Legal Committee, 104th session, 26-28 April 2017 (closing address)


(Friday, 28 April 2017)

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates and observers,

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be here at the beginning of this session to celebrate with you the 50th anniversary of this Committee. I know that the work of the Legal Committee in the past 50 years has already been highlighted during the evening reception and the opening address, which the Director of the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division gave on my behalf, but allow me to say that the Committee can be proud of its achievements over the past half-century. It has created a robust treaty regime on various legal issues within the remit of the Organization and has contributed to many instruments developed in other fora.

While the development of new treaties has taken a back seat in your Committee in recent years, the agenda this week nevertheless made for some very interesting discussions. In this regard, I am pleased to take this opportunity to offer a few observations at the end of a successful session of the Legal Committee:
First of all, I am very pleased to note the successful outcome of the HNS correspondence group. I am delighted to see that the presentation on the HNS Incident Scenarios is now finalized and that you have agreed to hold a two-day workshop to facilitate the implementation and entry into force of the Protocol. I see this as a great opportunity for Member States at all stages of the accession and implementation process to gain some valuable insights into the quirks of this treaty.

At your last session I emphasized that, what is needed now is a firm decision, once and for all, to promptly prepare for ratification and national implementation of the 2010 HNS Convention by action of all Member States to bring this instrument into force.

This week, you have delivered on this and I am optimistic to note your approval of a draft Assembly resolution which, among other things, encourages States to work together and with the industry towards its implementation and entry into force.

In this regard, I urge all States to follow the example set by Norway and consider acceding to the 2010 HNS Protocol as soon as possible.
You also finalized some other important work you agreed to undertake at your last session, and your approval of a draft Assembly resolution on the delegation of authority to issue certificates of insurance or other financial security under the 1992 CLC and the 2010 HNS Convention will greatly assist States delegating this task. This resolution will ensure certainty in respect of the interpretation of these two instruments and provide the clarity requested by States Parties.
Having noted the great importance of the Maritime Labour Convention, your Committee emphasized that there was a need for further work on improving the system for reporting cases on the joint ILO/IMO database on incidents of abandonment of seafarers. You recognized that this database is an important tool for solving these inhumane conditions for seafarers and their families and its operation should be made more effective.

With regards to the fair treatment of seafarers, ITF has provided an update on the preparation of a workshop on the implementation of the 2006 Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident which will take place at IMO on 23 June this year, and which will coincide with the celebration of the Day of the Seafarer. This is a subject very close to my heart and I very much look forward to seeing you all at this workshop, where we can discuss concrete proposals to finalize a guidance to ensure effective implementation of the Guidelines.
I also note that the delegations of Indonesia and Denmark together with interested parties were able to finalize guidance on liability and compensation in connection with transboundary pollution damage from offshore exploration and exploitation activities. This tool will be useful for States when they consider the conclusion of bilateral or regional agreements on the subject.
I understand that you have registered concern regarding the recent increase in piracy incidents and highlighted that it is essential to keep a focus on piracy and armed robbery against ships. And rightly so. Pirates are active in the Sulu/Celebes sea area. Piracy off the coast of Somalia has not been eradicated, the underlying conditions fuelling piracy have not changed and pirate groups are still active. Indeed, we have seen the return of Somalia-based piracy with several commercial vessels hijacked already this year. Flag States should therefore continue to monitor the threat to ships flying their flag and set appropriate security levels in accordance with the ISPS Code.
Finally, you have adopted revised Rules of Procedure for the smooth running of the Legal Committee for years to come, which can serve as the baseline document for other Committees to consider in order to harmonize all rules to the greatest extent possible.

Looking to that future I welcome the intervention made by the distinguished delegate of Malta yesterday who encouraged informal consultations to consider the future work of this Committee. As has already been said in the opening address, I can, for example, see the Legal Committee taking up more responsibility under its new agenda item Advice and guidance in connection with the implementation of IMO instruments. This week you showed determination to act swiftly when another Committee requested the provision of legal advice and I am sure your deliberations at the next session will be fruitful.
We also heard about serious challenges faced by the Democratic Republic of Congo concerning the fraudulent use of its flag by some vessels. This is a matter of great concern, but one where the cooperation among Governments is paramount to find a solution. You, as Member States, should consider how the IMO could address such a matter.
After only two days of meetings you have achieved a lot. Let me conclude by thanking and congratulating all of you for your contributions during this session.

I have already sung the praise of your Chair, Mr. Kofi Mbiah, who has once again shown firm leadership and great ability. As I said before, we will be sad to see you go, Kofi, but are very grateful that you have guided the discussions of this Committee for yet another session. Next year we will welcome Volker Schöfisch to the Chair of this Committee. Volker, you will only be the seventh person to take this office.
Sincere thanks are also due to your new Vice-Chair, Ms. Gillian Grant of Canada, for her continuous and strong commitment to the work of the Legal Committee. This was her first session as Vice-Chair and in taking up the responsibility of chairing your drafting group this week, she showed strong leadership, and ably steered the group’s discussions to a successful conclusion.
Last but not least, I cannot forget to mention my appreciation of the efforts of all the staff in the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division, in particular the Legal Affairs Office, and those of our colleagues in the Conference Division, including the Translation and Document sections, as well as the interpreters. All of them work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the required professional support to meet your expectations.
Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,
It is customary at this stage of the meeting to pay tribute to delegates and observers for whom this was the last session of the Committee. In saying our farewells, we thank them sincerely for their valuable contribution to the work of the Organization and wish them well.
Distinguished delegates, I wish you all a safe journey back home and look forward to seeing you next year at the 105th session of the Committee.

Thank you.