperate - including diplomatic consultations with Member States - to tackle the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular to address the issues faced by seafarers. 

The virtual roundtable meeting with the shipping industry was held on 30 April. It was attended by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and IMO Directors, and heads or representatives from the following NGOs in consultative status with IMO: BIMCO; Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); International Association of Classification Societies (IACS): International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH); International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA); International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA); International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO): INTERFERRY; International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO); International Parcel Tanker Association (IPTA); International Transport Workers Federation (ITF); Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF); World Shipping Council (WSC).


Partnership agreement signed for maritime digitalization to support flow of trade by ship


When ships enter and leave ports, vital information about cargoes, dangerous goods, crews, vessel details and many other things has to be exchanged with the authorities ashore. Under IMO's FAL Convention, public authorities are now required to set up systems so that all this happens digitally. 

A new partnership between IMO, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Organization for Standardization has been signed to support this increased maritime digitalization.

The partnership agreement which has been effective since 15 March paves the way for updating the IMO Reference Data Model and for its further development towards harmonization of data standards in other areas, beyond the FAL Convention, such as exchanging operational data that could help facilitate just-in-time operation of ships. Just-in-time operation allows ships to optimise their speed so they arrive at their destination port when their berth is ready for them, thereby saving energy and cutting costs and emissions. 

The Parties of this agreement have been already cooperating to develop the IMO Reference Data Model, which is a key element of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business and covers the reporting requirements defined in the FAL Convention to support transmission, receipt, and response of information required for the arrival, stay, and departure of ships, persons, and cargo via electronic data exchange. This work ensures interoperability between the respective standards of each organization. 


Seafarers and climate change - key issues highlighted during IMO virtual meeting


The challenges faced by seafarers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to keep on track with IMO’s work to combat climate change were two key issues highlighted during a virtual meeting organized by IMO (23 April), to brief permanent representatives and liaison officers from 78 IMO Member States and one Associate Member.  

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim thanked Member States for detailing their arrangements to address the fallout of the pandemic, in particular concerning extending seafarers’ certificates, in notices that are made available on the IMO website. He highlighted the need for seafarers to be designated as keyworkers and appealed to all permanent representatives and liaison officers to convey this message to their governments. Seafarers, he said, are beneficial to the smooth operation of shipping and enable the industry to support the global supply chain.  

The meeting was updated on the discussions by the IMO Council, in an extraordinary session held by correspondence, (C ES 31) and a recent meeting of the chairs of Committees, about the development of a proposal on rescheduling IMO meetings that have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A priority list has been drawn up and will be considered by the thirty-second extraordinary session of the Council. The proposal give priority to a regular session of the IMO Council, followed by meetings of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) - which will 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). Resuming physical meetings will depend on guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UK Government guidance as well as the national situation of IMO Member States. 

This priority on the MEPC and GHG working group highlighted IMO’s continued commitment to moving forward with combatting climate change, without undue delay, Mr. Lim said. The meeting was also told that the 4th IMO GHG study, which will provide data on GHG emission from ships up to 2018 and future projections, is on schedule to be completed by late 2020.  

The participants were briefed on work being done by the Secretariat, in liaison with other UN agencies and bodies, to explore the practicalities of holding virtual meetings, including multilingual meetings with interpretation into the six official languages of the Organization. The IMO Secretariat is also making preparations for re-opening the IMO Headquarters building, when that is permitted, including how to provide foapplicable measures such as social distancing  

The participants were also briefed on COVID-19 related technical guidance IMO has issued (Circular Letter no. 4204 and addenda) to address the fall-out from the pandemic, following requests from Member States for uniform recommendations on how to address certain issues.  These include joint statements with other UN agencies as well as guidance issued by the shipping industry, to ensure global distribution of such information.  They were also informed that the Secretary-General has established a Seafarer Crisis Team, continuously providing world-wide assistance to seafarers in individual cases. 

The next extraordinary session of the Council (C ES 32) will start on 4 May. It will be held by correspondence over two months, to allow time for Member States (Council Members and observers) to communicate on various agenda items, including holding meetings in future.  

On other activities, the meeting was informed  that in-country audits under the IMO Member State Audit Scheme had been paused and that the remaining audit schedule from 2020 onwards would be moved one year forward from 2021 whilst follow-up audit work will continue as usual.        

Scheduled missions for technical cooperation activities had also been paused, but the IMO Secretariat was working with the IMO global institutions, the World Maritime University and the IMO International Maritime Law Institute, to develop online learning to students all over the world. Meanwhile, the process for selecting countries to participate in global projects, including GreenVoyage and GloLitter, is continuing, despite the pandemic. 

Briefings for permanent representatives and liaison officers are usually regularly held at IMO Headquarters, on the invitation of the Secretary-General, but the travel and lockdown restrictions imposed because of the pandemic necessitated a virtual edition. A total of 155 participants from 78 Member States and one associate Member State attended the meetingThis was the largest virtual meeting organized by IMO to date. 


Teaching moves online at World Maritime University amid pandemic


While travel is seriously curtailed during the COVID-19 pandemic, eager students and academic institutions are finding new ways to ensure learning continues. IMO's World Maritime University (WMU) is no exception. Technical officers from the IMO Secretariat were able to deliver, from their locations in London and Tunisia, virtual lectures on legal aspects of maritime safety and security maritime security, as part of an annual collaboration between IMO and WMU on the maritime security module of the post graduate Masters course with Maritime Law and Policy specialisation at WMU, which is based in Malmö, Sweden. The lectures address security aspects of port operations covered by IMO conventions. The lectures were delivered on 14 and 15 April 2020 to 16 students. 


