The IMO Council held its 121st session (C121) from Monday 19 through Friday 23 November  2018 chaired by Mr Xiaojie Zhang (CHINA) supported by his Vice Chair, Mr Edmundo Deville del Campo (PERU), both of whom will continue in their respective roles during 2019.  Two Working Groups (WG) were formed and chaired as follows :

WG1  The Strategic Plan, Mr Heinz Decker (GERMANY)

WG2  Council Reform, Mr Edmundo Deville (PERU)

The meeting focussed particularly on Council reform in addition to issues of governance and good practice plus Strategy and Planning, also Resource management and Budget matters.

Following is a short report seeking to highlight items of interest to InterManager members:


CREDENTIALS.  The Secretary General reported that the credentials of all 40 Council delegations had been received and were in good order.  A further 43 (Observer) Member States were present, together with 1 Associate Member, 6 Intergovernmental organisations, 17 Non-governmental organisations  and  a representative from the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI).


REPORT OF THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION COMMITTEE.  In consideration of the report of the 73rd session of the MEPC, Council took note of the outcome as follows :


  1. Amendments to MARPOL annex VI. With regard to the prohibition on the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship, this is expected to enter into force on 1 March 2020;
  2. Harmful aquatic organisms in ballast water. Significant progress on many issues concerning implementation of the BWM Convention was made;
  3. Air pollution from ships. Consideration was given to this, in particular as it relates to the global sulphur limit in 2020.  Approval was given to the Guidance on the development of a ship plan for the consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI and the Guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to ships.  MSC 100 has been invited to consider safety implications associated with the use of low-sulphur fuel oil whilst MEPC 74 will debate how best to enhance the implementation of regulation 18 of MARPOL Annex VI , in particular, on fuel oil quality and reporting of non-availability of compliant fuel oils;
  4. Reduction of GHG emissions from ships. The committee approved the ‘Programme of follow-up actions of the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships up to 2023’ and invited concrete proposals on candidate short-term and mid-/long-term measures and proposals on procedure for assessing the impacts on States.  Terms of reference were agreed for the next meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 5);
  5. Development of an action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships. The Committee made a landmark achievement through the adoption of resolution MEPC.310(73) on the Action Plan and agreed that the measures will be reviewed at MEPC 74 based on follow-up proposals;
  6. Measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters. Relevant proposals were considered regarding an appropriate impact assessment methodology for assessing the proposed ban on HFO for use and carriage as fuel by ships in Arctic waters, following which the PPR Sub-Committee was instructed to finalise such a methodology;


In addition to noting the above items, Council endorsed the Committee’s decision to include four new outputs in its biennial agenda for 2018-2019 and also endorsed holding of the fifth meeting of ISWG-GHG 5, from 7 to 10 May 2019.  Finally, Council approved the report of the 73rd session of the Committee in general for transmission to the Assembly at its 31st session.


REPORT OF THE TECHNICAL COOPERATION COMMITTEE.  In his report to Council on the sixty-eighth session of the Technical Cooperation Committee which met in June this year, the Chairman, Mr Zulkurnain Ayub (Malaysia) highlighted some of the key issues which arose during the Committee’s deliberations as follows :


  1. The Annual Report on the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP) for 2017 included the delivery of 215 technical cooperation activities, the training of 3,522 persons worldwide and the provision of 64 fellowships in the maritime field entailing an expenditure of $13.8 million;
  2. Approval of a long-term resource mobilisation strategy for IMO’s technical cooperation activities, noting that a more proactive and methodical approach outlined in the strategy is essential to encourage the development of new partnerships and to access the existing official development assistance (ODA) funding at global and regional level;
  3. Progress made on the review and restructuring of the Country Maritime Profile (CMP), a prototype of which is expected to be ready before TC 69;
  4. Establishment of a Correspondence Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in order to develop indicators for data collection within IMO’s mandate related to technical cooperation;
  5. The revised document on the ‘Organisation and method of work of the Technical Cooperation Committee’ in order to align it with that of the ‘Application of the Strategic Plan of the Organisation’; and,
  6. An update on the biennial status report of the Committee’s outputs and the substantive items proposed for inclusion into its provisional agendas for the 2018-2019 period.


