Legal Committee, 103rd session, 8-10 June (opening address)

(8 to 10 June 2016)

Good morning, distinguished delegates.

I am pleased to welcome you all to the 103rd session of the Legal Committee.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

This is the first time I address the Legal Committee in my capacity as Secretary-General. I therefore wish to share with you some of my thoughts on the challenges facing the Organization in the coming years and, in particular, my vision on how we can meet these challenges and continue to forge a future where shipping meets the needs of the world in a safe, secure and sustainable way, building on the substantial efforts and achievements of the Organization to date.

IMO currently faces an array of issues demanding high-level policy development, including unsafe and mixed migration by sea; domestic ferry safety; reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the smooth implementation of the Mandatory Audit Scheme.

My vision is one of strengthened partnerships – between developing and developed countries, between governments and industry and between IMO Member States and regions. I will endeavour to strengthen communication between the maritime industry and the general public. I see IMO acting as a bridge between all these stakeholders in what I have referred to as "a voyage together". With the collective wisdom and insight of IMO Member States and other stakeholders, I am confident we can meet these challenges.

While continuing with IMO's vital and necessary function of rule making, I will ensure that the utmost focus is placed on improving implementation at a global level. Developing and adopting conventions is an empty exercise unless the requirements of those conventions are properly and effectively implemented.

Over the years, IMO has developed and adopted more than 50 new international conventions. Collectively, they have done a huge amount to reduce accidents or environmental damage; mitigate the negative effects of accidents when they do occur, and ensure that adequate compensation is available for the victims of such accidents.

The adoption of an IMO convention can feel like the end of a process. A conference is held, the text is agreed, and there are handshakes all round. But adoption of a convention should not be the end. If anything, it should be just the end of the beginning, because as I have mentioned, an IMO convention is only worth anything if it is effectively and universally implemented.

All those hundreds, even thousands, of hours spent refining the text, all that technical expertise that has been poured into it, all those studies and all that research count for nothing unless the end result has a tangible impact. For that to happen, ratification, widespread entry into force and effective implementation are all needed. And these are every bit as important as the development and adoption of the convention itself.

In practice, implementation involves a number of different actors including shipping companies, classification societies and even seafarers. But, ultimately, the legal responsibility lies with IMO's Member Governments.

Shortcomings in national law are no excuse for non performance when it comes to international instruments. It is not within IMO's mandate to question whether a State wishing to ratify a convention is ready to implement it. Nevertheless, we do have a number of ways in which we can help our Member States in this respect.

For example, we give widespread publicity to newly adopted regulations and standards. We try to identify problems that States may be encountering and promote discussion and seek solutions in the relevant IMO committees. And, through our technical cooperation programme, we offer advice and practical assistance to help developing countries establish and operate the legal, administrative and human infrastructure they need to comply with the applicable regulations and standards.

But perhaps the most valuable tool we have in this respect is the Member State Audit Scheme. IMO's Audit Scheme is intended to provide Member States with an objective assessment of how effectively they administer and implement certain key IMO instruments.

The issues addressed by the Scheme include enacting appropriate national legislation, the administration and enforcement of applicable national laws, the delegation of authority to recognized organizations and the related control and monitoring mechanisms of the survey and certification processes by Member States.

Nineteen Member States are scheduled to be audited in 2016 and 24 in 2017. Results of the audits will feed back into the Technical Cooperation Programme for targeted capacity building as well as feeding back into the regulatory process.

There is clear and strong expectation that the Audit Scheme will confirm that there is, in many cases, a lack of effective national legislation for the implementation and enforcement of IMO conventions.

It is most appropriate that I address this concern to you, the delegates of the Legal Committee, because in many cases, it is you who hold the technical expertise to provide solutions to this problem.  As I mentioned in my recent remarks at the CMI Conference held in New York, it is through the spread of the rule of law and through the establishment of a solid legal foundation in all IMO Member States, that IMO conventions will be truly effectively implemented. 

For me, this is a crucial subject; and it is my firm intention to address this lack of domestic implementing legislation as a priority of my tenure as Secretary-General.