UN agencies formally cement partnership to tackle maritime litter and help deliver SDG 14


Partnerships are essential in tackling the global issue of marine plastic litter. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have formally signed an agreement to move forward and jointly implement the GloLitter Partnerships Project, initially launched in December 2019, with funding from Norway, to prevent and reduce marine plastic litter from shipping and fisheries (read more here).

The agreement specifies how the agencies will jointly execute the project and marks the next step towards many strategic partnerships anticipated under the project. Both agencies will now reach out to their respective fields to strengthen cooperation, not least private sector participation through a Global Industry Alliance.

The GloLitter project will help developing countries to identify opportunities to prevent and reduce marine litter, including plastic litter, from within the maritime transport and fisheries sectors, and to decrease the use of plastics in these industries. It will identify opportunities to re-use and recycle plastics. It will directly help to achieve one of the of the specific targets in the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 - to "prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution, by 2025".

The agreement was signed on 14 April 2020 by Dr. Jose Matheickal, Chief of the Department of Partnerships and Projects, IMO, and Roberto Ridolfi, Assistant Director General of FAO.

Countries are invited to submit their expressions of interest to be part of the project by 30 April.


IMO Secretary-General seeks UN support over "keyworker" designation for seafarers


IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has asked the United Nations system agencies to support IMO in its request to governments to declare seafarers, port personnel and other crucial maritime workers as key personnel. Mr. Lim made the plea during a virtual meeting (1 April) with other UN chiefs and the UN Secretary-General.  The meeting addressed the impact of COVID-19 on, among other things, disruption and restrictions to travel, trade flows, global logistics, supply of food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

During the meeting, Mr Lim highlighted the importance of welfare and well-being of maritime personnel and particularly seafarers and the significance of crew changes to support the global supply chain. He also highlighted the major restrictions to crew changes due to travel bans and restrictions that are being increasingly imposed by governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Lim reiterated his message that shipping is a vital artery for the economy to enable the global supply chain and global trade flows, including in particular urgently needed pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and food supply. Seaborne trade is still flowing but challenges are growing due to restrictions being introduced by countries. Mr. Lim added that 

IMO and the maritime industry were committed to ensuring and supporting global trade flows and the global supply chain.

IMO Secretary-Lim was participating in the meeting of the expanded UN Senior Management Group (SMG) chaired by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The meeting was attended by members of the SMG as well as heads of UN specialized agencies of FAO, IFAD, ICAO, IMO, ILO, ITU, WHO and WMO.

Opening the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed the importance of and need for coordinated global, but also regional and local approach to address this unprecedented crisis and appealed to all UN-system agencies to work together for a coordinated response.


Tackling invasive aquatic species introduced through biofouling


What is biofouling and why does it matter? How do ships  and other ocean structures  spread invasive aquatic species? How does it contribute to Greenhouse gas emissions?

A new IMO video animation shows how aquatic organisms can build up on surfaces and structures exposed to the sea - a process known as biofouling. These organisms can be potentially invasive  and spread across oceans,  with sometimes dramatic consequences on biodiversity and economy. 

But there is hope: a global project, led by IMO, has been set up to tackle this problem head on. 

Backed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), IMO's GloFouling Partnerships is bringing together partners and stakeholders all over the world to develop and share solutions to biofouling.

Watch the video here and find out more about biofouling and the GloFouling Partnerships project. 


IMO Secretariat continues work despite COVID-19


Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMO Secretariat continues to function effectively. The majority of staff are working remotely, making full use of telecommuting and teleconferencing technology. (see press briefing  here for details).

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim stressed the need to move to this operational mode to help protect staff and visitors and to contribute to wider efforts to mitigate the impact of the disease. He also acknowledged the impact that COVID-19 is having not only on the shipping industry but on the world as a whole. However, he hoped any negative impact it might have on the good progress being made at IMO on key policy issues such as environmental protection, would be short-lived.

He emphasized that, despite working from home, IMO staff remain fully committed to supporting the Member States and delivering on the Organization's objectives and mandates.


Fishing vessel safety treaty gets further boost


The entry into force of IMO's Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety will be crucial for improved safety at sea for fishers and will support the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. During a European Union High-level Ministerial Maritime Conference in Opatija, Croatia (10-11 March), participants including IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim highlighted the urgent need to bring the Cape Town Agreement into force.

During the event, further momentum towards this goal was seen, with three more States (Bulgaria, Poland and Portugal) signing the "Torremolinos Declaration" - under which States publicly indicate their determination to ratify the Cape Town Agreement by the tenth anniversary of its adoption (11 October 2022), and to combat illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.

The Torremolinos Declaration was opened for signature at IMO's October 2019 conference on fishing vessel safety in Torremolinos, Spain, and has now reached 51 signatories.

The Cape Town Agreement outlines regulations designed to protect the safety of crews and observers and provides a level playing field for the industry while setting standards for fishing vessels of 24 meters length and over.

The treaty will enter into force 12 months after at least 22 States, with an aggregate 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 meters in length and over operating on the high seas have expressed their consent to be bound by it. To date, 14 countries have ratified the Agreement. The entry into force is expected to improve safety at sea in the fisheries sector worldwide. It will also be a useful tool in combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and reducing pollution from fishing vessels, including marine debris.


