Assembly, 31st session, 25 November to 4 December 2019

The IMO Assembly met for its 31st session at IMO Headquarters in London, United Kingdom (27 November to 4 December). It was the largest-ever gathering at IMO Headquarters in London, attended by some 1,700 participants, from 167 Member States, as well as observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

The Assembly approved the renewal of Mr. Kitack Lim's appointment as Secretary-General of IMO, for a second and final term of four years (1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023). It also adopted the Organization's budget and work programme for 2020 and 2021.

A new 40-Member IMO Council for the 2020-2021 biennium was elected (see Briefing 31/2019). It met on 4 December and re-elected Mr. Xiaojie Zhang of China as Chair for 2020-2021. Mr. Edmundo Deville del Campo of Peru was re-elected as Vice-Chair.

The Assembly also adopted a number of important resolutions on key aspects of the Organization's work.

Polar shipping - safety measures for non-SOLAS ships 

The Assembly adopted a resolution on Interim safety measures for ships not certified under the SOLAS Convention operating in polar waters, which urges Member States to implement, voluntarily, safety measures prescribed in the Polar Code on ships not certified under the SOLAS Convention.

IMO's Polar Code includes additional safety and environmental protection measures for ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. It is mandatory under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) (which applies to all ships) and under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

While SOLAS chapter V (Safety of navigation) applies to all ships on all voyages (with some specific exceptions), the other chapters of the Convention do not apply to some categories of ships, sometimes termed "non-SOLAS ships". These include cargo ships of less than 500 gross tonnage, pleasure yachts not engaged in trade and fishing vessels.

Addressing fraudulent registries

A resolution addressing fraudulent ship registration was also adopted.

IMO's Legal Committee has developed a series of measures to prevent unlawful practices associated with fraudulent ship registration and fraudulent registries, after a number of IMO Member States had reported of fraudulent use of their flag. These were adopted by the Assembly.

The Assembly resolution on this topic includes a procedure for communicating information on ship registries to IMO, including information on the name of national governmental body(ies) and authorized or delegated entities in charge of ship registration. Its aim is to allow the IMO Secretariat to verify the information, through the appropriate channels. 

 IMO Member State Audit Scheme - guidance on communicating information

Information reporting has been identified as a key area for improvement in the analysis of the first consolidated audit summary report, which analysed findings from mandatory Member State audits conducted during 2016.

To help improve reporting, the Assembly adopted a resolution on Guidance on communication of information by Member States. The Guidance aims to help Member States comply with the requirements, under various IMO instruments, concerning communication of information, and fulfil their reporting obligations more effectively.

In particular, the Guidance recommends that Member States establish a reporting system by assigning reporting responsibilities among relevant entities that participate in the implementation and enforcement of the applicable IMO instruments.

The Assembly also adopted updates to three key instruments that assist implementation of IMO instruments: 

  • the Survey Guidelines under the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification, 2019;
  • the 2019 Non-exhaustive list of obligations under instruments relevant to the IMO instruments implementation Code (III Code); and
  • the Procedures for port State control, 2019.

Further action on gender equality

The Assembly adopted a resolution urging further firm action in coming years to advance gender equality throughout the maritime sector. The resolution, on "Preserving the Legacy of the World Maritime Theme for 2019 - Achieving a Barrier-Free Working Environment for Women in the Maritime Sector" follows a year of action to "empower women in the maritime community" – the World Maritime theme for 2019. 

The resolution urges Governments, maritime administrations and the industry to endeavour to reach a barrier-free environment for women, so that all women can participate fully, safely and without hindrance in the activities of the maritime community, including seafaring and shipbuilding activities. (Read more here Briefing 32/2019.)

Full list of resolutions adopted:

A.1131(31)      List of outputs for the 2020-2021 biennium

A.1132(31)      Results-based budget for the 2020-2021 biennium

A.1133(31)      Presentation of accounts and audit report

A.1134(31)      Arrears of contributions

A.1135(31)      Appointment of the External Auditor

A.1136(31)      Ethical considerations and guidelines for conduct of IMO Council election campaigns

A.1137(31)      Interim safety measures for ships not certified under the SOLAS convention operating in polar waters            

A.1138(31)      Procedures for Port State Control, 2019

A.1139(31)      Guidance on communication of information by Member States

A.1140(31)      Survey guidelines under the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (HSSC), 2019

A.1141(31)      2019 Non-exhaustive list of obligations under instruments relevant to the IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III CODE)

A.1142(31)      Measures to prevent the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships

A.1143(31)      Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

A.1144(31)      Rules and guidelines for consultative status of non-governmental international organizations with the International Maritime Organization 

A.1145(31)      Renewal of the appointment of the Secretary-General

A.1146(31)      Appreciation of the services to the Organization of Mr. Jeffrey G. Lantz

A.1147(31)      Preserving the legacy of the World Maritime theme for 2019 and achieving a barrier-free working environment for women in the maritime sector

Photos can be viewed here.