Legal Committee, 109th session (LEG 109), 21-25 March 2022

Legal Committee, 109th session, 21-25 March 2022

Opening remarks by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, IMO 

Madam Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, good day to all of you.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the 109th session of the Legal Committee.

Let me first express my continued concern for shipping and seafarers in the area of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. I have emphasised that shipping, particularly seafarers, cannot be collateral victims in a larger political and military crisis and I would invite you all to consider the actions of the IMO Council at its thirty-fifth extraordinary session 10 days ago.

I am particularly concerned about the welfare of innocent seafarers who already were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and find themselves now again exposed to risks.

You have several very important items on your agenda, but, the closest to my heart are topics related to seafarers. The well-being of nearly 2 million seafarers working on board seagoing ships every day around the world continues to be my priority.

Abandonment of seafarers, crew changes and repatriation are still of a great concern to me and to the entire Membership of the Organization. We have to continue taking concrete action to protect seafarers, the silent heroes of the industry.

We must never forget about their dedication, professionalism, and personal sacrifice throughout the pandemic. 

At its previous session, your Committee agreed to develop a set of guidelines for port State authorities on how to deal with seafarer abandonment cases. This week, you will consider the outcome of the intersessional work done by many interested States, IGO's and NGO's who provided the Committee with the draft guidelines.

The IMO Secretariat continues to work on new high-level initiatives within the UN, such as an ad-hoc UN interagency task force and a joint action group that has been established, under the leadership of the ILO, with support from the IMO and participation from WHO, ICAO and relevant social partners, to review the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world's transport workers and the global supply chain, including on seafarers' fundamental rights and on the shipping industry in general, and suggest solutions. We will put even more efforts to protect the rights of seafarers and the future of sustainable shipping, in line with this year's World Maritime Theme "New technologies for greener shipping". 

With regard to unlawful practices associated with the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships, this Committee developed a resolution on Measures to prevent the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships and a 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, which were both adopted at the 32nd session of the Assembly last December. 

I further encourage administrations to report information regarding their registries through the GSIS module. If we take an orchestrated action, we can continue to combat fraudulent activities at sea.

Over the last decades the Committee developed a comprehensive liability and compensation regime.

You continue to improve this regime and make sure that it is still fit for purpose. At the last session, you decided to add a new output on the agenda concerning measures to assess the need to amend liability limits.

Your focus this time will be on the development of methodologies to assess the need to amend liability limits and the way forward.

It is an important subject for the industry and for all stakeholders. I am confident that you will find a suitable and satisfactory solution.

As a related subject, you will also consider and comment on the progress made on the development of a Claims Manual for the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001. Such a manual would assist the victims of the bunker oil pollution damage and would speed up the process of obtaining a prompt remedy.

You will also decide whether to approve a new output related to the development of guidance for the proper implementation and application of IMO liability and compensation conventions.

In this context, I welcome developments regarding the ratification and implementation of the 2010 HNS Convention, and I would like to encourage Governments to ratify and bring into force this important treaty, at their earliest convenience.

At the last session, you finalised the regulatory scoping exercise of conventions emanating from the Legal Committee for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS). This week you will consider two proposals for new outputs related to MASS, and I believe that IMO should continue to be proactive and take the lead on this matter. I look forward to your Committee working together with other Committees on the next steps in that process.

I am confident that you will deal with all the important agenda items in the usual spirit of cooperation and tackle the tasks before you successfully, under the capable leadership of your Chair, Ms. Gillian Grant of Canada, and the aid of your Vice-Chair, Mr. Ivane Abashidze and the staff of the Secretariat.

My best wishes to all delegates for a productive session.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.