Focus on information sharing to boost maritime security in Western Indian Ocean


​Regional efforts to enhance maritime security are dependent on good information sharing, through multi-agency National Maritime Information Sharing Centres. An IMO-led regional workshop on information sharing in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden ((3-5 March) brought together participants from 14 signatory States  to the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) and its Jeddah Amendment, which aims to counter and suppress crime in the maritime domain.

Participants discussed how best to set up national maritime information sharing centres and agreed on the need to establish legal frameworks at national level, to ensure coordination and full participation of all agencies.

The workshop was organised following the establishment last year of a Working Group on Information Sharing. This was part of a plan of action adopted by States in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden area to ensure better coordination of regional efforts to enhance maritime security. Recommendations from the workshop will be fed into the next Jeddah Amendment high-level workshop, scheduled to be held later this year.

The workshop was held at the Djibouti Regional Training Centre (DRTC), Djibouti,  and attended by 24 participants from Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania (United Republic of), and Yemen. The workshop was organized by IMO and supported by the United Kingdom, who provided technical experts. Funding came from a Japanese contribution to the DCoC Trust Fund to support training activities at the DRTC. 


Keeping up to date in the Caribbean


Senior maritime administrators in the Caribbean have had the chance to network and bring themselves up to speed with the latest IMO regulatory developments, during a recent IMO-led regional workshop for senior maritime administrators, held in Castries, St. Lucia (5-6 March).

Participants received detailed information about activities organized under IMO's Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP) aimed at building capacity in the region to comply with international rules and standards related to maritime safety and the prevention of maritime pollution. Participants had a chance to ask questions on the outcomes of many IMO meetings of special interest to their region and were updated on knowledge partnerships and ongoing major projects, as well as the  IMO Member State Audit Scheme. They also heard about the latest work of the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency, Information and Training Centre – Caribe (RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe), the Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre for the Caribbean (MTCC Caribbean), the Caribbean Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (CMoU), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat (in the context of maritime transport) and the Women in Maritime Association Caribbean (WiMAC).

The workshop was hosted by the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA). Participants attended from: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago; and the territories/regions of Anguilla (United Kingdom), Bermuda (United Kingdom), British Virgin Islands (United Kingdom), the Cayman Islands (United Kingdom), Curaçao (Netherlands), Martinique (France), Montserrat (United Kingdom), Sint Eustatius (Netherlands), Sint Maarten (Netherlands) and Turks and Caicos Island. 


Somalia's maritime development boosted with completion of shipping code


Maritime development in Somalia has moved a significant step forward with the completion of the Somali Shipping Code. The Code is the culmination of some six years of work, supported by IMO and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), to build Somalia's capacity to grow and sustain a burgeoning blue economy and to ensure the necessary legal and administrative processes are in place.

The text of the Shipping Code will now undergo the necessary parliamentary processes for enactment into Somali national law.

The Shipping Code is the blueprint for the country  to adop relevant international maritime conventions*, to enable it to discharge its responsibilities as a flag, port and coastal State . At more than 3,300 km, Somalia's coastline is the longest and perhaps the most geographically significant in the Horn of Africa. It has four main commercial seaports and several minor ports. 

The development of the Code was instigated in 2014, when Somalia requested IMO to help revise its previous (1959) maritime code. The country was  emerging from more than two decades of internal conflict and concerted international efforts to suppress and reduce acts of piracy off its long coastlinr.   

The revised Shipping Code reflects the most up-to-date best practices and developments in international maritime law. The process of developing it, has seen aSomali Maritime Administration established. IMO and UNSOM have worked with Somalia to deliver legal and technical training to support core administrative and legal functions, including induction training for maritime administration officials during a workshop in January 2020 at the Djibouti Regional Training Centre, Djibouti. 

During a ceremony in Mogadishu (9 March), Her Excellency, Honourable Maryam Aweys Jama, the Minister of Ports and Marine Transport in the Federal Government of Somalia, received a copy of the finalized Code (in the Somali language) from Mr. Dave Muli, IMO's Regional Coordinator for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Mr. Muli thanked the Federal Government of Somalia for its commitment to ensuring safe shipping off the coast of Somalia and pledged IMO's continuing support for the development of Somalia's maritime future.  

* Relevant international maritime conventions include the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); IMO conventions on safety of life at sea (SOLAS), prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL), seafarer training (STCW); and the International Labour Organization's Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).


IMO Member States declare support for “full and equal rights” for women


To mark International Women's Day, celebrated on 8 March each year, Member States and observer delegations at an IMO sub-committee meeting this week have highlighted the importance of the Day and the continuing struggle for women's rights and gender equality.

In a powerful statement, they point out that women are often exposed to violence, hardship and discrimination in all spheres, everywhere, and women and girls are the first to be affected by poverty, conflict and climate change.  The statement adds "This special day reminds us of the ongoing need to ensure that men and women enjoy full and equal rights and participation in their economies, politics, employment, communities and families." The 2020 theme for International Women's Day is "Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights".

The statement commends IMO for the many positive efforts it has made in working for gender equality in a traditionally male-dominated arena, including its Women in Maritime Programme and its related regional women's associations.  It also points to the success of IMO's 2019 World Maritime Theme - "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community" – and the need to ensure that this theme continues to resonate into the future.

This year's World Maritime theme highlights the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, as the statement points out, SDG 5 (on gender equality) is a crosscutting theme that underpins all the SDGs.

IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim welcomed the statement and confirmed that gender equality remains high on IMO's agenda.  The statement was delivered by the delegation of France, on behalf of other member states and organisations.


