The IMO Assembly held its 29th session from Monday 23 November through Wednesday 2 December 2015 under the Presidency of His Excellency Mr D. Federico Trillo-Figueroa of SPAIN.
InterManager Members will recall that the IMO Assembly is the highest Governing Body of the organisation and meets every second year to approve the work programme, endorse the budget and generally check the workings of the various committees within IMO. It also elects an Executive Body, known as the Council, for the two year interim period, charged with supervising the conduct of IMO’s work, and on this occasion, selection of a candidate for the post of Secretary-General given that the present incumbent, Mr Koji Sekimizu chose not to stand for a second term of office. In this regard, Council’s recommendation was unanimously endorsed by the Assembly.
In his opening address to the Assembly, the out-going Secretary General referred to many achievements over recent years, in particular, the adoption of the Polar code (Entry Into Force 1 January 2017), the adoption of a new mandatory code [IGF] for ships fuelled by gases or other low flashpoint fuels and the entry into force of the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks. The last mentioned fills a gap in the existing international framework by placing strict liability on shipowners for locating, marking and removing hazardous wrecks and making it compulsory to have financial security for liability, such as insurance. Later in the week, a symbolic hand-over of documents was made by Mr Sekimizu to the Secretary-General elect, Mr Kitack Lim (REPUBLIC OF KOREA) who then addressed the Assembly, mentioning many important areas of work. In his statement which he referred to as a “voyage together”, Mr Lim said that such a voyage should include efficient implementation; capacity building in developing countries, particularly the least developed and small island developing states; promoting the global status of the IMO; continuing to develop an efficient Secretariat, and an emphasis on his desire to listen to Seafarers also the shipping industry in addition to co-operation with Member States as much as possible.
Council members fall into three categories, viz:
- Category (a) 10 States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services,
- Category (b) 10 other States with the largest interest in international seaborne trade, and
- Category (c) 20 States not elected under (a) or (b) which have special interest in maritime transport or navigation and, importantly, whose election to the Council ensures the representation of all major geographic interests of the world.
The 10 sitting States in Categories (a) and (b) were unchallenged whilst 154 valid votes (1 invalid) were cast for 23 contenders vying for the 20 places in category (c). Member State candidates additional to the outgoing 20 were: SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN and EGYPT. In the event, only EGYPT of these 3 was voted onto the Council, displacing JAMAICA in the process.
The composition of the new Council is therefore:
- Category (a) CHINA, GREECE, ITALY, JAPAN, NORWAY, PANAMA, REPUBLIC of KOREA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, UK and USA.
- Category (b) ARGENTINA, BANGLADESH, BRAZIL, CANADA, FRANCE, GERMANY INDIA, NETHERLANDS, SPAIN and SWEDEN.
- Category (c) AUSTRALIA, BAHAMAS, BELGIUM, CHILE, CYPRUS, DENMARK, EGYPT, INDDONESIA, KENYA, LIBERIA, MALAYSIA, MALTA, MEXICO, MOROCCO, PERU, PHILIPPINES, SINGAPORE, SOUTH AFRICA, THAILAND and TURKEY.
- COMMITTEES OF THE ASSEMBLY. Two Committees were formed in order to focus specialist skills, the first (Committee 1) on Administrative, Financial, Legal and Technical Cooperation, the other (Committee 2) on Technical matters. In consideration of the Committees’ reports, the Assembly most notably:
- adopted the High-Level Action Plan of the Organisation and priorities for the 2016 – 2017 biennium and associated resolution;
- approved the Legal Committee report on its 101st and 102nd sessions;
- approved the Technical Cooperation Committee reports on its 64th and 65th sessions;
- thanked Member States and other donors for their contributions which made technical assistance possible;
- adopted a draft resolution on the ‘Results-Based Budget for the 2016 – 2017 biennium;
- adopted the following resolutions:
- revised guidelines for the onboard operational use of shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS);
- entry into force and implementation of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement urging Governments to consider accepting the agreement at the earliest opportunity thus promoting flexibility in meeting essential safety requirements in respect of fishing vessels;
- amendments to the Recommendation on pilot transfer arrangements in Resolution A.1045(27) concerning the provision of adequate handholds at the point of embarking/disembarking from the ship and requirements for the bulwark ladder;
- survey Guidelines under the Harmonised System of Survey and Certification (HSSC), 2015 with a view to harmonising the Guidelines relating to the IBC, IGC and BCH Codes; and
- 2015 Non-Exhaustive list of obligations under instruments relevant to the IMO Instruments Implementation Code comprising 70 pages listing documents concerning legal obligations.
- approved the MSC reports on its 93rd, 94th and 95th sessions;
- encouraged Member Governments to continue applying the provisions of MEPC.1/Circ.810 on ‘Adequate port reception facilities for cargoes declared as harmful to the marine environment under MARPOL Annex V’, until further action is taken by MEPC 69 to which Member Governments and international organisations are invited to submit information on the availability of reception facilities for HME residues. MEPC 69 was accordingly invited to consider the issue as a matter of urgency; and
- approved the MEPC reports on its 66th, 67th and 68th sessions, also that of the Facilitation Committee on its 39th
- PERIODICITY OF ASSEMBLY MEETINGS. The COOK ISLANDS stated that it is difficult to justify the Assembly meetings every 2 years, given the austerity measures leading to a reduction of the number of sub-committees, less meeting days etc and that every 4 years should sufficient in which to meet. After a short exchange of views it was agreed that the proposal should first be discussed in Member State capitals and subsequently considered during Assembly 30.
- INTERNATIONAL MARITIME PRIZE. The Prize for 2014 was awarded to Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon foundation.
- IMO BRAVERY AWARD. The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea was bestowed on Aviation Survival Technician Christopher Leon, crew member of rescue helicopter CG-6531, for his display of courage, strength and stamina, in rescuing, at very high risk to his own life, four people from the sinking ocean rower BRITANNIA, in gale force winds and darkness.
- FLOATING ARMOURIES. In several instances over the course of the meeting, INDIA expressed deep concern over ‘floating armouries’ and was advised that the UK will be making a relevant submission to MSC 96 thus INDIA could do so too.
- FAREWELL TO MR SEKIMIZU. Numerous speeches in appreciation of Mr Sekimizu’s work at IMO, particularly as Secretary-General, were made. His lengthy and understandably emotional reply drew a standing ovation from a packed Plenary. Indeed, the Assembly passed a resolution expressing gratitude and sincere appreciation to Mr Sekimizu for his “loyalty, commitment, dedication, enthusiasm and contribution to the overall purposes of the IMO Organisation over a period of 26 years” bestowing on him the honour of Secretary-General Emeritus of the International Maritime Organisation with effect from 1 January 2016.
- RELATIONS WITH NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS. InterManager retains the consultative status with IMO granted in 1995 however, PIANC, the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) had its status withdrawn. In addition, the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA), presented a paper outlining a planned change of status within IMO from a non-governmental to an intergovernmental organisation, including the envisaged adoption of a new treaty instrument. Two other NGOs were welcomed, the International Water Mist Association (IWMA) and the International Port Community Systems Association (IPCSA).
- MEMBER STATE AUDIT (MSA) SCHEME. This will become mandatory from January 2016. A new GISIS module on MSA, developed by the Secretariat, will provide a common platform for the implementation of the scheme.
- WORLD MARITIME DAY 2016. The theme chosen for WMD 2016 is ‘Shipping, indispensable to the World’.
- DATE OF NEXT MEETING. Assembly 30 will be held during Autumn 2017. Council will decide on the number of Interpreter-days and Plenary sessions.
Captain Paddy McKnight