Facilitation Committee, 40th session 4-8 April 2016

Mandatory electronic data exchange for international shipping adopted under revised Facilitation Convention

Mandatory requirements for the electronic exchange of information on cargo, crew and passengers were adopted, as part of a revised and modernized annex to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), which aims to harmonize procedures for ship’s arrival, stay and departure from port.

The new standard relating to the obligation of public authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information, within a period of three years after the adoption of the amendments, is among important changes in the revised Annex, which is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2018, under the tacit acceptance procedure.

There will be a transitional period of 12 months from the date of the introduction of such systems to make electronic transmissions mandatory, during which period paper and electronic documents would be allowed. 

The FAL treaty, first adopted in 1965, aims at securing the highest practicable degree of uniformity in formalities and other procedures, including mandatory “Standards" and "Recommended Practices" on formalities, documentary requirements and procedures which should be applied on arrival, stay and departure to the ship itself, and to its crew, passengers, baggage and cargo. These include standardised forms for the maximum information required for the general declaration, cargo declaration, crew list and passenger list; and agreed essential minimum information requirements for the ship's stores declaration and crew's effects declaration.

The adoption of the revised FAL annex by the Facilitation Committee follows a comprehensive review of its provisions. The update is aimed at ensuring the FAL treaty adequately addresses the shipping industry’s present and emerging needs and serves to facilitate and expedite international maritime traffic. The objective is  to prevent unnecessary delays to ships and to persons and property on board. 

A new recommended practice encourages the use of the “single window” concept, to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted via a single portal without duplication. 

Other revised standards cover shore leave and access to shore-side facilities for crew, including the addition of a paragraph in the standard to say that there should be no discrimination, in respect of shore leave, on grounds of nationality, race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, or social origin, and irrespective of the flag State of the ship on which seafarers are employed, engaged or work.

Standards and recommended practices relating to stowaways are also updated, to include references to relevant sections of the International Ship and Port Facilities’ Security (ISPS) Code. A new standard requires Governments, where appropriate, to incorporate into their national legislation legal grounds to allow prosecution of stowaways, attempted stowaways and any individual or company aiding a stowaway or an attempted stowaway with the intention to facilitate access to the port area, any ship, cargo or freight containers.
The IMO Standardized Forms (FAL forms), which cover IMO General Declaration; Cargo Declaration; Ship's Stores Declaration; Crew's Effects Declaration; Crew List• Passenger List and Dangerous Goods have also been revised. 

IMO maritime single window project continues
The Facilitation Committee was updated on IMO’s Maritime Single Window project, for the electronic exchange of arrival and departure information, in order to support the implementation of the new FAL requirements.

The project was initiated following several needs-assessment missions for the enhancement of electronic information exchange, which identified that while the majority of Member States have some kind of single window in place related to cargo, only a few had any single window for maritime transport.

The first phases of the IMO Maritime Single Window project have focused on gathering information on the current situation of the clearance of ships, cargo and passengers at ports from some developing countries; and gathering further information from the authorities involved in the clearance of ships. The third phase would involve designing, developing and implementing a prototype maritime single window in a selected country.

The Committee requested the IMO Secretariat to report back to FAL 41 with an analysis of the needs, a summary of commonalities and any additional information related to the project.  In the meantime, Member States requiring assistance for the implementation of maritime single windows were invited to contact IMO to discuss their specific needs and explore possible solutions. Member States and organizations willing to assist with the implementation of maritime single windows or the development of a prototype were also invited to contact IMO or submit information to the next session.

Cyber security discussed
The Facilitation Committee discussed the facilitation aspects with regards to protecting the maritime transport network from cyber threats, including the need to address particular risks to maritime single windows, processes for electronic certificates and data exchange between ships and shore, pre-arrival information based on the Facilitation Convention and processes involving ship-port interface.

The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) is also scheduled to discuss cyber security threats so it was suggested that any future guidance on cyber security risk management should be developed as a joint FAL/MSC guidelines, to avoid duplication and so that principles could be applied to all stakeholders, both ship and shoreside.

Revised guidelines on use of electronic certificates approved
The Committee approved a revised FAL circular on Guidelines for the use of electronic certificates, reflecting Member States’ experience gained in using electronic certificates.

Amendments to port State control procedures approved
The committee agreed draft amendments to the Procedures for port State control, 2011 (Resolution A.1057(27)), to include references to electronic certificates. The amendments will be forwarded to the Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Protection Committees with a view to submission to the IMO Assembly (in 2017) for adoption.

Revised guidelines on minimum training and education for mooring personnel approved
The Committee approved a revised FAL circular on minimum training and education for mooring personnel, updating the previous guidelines. The guidelines provide Governments, port authorities and the port industry with guidance on recommended minimum training and education for mooring personnel (unless covered by other regulations), to assure the shipping industry and the public at large that there is an adequate level of competence available in ports, which would ensure that ships could enter, stay and leave a port safely, securely and efficiently.

IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business
The Facilitation Committee noted the progress on the review of the joint IMO-WCO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, which is being coordinated by the World Customs Organization.

Declaration on Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products
The Committee noted the Declaration of the United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products, which had been signed by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim on 15 March 2016 and encouraged Member States and observer delegations to bring the Declaration to the attention of relevant national authorities. 

The Declaration was prepared by an International Taskforce on the transportation of illegal wildlife products and contains firm commitments to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.

The Committee noted that the illegal wildlife trade has many parallels with the illicit drug trade, an issue addressed by the Committee in the past, for example through the adoption of resolution FAL.9(34) on Revised Guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals on ships engaged in international maritime traffic.

IMO is not the lead agency for the prevention and suppression of the illegal wildlife trade or the smuggling of drugs, but the Committee agreed that a failure to take appropriate measures to prevent the carriage of such products on board ships might lead to seafarers being delayed for legal proceedings and their ships being delayed.

The Committee encouraged Member States and observer delegations to bring the Declaration to the attention of relevant national authorities and constituent members.