Working together for better border management in the Maldives


​Multi-agency cooperation at national and international level is key to enhancing maritime security, protecting global trade and countering transnational organized crime. A workshop (2-5 March) in the Maldives has brought together UN agencies and senior officials from various government departments, whose mandates cover counter-terrorism, migration, border security and law enforcement.

The workshop focused on best practices in border security and counter-terrorism. The aim is to bolster further policy discussions by the relevant national authorities on how security can be incorporated into the broader border and migration management framework for the country, including through data collection and management, use of pre-arrival information and passenger controls.

IMO contributed a component on maritime border security, particularly relevant to the Maldives, with its unique geography - a vast coastline and remote islands. IMO focuses on what the shipping and port sectors can do to protect themselves and others against possible maritime security threats, including acts of terrorism; and to assist the Government to implement appropriate security measures. The main focus is on preventive security through a continuous risk management process, including procedures for deterrence and threat transfer in line with IMO measures to enhance maritime security (SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code).

Other sessions have been delivered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) and INTERPOL. The workshop follows a joint IMO-UNODC interagency workshop on legal implementation of counter-terrorism instruments conducted in 2018 as well as technical training for the Maldivian Designated Authority conducted by IMO in 2019.


Maritime security needs-assessment mission in the Philippines


Needs assessment missions are one of the ways in which IMO can support member States in effective implementation of IMO's maritime security measures, at the country's request. The Philippines is the first country in the ASEAN region to undergo an IMO security needs assessment. The intention is to enhance maritime security on a long-term basis and offer any needed capacity building. 

The assessment took place in Manila (24 to 28 February) and included meetings with the Office of Transportation Security (OTS), Philippines Coast Guards (PCG), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Philippines Port Authority (PPA), and other structures involved in maritime and port security.

A visit to a port facility was also conducted to review the Port Facility Security Plan (PFSP) and port security regime, inspect physical security in place and interview the Port Facility Security Officer and other personnel.

The overall aim was to identify specific needs related to the implementation of relevant maritime security instruments, including specific requirements set out in SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code (policy/ governance/ operational/ physical security level) and address any gaps related to national organization, legislation and physical security and operational aspects. A road map was agreed for future activities. 

Other States in the region have also expressed an interest in undergoing needs assessments and these are currently in the planning stages.  


Safe operation of on-shore power supply to ships


​In addition to choosing cleaner, greener fuels, utilizing onshore power supply service (also known as "cold ironing", "alternative maritime power" and "shore-side electricity), is another solution to reduce air pollution and emissions from ships, as well as limiting local noise. IMO is addressing the need for global standards for the process of providing shoreside electrical power to a ship at berth, while its main and auxiliary engines are turned off. Draft guidelines on safe operation of on-shore power supply to ships are set to be finalized by the Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE), which meets this week (2-6 March).

Turning to passenger and crew safety matters, the Sub-Committee is expected to finalize draft amendments to the Life-Saving Appliance (LSA) Code on ventilation requirements for survival craft and related draft amendments to the Revised recommendation on testing of life-saving appliances, to ensure a habitable environment is maintained in such survival craft.

 The Sub-Committee is also working to prevent accidents related to lifting appliances and anchor handling winches, which have caused harm to operators and damage to ships, cargo, shore-based structures and subsea structures, as well as to the marine environment. The session is set to complete draft guidelines for lifting appliances, as well as draft guidelines for anchor handling winches. The guidelines will complement draft SOLAS regulations which are due to be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) for approval and adoption.  

 On fire safety, the Sub-Committee will continue its work to minimize the incidence and consequences of fires on ro-ro passenger ships, following a number of serious accidents that occurred recently. The session is expected to further develop draft amendments to the SOLAS Convention and associated codes to enhance fire prevention, detection and extinction.

The SSE 7 meeting was opened by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and is being chaired by Mr. Umut Senturk (Turkey). See photos.


Maritime security risk assessment promoted in the Caribbean


​Effective assessment of maritime security risks is important when developing maritime security policy and operational procedures.  A regional maritime security risk assessment workshop in the Caribbean (27-28 February) brought together government maritime security officials from six countries * in the eastern Caribbean to learn risk assessment methodology as part of the development of their own national maritime security strategies. The workshop taught participants how to assess the threat from different hostile actors, how to determine the consequences of a successful attack and how to rank diverse maritime security risks, including theft from historic shipwrecks and the smuggling of weapons and narcotics, through to acts of terrorism against ships and port facilities.  The countries will use this training to compile national maritime risk audit matrixes, which in turn will feed into a regional maritime risk audit matrix and assist with the development of an overarching Eastern Caribbean regional maritime security strategy, under the auspices of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Regional Security System (RSS) - a regional security grouping representing, and with staff drawn from, seven countries**.

IMO facilitated the regional workshop and brought in experts from the UK Department for Transport to lead elements of the training.

IMO will be working with OAS and the RSS to facilitate the development of the national and regional strategies in 2020 and will also assist countries in the region and the RSS in identifying and exploiting opportunities to raise the level of maritime security across the region.

* Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

** the six countries above plus the Commonwealth of Dominica.


How can IMO's Initial GHG Strategy goals be achieved?


​Meeting the ambitious goals in IMO's initial GHG strategy to cut emissions from ships will need a range of solutions, from engine design to port infrastructure to support the generation and storage of future fuels, such as renewable ammonia. These were among the future pathways discussed at an expert workshop held at the World Maritime University (WMU), in Malmö, Sweden (26-27 February), jointly organised with the OECD's International Transport Forum (ITF) and Nordic Energy Research.