Worthy of note is that the TC Fund has consistently been the largest donor to the funding of IMO’s technical cooperation programmes, amounting to 44% of total expenditure in 2017, equating to $6million out of a total expenditure of $13.8 million.  Member States, partner institutions and host countries provided cost-sharing contributions to make up the funding balance which evoked deep appreciation from the Secretary-General.


STRATEGY AND PLANNING.  WG1 was tasked to consider the first report of the performance indicators (PIs), the analysis of relevant data collection and the outcome of C 120 in relation to the draft alignment of the strategic directions and outputs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Following completion of this tasking, Council approved WG1s subsequent report of its deliberations in general and, in particular:


  1. Agreed the proposed changes and adjustments to the analysis of the PIs, as well as an additional analysis by the Secretariat with the next report in 2020;
  2. Encouraged Member States to report the required data in GISIS in a timely manner;
  3. Approved the reporting cycle contained in document C 120/4/1 providing PIs at the end of 2020 with a final report of the Strategic Plan for the Organisation for the six-year period 2018-2023 at the end of 2022;
  4. Agreed not to make a final decision on the inclusion of specific PIs i.e. “number of serious incidents per year and per vessel type” and “tonnes of oil discharged into the sea accidentally, from ships subject to IMO instruments” at present, until more significant in-depth analysis of the data is available as part of the next report of the PIs in 2020;
  5. Encouraged Member States to submit proposals on potential targets and descriptions of the PIs; and,
  6. Agreed not to proceed with a strict alignment of the strategic directions to the SDGs and endorsed the alignment of the outputs to the SDGs, as presented in document C 120/4/2, which demonstrates the contribution of the work of the Organisation to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the SDGs.


COUNCIL REFORM.  At its 120th session, Council agreed to establish an open-ended working group, including NGOs, to meet in parallel with the Plenary session of C121, to be led by the Vice-Chair of the Council.  Thus WG2 was formed and instructed to consider and advise Council on the following reform topics :

  1. The Council’s role and functions in policymaking;
  2. Council membership: size, structure, criteria, distribution and terms;
  3. Conduct of campaigns for election to the Council;
  4. Role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at IMO;
  5. Access to information and transparency; and,
  6. Any other issues referred by the Council.


WG2 was further instructed to prioritise its work and to develop a work plan for accomplishing the identified tasks, also to prioritise point 2. and point 3. above.  In building the work plan, consideration should include whether proposals would require an amendment to the IMO Convention or not and the timing of any such amendments should be considered by Assembly 31 in November 2019.


As a measure of how seriously this important item was taken, 57 Member States and 5 NGOs attended the meeting of WG2 during which deliberations took long hours, many of which were unsocial ones.  Notwithstanding, the group produced a very comprehensive report which was approved by Council in general, and in particular :


  1. Took note of the progress made by the Group with regard to the reform of the Council requiring an amendment to the IMO Convention;
  2. Noted the agreement of the Group to develop a code of ethics for Council election campaigns;
  3. Noted the view of the Group majority that there is no need to change the role of the Council under Article 21 of the Convention;
  4. Noted that several delegations expressed the view that the Council could be more proactive in fulfilling its role as currently specified;
  5. Noted Group discussion on the ‘Rules and guidelines for consultative status of non-governmental international organisations with the IMO’;
  6. Agreed, in principle, draft amendments to such Rules and guidelines whereby NGO’s applying for consultative status should be invited to make presentations to the Council (either directly or remotely using modern technologies) with a view to submitting them to C 122 for approval;
  7. Noted the Group preliminary discussions on the issue of access to information and transparency;
  8. Requested the Secretariat to provide information to C 122 on the financial implications of live streaming of IMO meetings and free access to electronic consolidated publications;
  9. Noted the draft work plan of C121 and C122 on the reform of the Council;
  10. Endorsed re-establishment of the Working Group on Council reform at the next session of Council


