Facilitation Committee (FAL 44), 28 September - 2 October 2020 (remote session)

The Facilitation Committee met over five days in the first ever virtual regular session of an IMO Committee, with meetings held simultaneously in plenary and in a working group.

Revised IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business approved

The Committee approved a revised version of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, including new data sets related to the shipping and the ship/port interface communications beyond the FAL Convention.

The IMO Expert Group on Data Harmonization (EGDH), which considers new or amended data sets for the Compendium, will continue intersessionally on related matters, including work related to the maintenance of the Compendium.

FAL amendments developed

The Committee progressed its work on developing amendments to the annex of the FAL Convention, Discussions focused on  the substitution of the data provided for each of the FAL declarations with a table summing up all the data required for the ship, cargo, crew and passenger clearance.

The Committee approved a  questionnaire to gather information on the use of the cargo declaration (FAL Form 2) by countries, to decide whether this declaration was still required, in view of the common use of the ship manifest (or cargo manifest) and the existing requirement for advance security information on cargo for customs risk assessment. Governments were invited to complete the survey not later than 15 December 2020.

A correspondence group was established to continue the work on developing draft amendments to the FAL Convention annex. This will include considering proposals related to recommendations and/or standard practices aimed at ensuring the facilitation of maritime traffic during a public health emergency of international concern, following the discussion of a number of proposals emanating from the experience of Member States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Committee expressed its strong support for resolution MSC.473(ES.2)on Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee at its recent extraordinary session (read more here.)

Developing guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls

One of the priorities of the Committee is the increased use and enhancement of digitalization. The Committee agreed to develop guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls. The guidelines are expected to improve efficient operational ship-port data exchange and will contribute to reducing emissions and increasing the safety of operations. A correspondence group was established to work on the matter intersessionally.

These guidelines will support port call optimization, in particular the implementation of Just-In-Time (JIT) arrivals, which can have a significant environmental impact through reducing GHG emissions by optimizing a ship's speed to arrive just in time. JIT arrivals also contribute to reduced time at anchorage and therefore reduced congestion in the port area. It is estimated that ships spend up to 9% of their time waiting at anchorage. 

The Committee was informed of the publication of the new Just-In-Time Arrival Guide which aims to provide both port and shipping sectors with practical guidance on how to facilitate JIT arrivals. The Guide was developed by the Global Industry Alliance to support low carbon shipping (Low Carbon GIA), based on research and discussion amongst its membership.   

Developing new guidelines for electronic signature

The Committee considered draft Guidelines for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window, prepared by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The guidelines are aimed at meeting the need for authentication, integrity checks and confidentiality in electronic information exchanges, both for cybersecurity purposes and for building trust in automated ship and shore processes.

A correspondence group was tasked with further reviewing and developing the guidelines, taking into account existing and emerging standards, methodologies and legal frameworks to promote interoperability. The group was also instructed to consider how common functions related to the authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services can be organized.

Addressing maritime corruption

The Committee commenced its work on the development of guidance to address maritime corruption, noting that there are a number of national jurisdictional and legal matters which need to be considered; as well as a number of other legal and policy concerns. A correspondence group was established to further review and develop the guidance.

Addressing wildlife trafficking

The Committee agreed to develop guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic. The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate US$50-150 billion per year and is one of the five most lucrative global crimes. The guidelines will serve as a tool to combat wildlife trafficking in the maritime sector and will take into account the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Audits for compliance with Facilitation Convention discussed

Following discussion of a proposal to include the subject of facilitation in the scope of the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS), the Committee decided to include a new output on "Analysis of possible means of auditing compliance with the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic" in the post-biennial agenda of the Committee.