Also discussed were innovative ways of financing on board tests with new low carbon fuels, involving large cargo owners and multi nationals and spreading the financial benefits from energy consumption reduction between ship owners and charterer.

The IMO GHG Strategy is driving global regulations and R&D to support the decarbonization of international shipping. The next formal discussions at IIMO will take place at the  seventh meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, which meets 23-27 March 2020 – just before and back to back with the next Marine Environment Protection Committee session, MEPC 75 (30 March to 3 April 2020).  

A representative from the  IMO Secretariat attended the expert workshop on prospects for energy and maritime transport in the Nordic region - achieving the goals of the initial IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, which brought together representatives from the government sector, industry (including shipowners, fuel providers, and engine builders), civil society and academia.


Tackling invasive aquatic species in Sri Lanka


The introduction of invasive aquatic organisms into new marine environments not only affects biodiversity and ecosystem health, but also has measurable impacts on several economic sectors. That is why IMO's GloFouling Partnership project is tackling this problem, head on.

Sri Lanka is the latest country to form a National Task Force to tackle the issue, following a special workshop (25-27 February). The event helped to raise awareness of biofouling as a pathway for non-indigenous species and informed participants about the impact it can have along its coastline. Among those attending were port authority and shipyard officers, aquaculture and environmental authorities as well as academia, navy and the industry at large.

The workshop also examined IMO Biofouling Guidelines, project structures and partners and the role of Sri Lanka as a leading country within the Glofouling project. A guest lecturer presented Australia's experience in dealing with biofouling management.

The event concluded with Sri Lanka agreeing on the need to include biofouling management measures to the set of conventions that are already in the process of being incorporated into national legislation in Sri Lanka. 

The workshop was co-organized and hosted by the Sri Lanka Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA). It is part of efforts under the GEF-UNDP-IMO GloFouling Partnerships Project, which aims to establish regional partnerships and cooperation agreements to address marine biofouling issues.


Coronavirus disease 2019 – IMO urges no unnecessary delays to ships


Following reports received regarding the impacts on the shipping industry of the sudden and rapid outbreak of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), IMO has issued a Circular Letter advising Member States and others on implementation and enforcement of relevant IMO Instruments.

The letter urges Flag State authorities, port State authorities and control regimes, companies and shipmasters to cooperate, in the current context of the outbreak, to ensure that, where appropriate, passengers can be embarked and disembarked, cargo operations can occur, ships can enter and depart shipyards for repair and survey, stores and supplies can be loaded, certificates can be issued and crews can be exchanged.   

The principles of avoiding unnecessary restrictions or delay on port entry to ships, persons and property on board are contained in articles I and V and section 6 of the annex to IMO’s Facilitation Convention.

IMO will continue to monitor the situation closely and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.


IMO head affirms need for urgent action on emissions


IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has spoken of the “urgent need” to develop concrete measures to support IMO’s initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

Delivering a keynote address at the European Shipping Week in Brussels (20 February), Mr Lim said that “ambitious regulatory targets – adopted by IMO and backed up by technical cooperation and capacity building activities – will act as the catalyst for technology, triggering research, development and innovation.”

He added “zero emission shipping requires the development, widespread availability and affordability of new zero-carbon marine fuels or propulsion technologies, such as renewable hydrogen, ammonia or wind propulsion.”

In a wide ranging speech, Mr Lim also spoke of the collaborative efforts by IMO and other stakeholders to ensure shipping’s transition to low-sulphur fuels has gone smoothly, and once again stressed the major health benefits of the move.

He also spoke of the potential benefits of introducing new technology in shipping and of the continuing need to place seafarer issues – including gender equality – front and centre of future policy making.

He concluded with a rallying call for more collaboration to build a truly sustainable future for shipping.


How to manage maritime security risks – new workshop piloted in Indonesia


Maritime security threats are not solved at sea. The majority need to be primarily addressed ashore, with ports playing a key part in the solution. This is the basis of a new national workshop on maritime security risk management being piloted by IMO in Denpasar, Indonesia (17-21 February).

It is designed to help participants counter threats in the maritime domain, which include terrorist attacks, piracy and armed robbery as well as challenges of increased drug trafficking, smuggling of weapons, and migration. The solutions include putting appropriate protocols in place to secure access control to the port and the ships as part of security measures and risk assessments.

The training sets out that an important part of risk management as a whole is to correctly prioritize limited resources and available time, in order to take action to reduce the most important risks.

To help States manage and mitigate risks, IMO has developed appropriate rules and guidelines, including the SOLAS Convention and the ISPS Code* (find out more), supplemented by newer guidance in the IMO Guide to maritime security.

During the workshop, the new Benoa Sea Passenger Cruise Terminal was the site of an on-scene assessment conducted by participants. The event was co-organized with the governments of Indonesia, Australia and United Kingdom.


UN agencies collaborate to promote seafarers’ rights treaty


One of the main aims of the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is to provide comprehensive protection for seafarers’ rights. Although adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), it touches on a wide range of areas that are also of direct relevance to IMO, such as hours of work and rest, entitlement to repatriation, abandonment of seafarers and safe manning.

IMO and ILO enjoy a long history of working together on seafarer issues and the latest example of this UN-system collaboration is a workshop underway in Lisbon, Portugal (18-20 February), organized together with the European Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The workshop is helping all stakeholders, particularly, developing countries, build the capacity they need to ratify and implement the MLC. In this regard, IMO funded the participation at the workshop of thirteen developing countries.