Although not mentioned in the ‘Actions Requested’  of Council, the Group agreed to recommend an increase in the size of the Council, in particular, a possible increase to 50 or 52 members or 30% of the membership of the Organisation.  However, no final agreement was reached on a specific number or percentage.  A further facet on this point was consideration as to whether the criteria for Council membership as described in Article 17 of the IMO Convention should be removed.  Whilst a majority favoured retention of the criteria, Spain offered to prepare draft guidance which would facilitate the work of Member States when identifying each country under the appropriate criteria for seeking election as a council Member and in particular when considering the geographical representation under paragraph (c) of the Convention.


Since the 120th session of the Council in July 2018, four reports have been received from the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations system (JIU) for action by the IMO Secretary General.  These were; review of Internships; progress report on the review of South-South and triangular cooperation in the UN system; review of management and administration in the UN Office for Project services (UNOPS); and, review of whistle-blower policies and practices in UN system organisations.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT.  This subject covered a wide range of matters which included Human Resources, the status of Member States’contributions to the General fund and the Working Capital Fund, budget considerations for 2018 and 2019, also 2020 and 2021, and finally, after-Service Health Insurance liability management and funding.  Suffice to say that the Organisation is in good health and bears all the hall-marks of good management.


IMO MEMBER STATE AUDIT SCHEME.  The Secretary General informed Council that all 19 audits conducted in 2016 and 15 out of the 22 conducted in 2017 have been finalised and are available on the Member State Audit (MSA) module in the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS).  Of the 21 Member States on the audit schedule for the current year, 17 audits have been conducted, the reports for which are currently at different stages of completion.  The 58 Member States audited to date have authorised the release of their executive summary reports, corrective action plans and related comments on the progress in implementing the plans to all Member States, and in 3 cases, to the public through the MSA module in GISIS.  Following the successful exploratory analysis of the first consolidated audit summary reports (CASRs),  MSC and MEPC have been requested to consider the second CASR, containing lessons learned from 15 mandatory audits completed in 2016 and 2017 and to advise the Council of the outcome in due course.  Council noted the crucial need for an overall strategy in the effective implementation of IMO instruments as required by the IMO III Code, also Chile’s intention to continue supporting IMO’s technical cooperation activities, particularly in the area of the IMO Member State Audit Scheme.


IMO INTERNATIONAL MARITIME LAW INSTITUTE (IMLI).  Mr Juvenal Shiundu, Acting Director of the IMO Technical Cooperation Division, on behalf of Professor David Attard (IMLI Director), introduced the twenty-ninth Annual Report of the IMLI Governing Board.  Following a short discussion, Council took note of  the report; urged Member states to take action enabling recognition under their national legislation of the degrees conferred by the Institute; expressed appreciation to the IMLI staff for their efforts and ensuring financial stability; recognised IMLIs contribution in strengthening the capacity of developing countries to better implement the various IMO treaty instruments to which they are a party; and, reaffirmed its continued support to IMLI, in recognition of its success in maintaining high academic standards in the field of international maritime law.


Council noted the information related to IMLI’s revised Budget for 2018 and that proposed for 2019 together with the ‘unqualified’ nature of the audit by the External Auditor on the Institute’s financial performance up to the end of 2017.  Thanks were expressed to the Staff of IMLI, to the Government of Malta for its continuing generous in-kind support to the Institute  and to those who, through their financial contributions, make possible the operation of IMLI.


PROTECTION OF VITAL SHIPPING LANES.  The sole issue for consideration under this item related to the Cooperative Mechanism for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.  The Secretary-General reminded Council of the outcome of the twentieth session of the Aids to Navigation Fund (ANF) Committee that took place in Penang, Malaysia, on 3 and 4 May 2018, under the Cooperative Mechanism on Safety of Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS).  Referring to the IMO Malacca and Singapore Straits Fund, he recalled that the Joint Technical Arrangement on the utilisation of the Fund provided procedures for it to continue in effect for successive periods of three years and announced that the Parties have just agreed to renew its efforts until October 2021.  Following a short discussion, Council expressed its appreciation to the littoral States of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for the timely implementation of the various components of the Cooperative Mechanism in the SOMS.  Thanks were next given to those Member States and organisations which have made contributions to the Cooperative Mechanism and also to contributors of the IMO Malacca and Singapore Straits Fund.


