Legal Committee, 108th session (LEG 108), 26-30 July 2021 (closing remarks)


(26 to 30 July 2021)

Mr. Chair, excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers,

We are approaching the end of this busy session of the Legal Committee, the last session before the break. You made good progress on many important issues.

In the interest of time, I will only mention some of your achievements:

  • The Committee demonstrated its continuous commitment to addressing the abandonment, and fair treatment of seafarers. In this context, the Committee agreed to progress the work on practical guidelines for port State and flag State authorities on how to deal with seafarer abandonment cases. For that purpose, an intersessional correspondence group has been established. I am sure that these guidelines, once completed, will greatly assist in the resolution of cases of abandonment
  • Your approval of the draft Assembly resolution on Encouragement of Member States and all relevant stakeholders to promote actions for the prevention and suppression of fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries and other fraudulent acts in the maritime sector is a significant achievement, as we continue to address issues related to the registration of ships and the threats posed by fraudulent registries and fraudulent registration.
  • This Committee also developed a draft Assembly resolution on a Unified Interpretation for the test of breaking the owner's right to limit liability under IMO liability conventions. Harmonized and consistent implementation and interpretation of IMO treaties is of an utmost importance for the industry, and I welcome this progress.
  • At this session, you also completed the regulatory scoping exercise on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships and gap analysis of 19 conventions emanating from the Legal Committee. This concludes the first step the Organization has undertaken to determine how the introduction of autonomous ships is going to affect IMO's regulatory framework. I am sure that in the future, Legal Committee will work together with MSC and FAL Committees, to ensure that IMO treaties are ready for the introduction and operation of MASS on a global scale.

I would like to thank and congratulate all of you for your contributions during this session. Our appreciation also goes to the Chair, Mr. Volker Schöfisch of Germany, and to the Vice-Chair, Ms. Gillian Grant of Canada, who also chaired the MASS Working Group. I also thank Ms. Christina Tzalavra of Greece for chairing the Drafting Group; and, of course, the coordinators of the various Correspondence Groups that have reported to this session.

This is the last session chaired by Mr. Volker Schöfisch and let me dedicate some remarks to him.

 Mr. Chair, dear Volker,

As the seventh Chair of the Legal Committee, you have ably led the Committee for the past four years, including for the last two sessions through the choppy waters of virtual meetings. Under your leadership, the Committee has flourished, several new outputs have been put on its agenda, resulting in some of the busiest sessions in the past decade. You have always shown strong leadership and good humor, leading the Committee with the necessary determination, sound advice and balanced consideration of the issues and concerns raised, all done with the expected German efficiency.

On many occasions the Committee, quite rightly, expressed its undiminished appreciation for you.

 With your patience and diplomatic skills, your expertise in matters of liability, compensation and insurance, as well as your determined leadership, you have secured the resolution of many complex, difficult and sensitive issues, to the satisfaction of all concerned.

I wish you a very happy and healthy retirement, but I do hope to see you in the future.  

To Ms. Gillian Grant, the incoming Chair, I wish you every success and I have no doubt that you will lead the Committee with your usual diplomatic skill and effectiveness. I should also note that, with your election, 3 of the 5 IMO Committees are now Chaired by women. I would also like to congratulate the new Vice-Chair Mr. Ivane Abashidze of Georgia on his election, I am certain you will make a formidable team.

And now, our break is upon us. Distinguished delegates, I fully recognize how difficult the last six months have been for all, owing to the compressed meeting schedule caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. You have all earned my admiration for your hard work, dedication and perseverance, and I wish you all a relaxing, enjoyable and well-deserved break. I look forward to seeing you again in September. 

 Thank you, Mr. Chair.