A key objective of the workshop is to help strengthen and harmonize flag State compliance, as well as port State control, which is a vital mechanism for ensuring the provisions of the MLC are being properly implemented on board ships. Another is to address financial security and insurance obligations under the MLC, and encourage any deficiencies discovered to be properly reported through the appropriate channels. The role of the IMO World Maritime University, the International Maritime Law Institute and the ILO Training Centre in Turin, in supporting effective implementation, is also being highlighted.


Cooperating to counter maritime crime


IMO’s ongoing work to counter piracy/armed robbery against ships and other illicit activities at sea is underway at the Mohammed Bin Naif Academy for Maritime Science and Security Studies, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (9-27 February).

Participants from 18 countries* are sharing best practices and learning skills to deal with maritime crimes at sea – including piracy/robbery, drug trafficking, marine terrorism, weapons smuggling, human trafficking and more.

It is the second time that countries across three regions have been invited to participate in such an event, which is primarily intended for countries implementing the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) and its Jeddah Amendment.

The training has been extended to participants from countries involved in the West and Central Africa Code of Conduct and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

Female participants from Kenya, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Seychelles, took part in the training at the Academy for the first time. This followed commitments made by Saudi Arabia to support last year’s World Maritime Day 2019 theme “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” which raised awareness of the importance of gender equality, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and to highlight the important of the yet under-utilized contribution of women.

* Bahrain, Cameroon, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Nigeria, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, United Rep of Tanzania, Yemen


Keeping the spotlight on empowering maritime women


Removing barriers to women joining the maritime sector, the importance of education and how to increase visibility of women in maritime leadership roles – these were some of the key challenges under the spotlight at a major symposium at IMO Headquarters in London (19 February).

The symposium was part of IMO’s continuing efforts to maintain momentum in empowering women in the maritime community, and follow the 2019 IMO Assembly resolution to preserve the legacy of the 2019 World MaritimeTheme and work towards a barrier-free environment for women throughout the maritime sector. It also reflected the 2020 World Maritime theme - sustainable shipping for sustainable planet - by focusing on the fifth Sustainable Development Goal, gender equality.

Participants from all over the world had the opportunity to hear and question three specialists on the subject – Professor Dr. Helen Thanopoulou, Head of Operations Management of Shipping Companies at the University of the Aegean of Greece; Ms. Sanchez Porras, Director General of the Mexican Trust for Training and Education of Merchant Marine Personnel; and Professor Dr. So-hyun Jo of the Korea Maritime and Ocean University.

The event was organised by the Republic of Korea and IMO, with support from Mexico, Georgia, Canada and South Africa. Click for photos.


Finland accedes to Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety


Finland has become the latest State to become Party to the Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety.

The Agreement outlines regulations designed to protect the safety of crews and observers and provides a level playing field for the industry while setting standards for fishing vessels of 24 meters length and over.

The treaty will enter into force 12 months after at least 22 States, with an aggregate 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 meters in length and over operating on the high seas have expressed their consent to be bound by it. With Finland’s accession, 14 countries have ratified the Agreement.

Finland’s accession follows IMO’s October 2020 conference on fishing vessel safety in Torremolinos, Spain, during which nearly 50 States signed the Torremolinos Declaration to publicly indicate their determination to ensure the Cape Town Agreement will enter into force by the tenth anniversary of its adoption (11 October 2022).

The entry into force is expected to improve safety at sea in the fisheries sector worldwide. It will also be a useful tool in combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and reducing pollution from fishing vessels, including marine debris.

H.E. Mr. Markku Keinänen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Finland to IMO, met IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to deposit the instrument of accession, at IMO Headquarters, London (18 February).


Enforcing IMO 2020 sulphur limit - verifying sulphur content of fuel on board


IMO 2020, the 0.50% limit of sulphur in ships' fuel oil, has been in effect since 1 January 2020, cutting sulphur oxide emissions from ships operating worldwide. From 1 March 2020, the carriage ban on non-compliant fuel oil (except for ships with exhaust gas cleaning systems installed) will enter into force, helping to support implementation of the global sulphur limit. To support the safe and consistent sampling of fuel oil being carried for use, and the enforcement of the carriage ban, IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), meeting this week (17-21 February) at IMO headquarters, will finalize draft guidelines for the verification of the sulphur content of the fuel oil carried for use on board a ship. 

The Sub-Committee will also continue its work on revising the 2015 Guidelines for exhaust gas cleaning systems (also known as “scrubbers”). The revision is aimed at enhancing the uniform application of the guidelines, in light of recent technical developments and experience gathered from approvals and operation of such alternative compliance systems.

Work on evaluating and harmonizing rules and guidance on the discharges from exhaust gas cleaning systems will begin. To assist the discussions, a report from a task team established by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) has been submitted. This report contains the conclusions of the task team in relation to the available evidence on the environmental effects of discharge water from exhaust gas cleaning systems, as well as recommendations on the data, tools and approach that could be used as basis for conducting a risk assessment of the possible effects of discharges.

Marine biosafety is also high on the agenda. The Sub-Committee will review a proposed amendment to the IMO Convention for the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships (AFS Convention), to include controls on the biocide cybutryne. The AFS Convention already prohibits the use of biocides using organotin compounds.

