Council 31st Extraordinary Session (C ES 31), 18 March to 15 April 2020

The thirty-first extraordinary session of the Council was held by correspondence, due to the extraordinary circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the first IMO meeting not held live in the history of the Organization. 

Solidarity in the pandemic

The Council joined IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim in expressing its solidarity with all Member States and other stakeholders during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and commended them for their concerted efforts to contain the spread of the virus. The Council also expressed its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his swift action in response to  the pandemic, while ensuring the continuation of the work of the Organization.

Action urged to keep shipping flowing

The Council expressed its appreciation to the crew, seafarers, shore-based workers, and personnel of the maritime and aviation communities for enabling international trade to continue in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognizing that the ability of shipping services and seafarers to deliver vital goods, including medical equipment to the populations around the world was critical in responding to the pandemic, the Council:

  • urged flag and port States to ensure the smooth operation of maritime traffic and availability of shipping services for world commerce, for the benefit of humanity; .

  • further urged flag and port States to ensure the welfare of seafarers, in particular that their rights to wages, shore leave, sick leave, access to medical assistance, food supplies and repatriation were preserved;

  • endorsed a practical and pragmatic approach for repairs, survey and certification and licensing of seafarers; and

  • encouraged Governments to share best practices in keeping workers in the maritime transport sector safe from COVID-19, while taking into account national circumstances.

The Council also requested Member States to submit proposals to the thirty-second extraordinary session of the Council on measures to ensure that shipping services were not unnecessarily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

32nd Extraordinary Session to approve revised schedule of meetings

The Council decided to convene the thirty-second extraordinary session of the Council, by correspondence, at an appropriate time, as and when it appears that the Organization will be able to resume normal operations. The 32nd session will be invited to approve the revised schedule of meetings postponed as a result of the  COVID-19 pandemic.

Measures to ensure continuity of operations endorsed

The Council endorsed and commended the actions taken by the IMO Secretary-General, in his capacity as the chief administrative officer of the Organization,  and the Secretariat in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and endorsed future actions, as appropriate, to ensure public safety and the continuity of operations of the Organization.

Future meetings and IMO Secretariat

The Council requested the Secretary-General to submit reports to a future session of the Council on: the establishment of a system that enables IMO staff to work remotely without affecting their productivity; and the possibility of holding meetings by teleconference, including the development of relevant procedures for such meetings, by the Council, and related budgetary implications, in view of the uncertainty of the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budgetary implications

The Council requested the Secretary-General to provide a preliminary analysis of the budgetary impact of the  COVID-19 pandemic to the thirty-second extraordinary session of the Council, by correspondence, acknowledging that the Secretary-General would endeavour to effect the maximum economies in the budget. The Council also requested the Secretary-General to provide a final report on the impacts of the  COVID-19 pandemic on the Organization to the 124th session of the Council.

Council participation

All 40 Members of the Council were deemed "present" via correspondence. The following observer delegations also participated in the session by correspondence: Colombia, Cook Islands, Finland, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Marshall Islands, Saudi Arabia and Vanuatu.