Distinguished delegates,

As our theme for World Maritime Day this year so rightly points out, shipping is indispensable to the world. It underpins world trade and supports the global sustainability agenda. By helping all countries to participate in it, effectively and on equal terms, we are helping to spread its benefits more evenly. And that, I believe, is a worthwhile objective that we can all share.


Turning now to the main tasks set for your Committee at this session, I will start with the proposal for a new output to develop an instrument on the foreign judicial sales of ships and their recognition, which has been submitted by China, the Republic of Korea and the Comité Maritime International (CMI).

At this session you will have to decide whether the development of this convention is in line with IMO's objectives and whether it falls within IMO's Strategic Plan. You will also have to consider, amongst other issues, whether there is actually a need for a new regulation and whether the proposed measure is practical, feasible and proportional.

I look forward with great interest to hearing the outcomes of your deliberations.


The Committee at this session will turn its attention once again to the 2010 HNS Convention. I am well aware that, with the entry into force of the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention on 14 April last year, the 2010 HNS Convention is the remaining gap in the global framework of liability and compensation conventions.

The HNS Convention recognizes that accidents can and do happen and it is the last piece in the puzzle needed to ensure that those who have suffered damage caused by HNS cargoes have access to a comprehensive and international liability and compensation regime.

It is clear that an internationally coordinated approach for the ratification and implementation of the 2010 HNS Protocol is needed. The number of ships carrying HNS cargoes is growing steadily with more than 200 million tonnes of chemicals traded annually by tankers. I urge all States to consider acceding to the 2010 HNS Protocol as soon as possible in order to bring it into force.


Distinguished delegates,

It has been ten years since the adoption by IMO of the Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident developed jointly with ILO. Your Committee has worked hard to ensure seafarers are treated fairly following a maritime accident and during any investigation and detention by public authorities. A further analysis of a survey concerning the Guidelines shows that Member States have, understandably, different approaches with regard to the implementation of the Guidelines. At this session, you will consider the future work that needs to be done with a view to further facilitating the wide implementation of the 2006 Guidelines.


The reduction of administrative burdens associated with the fulfilment of certain requirements in mandatory IMO instruments is an important concern of the Organization.

I am confident that you will have fruitful discussions on the matter, in particular on the recommendations that have been prepared by the Secretariat regarding each requirement identified as an administrative burden by the Steering Group of  the Council.

In this context, you will also be invited to consider the document submitted by the delegation of France under the agenda item “Any other business” which revives, amongst other things, the discussion on the single model insurance certificate and on the acceptance of electronic certificates under all liability conventions pursuant to the request of the Steering Group.


Last but not least you also have technical cooperation activities related to maritime legislation. As I said before, with the implementation of the Mandatory Audit Scheme, the IMO Secretariat is increasingly requested to provide assistance in drafting, updating and bringing into force national maritime legislation for the effective implementation of IMO instruments.

In this context, the Legal Affairs Office of the Secretariat is ready to provide technical assistance aimed at improving the understanding of the principles of IMO instruments and their legal implications. The objective is to guide lawyers and legislative drafters, who are responsible for the implementation of the conventions into their domestic legislation, on legislative drafting techniques and mechanisms that should be applied when developing national law. I strongly encourage you to keep this in mind and to request the IMO Secretariat to provide this kind of technical assistance, as necessary.

Distinguished delegates,

It remains for me to wish you every success in your deliberations this week, and I thank you in advance for the usual spirit of cooperation prevailing in your Committee to progress the work and reach meaningful decisions by consensus.

The Secretariat will, as always, support the meeting and your distinguished Chairman, Dr Kofi Mbiah of Ghana, to the best of its abilities.

Also I would like to thank the Secretariat for the well organized preparation on this Committee led by Mr. Fred Kenney, Director of the Legal Division as well as our legal officers.

Before I hand over to the Chairman, I have the pleasure of inviting you all to the customary informal drinks reception in the Delegates' Lounge, after close of business this evening.

And finally, as the Chairman mentioned, we have here with us today graduates from IMLI and students from WMU. I hope that WMU, IMLI, lawyers and technical experts get together, communicate, and exchange views on maritime issues. We also have many distingued experts from Member States; try to communicate as much as possible with them too.

With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Good luck and thank you.