IMO’s work to prevent the spread of potentially harmful invasive aquatic species is continuing. The Sub-Committee will be revising the guidance on commissioning testing of ballast water management systems. Such systems may be used on ships to meet the requirements of IMO’s Ballast Water Management Convention, which has been in force since 2017 and aims to prevent the spread of harmful species in ballast water. 

Invasive species can also hitch a ride on the outside of ships. The Sub-Committee will begin its review of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines, which provide a globally consistent approach to the management of biofouling – the accumulation of various aquatic organisms on ships’ hulls.

The Sub-Committee will carry on with agenda items aimed at minimizing the impact of shipping on the fragile Arctic environment. It is expected to progress work on developing measures to reduce the risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters; and on reducing the impact on the Arctic of Black Carbon emissions from international shipping.

The meeting was opened by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and is being chaired by Dr Flavio Da Costa Fernandes (Brazil). Click for photos.


Female port managers hone their skills


More women are joining the maritime ranks in a variety of professions within the industry. To encourage this trend and with a view to continuing the momentum to empower women in the maritime community, IMO is supporting a training course aimed at female officials from maritime and port authorities.

Twenty-two women from 10 francophone countries in Africa*, took part in the two-week "Women in Port Management" course, hosted in Le Havre, France (27 January - 7 February). The course covered lectures on port management, port security, marine environment, facilitation of maritime traffic, marketing, port logistics and other topics. Participants learnt about the necessary skills required to improve the management and operational efficiency of their ports.

Visits were organized to the Port of Le Havre and the Port of Rouen, giving participants the chance to experience for themselves the day-to-day operations of a port, with a view to applying this knowledge back in their respective countries.

The port management course was delivered through IMO's Women in Maritime programme in partnership with the Port Institute for Education and Research (IPER) and the Le Havre Port Authority. It comes as part of IMO's ongoing and increasing efforts to support the UN Sustainable Development Goal number five: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

To date, 355 women have received training under this activity through 16 training courses held at IPER.

*Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon,  Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Guinea, Madagascar, Senegal, Seychelles and Togo.


Ship stability criteria - a crucial safety matter


For a ship to be considered seaworthy and safe it must be designed to remain stable and afloat in all conditions, whether intact or damaged. Mandatory criteria and recommended provisions regarding intact stability are set out in IMO's 2008 Intact Stability (IS) Code. Now, advanced computer technology is enabling so-called "second generation" intact stability criteria to be developed, for a comprehensive safety assessment of ship dynamics in waves.

IMO's Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC 7), meeting at IMO Headquarters (3-7 February), is expected to finalize a comprehensive set of interim guidelines on second generation intact stability criteria, including guidelines on vulnerability criteria, direct stability failure assessment and operational measures. The aim is to produce a set of guidelines for trial use. The session will also further develop associated explanatory notes. 

The Sub-Committee is also set to finalize draft amendments to the Revised Explanatory Notes to SOLAS chapter II-1 subdivision and damage stability regulations.

Among other agenda items, the meeting is expected to finalize a draft new SOLAS chapter XV and a new draft International Code of Safety for Ships Carrying Industrial Personnel (IP Code). The Code will supplement existing IMO instruments, in order to facilitate safe carriage and safe transfer for industrial personnel employed in the offshore and energy sectors, such as for the construction, maintenance, decommissioning, operation or servicing of offshore facilities.

Safety recommendations for non-SOLAS ships operating in Polar waters, not currently covered by the Polar Code, are also on the agenda. The Sub-Committee will consider two sets of draft recommendations: for pleasure yachts above 300 gross tonnage not engaged in trade, operating in polar waters; and for safety measures for fishing vessels of 24 m in length and over. The latter will supplement the 2012 Cape Town Agreement, which will bring in a global regime of safety standards for fishing vessels when it comes into force.

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


New website showcases GI WACAF oil spill preparedness and response project


Improving west, central and southern African countries’ ability to prepare and respond to oil spills is key to protecting the marine and shoreline environment in the region.

This is where the GI WACAF* project comes in – a cooperation between IMO and IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for advancing environmental and social performance.

Want to know how GI WACAF works with relevant national authorities in 22 African countries? Go to the brand-new website to find out everything from latest news and progress map, to country profiles, conventions and publications.

Support for these countries includes helping to designate authorities in charge; ratifying relevant international conventions; and developing a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. GI WACAF also runs training courses and exercises, and supports the structuring of regional agreements.

To-date more than 5,000 people have been trained under the project in over 100 activities across the 22 countries.

* The Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa


IMO appoints Conference Division Director


IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has appointed Ariane Gireud as Director of the Organization’s Conference Division, from 1 February 2020. The division ensures the smooth running of IMO meetings, welcoming around 10,000 delegates per year and supporting the Organization’s work promoting safe, secure, clean and sustainable shipping.

The Conference Division comprises translation services, meeting services, word processing units, as well as a documents, language technologies and terminology section, and also ensures the provision of simultaneous interpretation services during IMO meetings.

Find out more by watching ‘Behind the scenes: the making of IMO meetings’.


IMO and WISTA to promote greater diversity in the maritime sector


The Women's International Shipping and Trading Association Limited (WISTA International) and IMO have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on promoting greater diversity and inclusion through enhanced cooperation activities in the maritime field.

These activities will lay the groundwork for further discussion on how a diverse workforce will be essential for a sustainable future. Initiatives already under way include a study to collect and analyze data on the number of women employed in the maritime sector; developing a database of female experts in a wide range of maritime subjects available for speaking engagements to make panels more diverse and supporting implementation of IMO Assembly Resolution A.1147(31) on Preserving the legacy of the World Maritime theme for 2019 and Achieving a Barrier-Free Working Environment for Women in the Maritime Sector.

