Facilitation Committee (FAL), 39th session, 22 to 26 September 2014 (opening address)

(22 to 26 September 2014)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers.  I am pleased to welcome you all to the thirty-ninth session of the Facilitation Committee.  

Since your Committee last met, in April of last year, much progress has been made with the Review and Reform process in the Secretariat.  I feel particularly encouraged by the efficient manner in which the implementation of the new sub-committee structure has proceeded – all seven restructured sub-committees have now held their first meeting and feedback has been positive.

Another high-priority activity for this biennium concerns the preparation for the mandatory IMO Member State Audit Scheme, which will be rolled out from January 2016 onwards.  I have put internal measures in place to strengthen the Secretariat's structure in order to ensure optimal use of the available resources in support of the audit scheme, which I expect to be particularly useful for developing countries.  In this context, the establishment of Country Maritime Profiles under our Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme will also help to ensure better targeting of resources to where they are really needed, because Member States now have the opportunity to assess themselves what their most urgent needs for maritime capacity-building and the development of national maritime policies are.  I have no doubt that all these efforts will also benefit facilitation of maritime transport and thus ultimately lead to better results with respect to the implementation of the FAL Convention.

Further in this regard, the paramount importance of the ongoing comprehensive review of the FAL Convention cannot be underestimated.  This work has been further progressed by the correspondence group you established at your last session with the aim of ensuring that the Convention continues to be relevant to both the present and the emerging needs of the shipping industry.  Diverging practices in the clearance of ships and problems of duplication of information and multiple reporting have been pressing concerns for years.  The time has come to take full advantage of electronic business opportunities and relevant technical developments, such as those achieved in the field of electronic transmission of information and the Single Window concept, matters which the Committee has been addressing for some considerable time.  I would therefore urge the Committee to consider the review of the substance of the Convention and its Annex, and to complete the revision of the amended text at this session, so that FAL 40, in April 2016, can approve the amendments.  Any further delay in the approval of these important amendments beyond 2016 would be both undesirable and detrimental in terms of the commercial and economic implications for efficient and secure maritime trade.

Distinguished delegates, 

In the context of the Organization’s work on piracy, of particular relevance to this Committee is the need for clarity on States’ laws and procedures with respect to maritime security in its widest sense.  I am concerned, therefore, about the lack of responses to the questionnaire on information concerning port and coastal State requirements related to privately contracted armed security personnel.  As you will recall, the questionnaire was promulgated through a joint circular of the MSC and your Committee (MSC-FAL.1/Circ.2).  The circular urges Member Governments to submit details to the organization of their relevant national legislation, policies and procedures relating to the carriage, embarkation and disembarkation of firearms and security-related equipment through their territory and the movement of privately contracted armed security personnel.  Clarity on national legislation and related procedures are cornerstones of good facilitation.  Given the sensitivities surrounding what is no doubt a complex matter, it is all the more important that all Member Governments duly complete the questionnaire without any further delay and submit it in the usual IMO spirit of cooperation.

With regards the actual threat of piracy attacks and armed robbery against ships, the fact that no cargo ship has been taken by pirates off the coast of Somalia since 10 May 2012 demonstrates the effectiveness of the measures in place.  Threats of piracy have however not disappeared and any slack in vigilance would only serve to encourage pirate attacks, particularly in the High Risk Area.  The long-running efforts to help suppress piracy up and down the east coast of Africa must continue, in conjunction with the many partner organizations in the United Nations system and elsewhere, and in cooperation with the industry.  Furthermore, we owe unabated vigilance to the estimated 37 seafarers who are still being held captive on land and whose imprisonment for years must surely make them feel abandoned without any hope of release.  I urge industry not to drop its guard and to adhere strictly to the internationally accepted Best Management Practices.  Governments in the region, on their part, should make every effort to counter piracy activities in respect of shipping operating in those areas known to be susceptible to acts of piracy, particularly in the High Risk Area. In this regard, I draw your attention to the agreement recently reached at a multilateral ministerial meeting, held under the auspices of the Djibouti Code of Conduct at IMO Headquarters in May of this year, to establish a new regional structure that would take care of counter-piracy implementation, with IMO playing a supportive role during a transitional period.
The unacceptable number and violent nature of attacks in western Africa and the Gulf of Guinea call for better cooperation and improved communication of information between all countries in west and central Africa and this is why the adoption, in June of last year, of a Code of Conduct similar to the Djibouti Code of Conduct has been very timely.  The Code of Conduct has been endorsed by 25 countries.  Hopefully, the adoption by the Assembly, last November, of resolution A.1069 will also keep attention to the Code’s objectives sharply in focus.  Further in this regard, I am grateful for the generous donations received by the IMO West and Central Africa Maritime Security Trust Fund from China, Japan, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.  

