Legal Committee, 106th session, 27-29 March 2019 (opening speech)


(27 to 29 March 2019)

Good morning Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates.

I am pleased to welcome you all to the 106th session of the Legal Committee. I extend a particular welcome to those of you who are attending the Committee for the first time.

Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, before I continue with my speech, I will pause to reflect on the tragedy that occurred on Sunday, 10 March, with the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. Included in the casualty list were dedicated airline professionals, writers, artists, advocates, tourists, and persons going about their everyday lives. Among the victims were 22 United Nations staff personnel.

The World Food Program, the UN Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Telecommunication Union and the UN Environment all lost staff in the crash.

I would also like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims, the people and the Government of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We stand together with the Government and people of New Zealand.

I am also deeply saddened by the loss of life, destruction of property and displacement of people caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai which struck Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. I commend all involved in the ongoing search and rescue operation and those providing aid. I extend my condolences to the families of the victims, and all others affected by this disaster.

I would also like to voice my deepest condolences to those affected by the Mosul ferry disaster in Iraq last week. Over 90 lives were lost when an overcrowded ferry crossing the Tigris River capsized.
The majority of lives lost were women and children. This tragedy highlights the dangers of overcrowding passenger vessels, and reaffirms the urgent need to protect lives by enhancing the safety of domestic ferries.

In the memory of all those lost in the recent tragedies, I ask you to bow your heads in a moment of silence.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words about this year's World Maritime Day theme, "Empowering women in the maritime community", which recognizes the professional contribution of women to the maritime industry. The participation of women in the economy, political decision-making and society is key to addressing maritime challenges, but gender equality in the maritime sector is an issue too often overlooked.

The maritime sector needs "all hands on deck", both male and female, if it is to take on the challenges of carrying the world's goods in an efficient, safe and clean manner.

This year's World Maritime Day will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 26 September, and the annual parallel event will be organized by the Government of Colombia and held in Cartagena from 15 to 17 September. While I look forward to your participation in some or all of those events, I would also encourage you to embrace the theme and use it to promote greater empowerment of women in the maritime community. We can all do our part.

In this regard, I wish to thank the Canadian Government and the High Commissioner of Canada in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the event that was held at Canada House in London, on 15 March, to celebrate the theme of this year’s World Maritime Day. I am truly grateful to the High Commission of Canada for their initiative and I reiterate my sincere thanks to the High Commissioner and to the delegation of Canada.

Turning now to the items on your agenda this week, I would like to highlight some of the key technical issues you will be considering.

At its last session, your Committee added a new output to its agenda on "Measures to prevent unlawful practices associated with the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships", with a target completion date of 2021.

This item was proposed in response to a number of Member States having contacted the Secretariat to report cases of fraudulent use of their flag.

As requested by the Committee, the Secretariat has conducted a study on the cases received and has provided information on the capabilities of IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System to address the issue.

Ship registration, representing the authority of the flag State is one of the key legal principles embedded in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and is the foundation for IMO’s efforts with respect to flag state implementation and port state control. I am confident that you will have fruitful discussions on the matter and endeavour to address the immediate concerns raised in the documents.

This session you will start your work on the regulatory scoping exercise of conventions emanating from the Legal Committee for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, or MASS. I believe that IMO should continue to be proactive and take the lead on this matter.

With the rapid development of new technologies that aim at improving the efficiency of shipping, we need to keep our legal framework under review.

The fair treatment and the abandonment of seafarers are issues very near to my heart. The well-being of over 1.6 million seafarers working on board seagoing ships every day to deliver goods to the populations around the world is, and will remain, my priority.

You will consider the growing number of abandonment cases. In most instances, seafarers are abandoned as the result of a deliberate and calculated decision by a shipowner.

Since the entry into force of the 2014 amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, the number of abandonment cases has increased dramatically. Orchestrated action is needed to address this issue. Information about each abandonment case is disseminated by the IMO Secretariat to relevant flag States, port States, seafarers' States and interested organizations and shared with ILO. Flag States should ensure that their shipowners take responsibility for their seafarers. Port States should assist with the speedy repatriation of those seafarers who are abandoned within their territories. Seafarers' States should ensure that all consular assistance is provided to those who are abandoned. Shipowners should have in place adequate insurance to safeguard seafarers. Port State control officers should check whether appropriate certificates are carried on board ships. If we all take action and show that we care, there will be no more abandoned seafarers.

The 2010 HNS Convention recognizes that accidents involving hazardous and noxious substances can and do happen, as was recently the case with the Aulac Fortune and MCS Zoe. The number of ships carrying HNS cargoes is growing steadily with more than 200 million tonnes of chemicals traded annually.

In June 2018, Denmark deposited its instrument of ratification of the 2010 HNS Protocol, together with the data on contributing cargo; bringing the total number of Contracting States to four. Needing only eight more States to ratify or accede to the 2010 HNS Protocol, I sincerely hope that more countries will follow Denmark’s good example and that the Convention will soon enter into force.

Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully inspired by the customary IMO spirit of cooperation and under the capable leadership of your Chair, Mr. Volker Schöfisch of Germany, ably supported by your Vice-Chair, Ms. Gillian Grant of Canada, and the staff of the Secretariat.
As always, I extend best wishes to all of you for every success in your deliberations.

Finally, as is customary, all of you are cordially invited to a cocktail reception hosted by me in the Delegates' Lounge this evening after the closure of today's session.

Thank you.