EXTERNAL RELATIONS.  A total of 6 different subjects were discussed under this heading  which were covered in the order:


  1. Relations with the United Nations and the specialised agencies. Council noted the outcome of the first session of the intergovernmental conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).  The conference will meet for the second and third sessions in 2019 and the fourth session in the first half of 2020.  Note was also taken of the content in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Directive and in light of the entry into force of this EU Regulation, IMO’s Privacy Policy has been revised accordingly;
  2. Relations with intergovernmental organisations. Council noted the information provided by the Secretary-General, on IMO’s application for observer status with the Arctic Council;
  3. Relations with non-governmental organisations. It was decided not to grant consultative status to the Conservation International Foundation (CI);
  4. World Maritime Day. WMD 2018 held at IMO Headquarters was adjudged to have been a great success as was also, the parallel event organised by the Government of Poland.  The theme chosen for WMD 2019 is “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” and the parallel event will be hosted by Colombia from 15 to 17 September 2019;
  5. Day of the Seafarer. This year’s campaign theme was “Seafarers’ Well-being”, focussing on the many different factors that can affect the quality of life for seafarers at sea.  The global social media campaign organised and run by the Secretariat was estimated to have reached more than 27 million people on Twitter and that for the IMO Facebook account was greater than one million.  The photo competition had more than 1700 entries displaying a very vivid portrayal of daily life at sea and the winning pictures will be on display in the delegates lounge during the IMO Awards Night ceremony held in conjunction with MSC 100, on 6 December; and,
  6. IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador Scheme. Council did not endorse a proposal to place this scheme within the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP), nor donor trust funding in support.


REPORT ON THE STATUS OF THE CONVENTION AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE ORGANISATION.  The Secretary-General informed Council that two instruments of acceptance of the IMO Convention were deposited this year, one by the Republic of Armenia and the other by the Republic of Nauru, bringing the number of IMO Member States to 174.  Council extended a very warm welcome to both of these new Members.

REPORT ON THE STATUS OF CONVENTIONS.  The Council endorsed and supported the Secretary-General’s continuing efforts to encourage Governments to consider accepting those instruments to which they were not yet parties and reiterated its plea to Member Governments to ratify the 2009 Hong Kong Ship Recycling Convention, the 2010 HNS Protocol, the 2012 Cape Town Agreement and the 2008 IMSO amendments, to enable their entry into force as soon as possible.

CONTRACT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL.  Recognising the leadership, initiative and commitment with which the affairs of the IMO have been conducted by Mr Kitack Lim as its Secretary-General over the past three years, Council decided, by acclamation, to renew Mr Lim’s mandate for another four-year term, concluding on 31 December 2023, and will make a recommendation, to this effect, to the thirty-first regular session of the Assembly, in accordance with Article 22 of the IMO Convention.

SUPPLEMENTARY AGENDA ITEMS.   The Islamic Republic of Iran sought Council’s support regarding the challenges it faces with respect to unilateral sanctions by the United States resulting in a problem with respect to operational safety in that Inmarsat service providers are no longer allowed to provide communication services to any ship with an Iranian nexus.  Following a desultory debate in Plenary, Council reaffirmed the need for Member States to continue their cooperation for the benefit of maritime safety, environmental protection and security in fulfilment of their obligations under the IMO Convention, SOLAS, MARPOL and all other related maritime treaties.

DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  Council confirmed that its 122nd regular session will be held at IMO Headquarters from 15 to 19 July 2019, and decided that budgetary provision should   be made for 10 plenary sessions with full interpretation, over a five-day meeting.

Captain Paddy McKnight






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