Meanwhile, the Secretariat is making its own contribution to assist Member States in the west and central Africa region to improve maritime governance, and I have pledged my personal determination and commitment to support them in their endeavours.  Working together to suppress maritime security threats in the region through a coherent strategy will benefit the facilitation and expansion of maritime trade and thus help the countries concerned to develop their national economies and take an active part – and become integrated – in the global economy.  Further in this context, the threat emanating from the fast-spreading Ebola virus disease in western Africa is very worrying for the unimpeded and secure flow of seatrade, as well as for the well-being of seafarers, passengers and others on board ships.  The Secretariat has been monitoring developments and we have also issued a circular letter (Circular Letter No. 3484 of 2 September this year) providing information and guidance to ships and shipping companies based on recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the precautions to be taken to minimise the risk, such as avoiding crew changes and passenger embarkation in the ports of affected countries, preventing unauthorised persons from boarding ships and raising seafarer awareness of Ebola symptoms.  IMO has also joined the international ad hoc Ebola Travel and Transport Task Force and is actively working with other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to monitor the situation and provide timely information.  I believe that proper adherence to the ISPS Code would have a positive contribution to the protection of seafarers and we are also in close contact with shipping industry partners on this critical issue, and have issued Circular Letter No.3485 on full and effective implementation of maritime security measures to assist in preventing the spread of the Ebola virus disease.  

Distinguished delegates, 

Turning now to the main tasks for your Committee at this session, and further in the context of the modernization of the FAL Convention, you will recall that at FAL 38 you approved a new circular on Interim Guidelines for use of printed versions of electronic certificates (FAL.5/Circ.39).  You will be invited to consider at this session the inputs provided by the MSC, the MEPC and the III Sub-Committee. 

The Correspondence Group on this issue has submitted its report for the Committee’s consideration and it proposes to expand the guidelines to include electronic certificates in lieu of original paper copies.  Considering that the use of electronic certificates will have a direct impact on the reduction of administrative burdens, I look forward to the Committee’s decision on this pertinent matter for shipping efficiency and trade facilitation. The outcome of your discussions will be relevant for the MSC and the MEPC and also for the III Sub-Committee.  

Also relevant is the proposal for the development by IMO of a prototype for a maritime single window. I believe that this proposal warrants the Committee’s careful consideration. The availability of an IMO-agreed prototype would certainly facilitate Member States’ efforts, especially in developing countries, to implement single windows in their ports. 

As you know, FAL 37 approved the guidelines for setting up a single window system in maritime transport.  I believe that this action provides the momentum for the Organization to develop a maritime single window prototype. It would be a very useful tool to support Member States in the implementation of the new requirements pertaining to mechanisms for the electronic exchange of information which the Committee has been discussing under the scope of the general review of the FAL Convention. 

I recognise this is an ambitious, long-term project for the Organization, but I am confident of its future benefit to the Member States and would therefore appreciate your support and active participation in its realisation.


Other items on your agenda are also important and all of them call for careful consideration.  I would to just highlight:
matters related to stowaways; 
training of mooring personnel;
voluntary guidelines on maritime cybersecurity; and
technical cooperation.

But I just want to remark on the problem of stowaway continues to manifest itself in tragic ways as desperate people seek to escape from political turmoil, armed conflict and abject poverty.  In March of this year, IMO convened a regional seminar hosted by the Ministry of Transport of Côte d'Ivoire and in close cooperation with the Port Management Association for west and central Africa (PMAWCA) with the aim of focusing on the prevention of stowaways in west and central Africa.  I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Côte d'Ivoire and PMAWCA, and also to the International Group of P&I Clubs for its efforts and good cooperation, and to the international organizations who attended the seminar for their significant contributions.  The Committee will be invited to consider the conclusions of the seminar, and I expect that you may wish to discuss some conclusions in the context of the revision of the FAL Convention.


Before I conclude, I wish to comment briefly on the safety of persons rescued at sea.  In July, the NCSR and the III Sub-Committee each reaffirmed the importance of protecting the safety of persons rescued at sea, but each also noted that no significant progress had been made so far in the Organization’s efforts to reach an agreement in the Mediterranean region for the disembarkation of migrants who were victims of illegal transport by sea in inhumane conditions involving overcrowded and unseaworthy craft. 

I have already stated repeatedly that IMO should contribute to the prevention of migrants travelling by sea illegally. The dramatic increase in the number of people involved has now reached such massive proportions in the Mediterranean region that existing rescue measures are rendered ineffective, including those adopted by IMO, while there is clearly also a limit to the capacity of coastguard and rescue vessels and of assistance merchant vessels can realistically provide.  I have therefore decided to determine and map out the role of IMO in an attempt, in cooperation with other United Nations agencies such as the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), to focus on preventing illegal migrants travelling by sea from North Africa to countries in Europe. I have allocated resources in the Maritime Security Sub-Division of the Secretariat in order to provide the necessary support for this activity.  What we saw in the Mediterranean is an organized and orchestrated act of crime. This afternoon I will travel to Italy and attend the European Coast Guard Functions Forum, appreciating their efforts and will call for further collaboration and action to prevent illegal acts of maritime migration. I shall also personally undertake to continue raising the issue within the wider United Nations system.


It remains for me to wish you every success in your deliberations and the Committee’s Chairman, Mr. Yuri Melenas of the Russian Federation, the very best of luck.  I am confident that with everybody’s full cooperation, the Committee will achieve fruitful and balanced outcomes. I thank you in advance for your cooperation. For our part, we, as the Secretariat, will support both the Chairman and the work at this session to the best of our abilities.

With these words, I now hand over to you Mr. Chairman and as usual you are all invited to the customary drinks reception in the Delegates’ Lounge after close of business this evening, even though I will not be able to join you today but I will welcome you to the World Maritime Day celebration on Thursday. I am sure you will enjoy the informal exchange of the event this evening.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.