Another key part of the MoU is to strengthen cooperation and share best practices between the IMO-established regional women in maritime associations (WIMAs) and WISTA International's national WISTA Associations.

The MoU was signed by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and WISTA International President Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou.

Following this important event, a WISTA information session was organized at IMO Headquarters to  raise awareness of the work of WISTA International and its regional/national branches and offer advice on how to join the Association. 


New video highlights benefits of working with IMO


A new IMO video which showcases IMO's new long-term strategy on mobilising resources for technical cooperation activities has been launched. The video which aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), highlights the value and benefits of working with IMO and encourages active communication with potential donors and recipients.

The video premiered at the first regional Knowledge Partnership Workshop for the Caribbean, held in Kingston, Jamaica (20-24 January). The workshop aimed to demonstrate how the successful implementation of international regulations can be enhanced through effective sharing of knowledge, skills and experience. The workshop brought together national officials responsible for maritime affairs and official development assistance; as well as officials from international multilateral development banks, IGOs and NGOs. The participants increased their awareness of maritime issues, learned how to prioritise them in national development plans and, above all, benefitted from multi-way communication, making new connections with maritime and development cooperation counterparts from around the region.

The workshop was organized by IMO in collaboration with the Maritime Authority of Jamaica.

Participating countries and dependent territories or parts represented at the workshop were:  Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

Participating organizations represented at the workshop were:  Association of Caribbean States, Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean, Commonwealth Secretariat, Inter-American Development Bank, International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities, International Hydrographic Organization, Caribbean Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Sub-Regional Headquarters for the Caribbean.


IMO Secretary-General calls for renewed cooperation at Davos forum


At the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim is calling for renewed cooperation from all stakeholders to tackle the urgent issues of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

"When temperature records are routinely broken, icecaps are melting and some parts of the world are flooding while others are burning, there can be little doubt that addressing climate change must be humankind's major priority," he told fellow leaders.

IMO's strategy is to reduce sector-wide emissions by at least 50% by 2050. To deliver this, significant numbers of zero-carbon ships, or ships that can be easily adapted to use low or zero carbon fuels later in their life, will have to enter the fleet as early as the 2030s, Mr Lim said.

Stressing the vital role of IMO's as the shipping industry's global regulator, he said,  "Ambitious regulatory targets will act as the catalyst for technology, triggering research, development and innovation," adding "now is the time to start developing the vessels, the fuels, the delivery mechanisms and all the other necessary infrastructure to support zero-emission shipping."

Turning specifically to the need for a collective approach throughout the entire global supply chain, he said, "Collaboration in this area is likely to include developing and testing low or zero-carbon fuels; better communication and planning over berth availability to help with speed-optimization and just-in-time arrival; and supplying cleaner on-shore power for ships in port."

Mr Lim was also keen to stress that planning for a zero-carbon shipping industry cannot be done in isolation. "Infrastructure developments and investment decisions also need to be made collaboratively," he said. "Research and development initiatives need to be cross-sectorial. New technologies need to be transferable and scalable."

The World Economic Forum in Davos brings world leaders together to discuss progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Mr Lim is addressing a number of different fora on how shipping, transport and the supply chain as a whole can make a successful transition to a low or zero carbon future and contribute to global sustainability.


Positive steps for Somalia’s maritime sector


​Induction training is underway for staff from Somalia’s Maritime Administration ahead of the relaunch of the country’s maritime sector.

The training, taking place in the Djibouti Regional Training Centre (19-23 January), is part of IMO/UNSOM efforts to support the Federal Government of Somalia and regional authorities to set up the core functions of a maritime administration and build a firm basis for future maritime development.

Participants are focusing on the rights and obligations of relevant international maritime conventions* and legal frameworks that will be necessary in putting the newly-developed Somali Maritime Code into action. The relaunch is a vital step in Somalia’s recovery from a long conflict and will be a key tool in developing practical ways to implement the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

* the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); IMO conventions on safety of life at sea (SOLAS), prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL), seafarer training (STCW); and the International Labour Organization’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).


Modernizing the global maritime distress and safety system


​Search and rescue at sea depends on the integrated satellite and terrestrial radiocommunication communications system - the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). The GMDSS is mandatory under the International convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). IMO's Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR 7, 15-24 January) will continue its ongoing work to review GMDSS requirements, to enable the use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS, while removing requirements to carry obsolete systems. The aim is to finalize the review in 2021, for submission to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), so that SOLAS amendments can be adopted for entry into force in 2024.  

The Sub-Committee is set to complete its update of the International SafetyNET Services Manual. SafetyNET is an integral part of the GMDSS, providing an automatic direct-printing satellite-based service for the promulgation of safety information and warnings.

Work on developing safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters will continue. The Polar Code is mandatory under SOLAS, but this generally excludes fishing vessels, pleasure yachts, smaller ships under 500 gross tons and vessels on domestic voyages.  

Proposed revisions to guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance will also be considered.

The Sub-Committee will receive information on the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with a view to considering its recognition as a future component of the world-wide radio navigation system. Information will also be received on the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) (Japan) for development of performance standards for QZSS equipment and with a view to its future recognition.

The Sub-Committee is expected to revise guidelines for vessel traffic services. The session will also review proposed amended ships' routeing measures, discuss matters relating to the functioning and operation of the Long-Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) and prepare liaison statements to the International Telecommunications Union.  

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