The IMO Committee on Facilitation held its 43rd  Session (FAL 43) from Monday 8 through Friday 12 April 2019 under the Chairmanship of Mrs Marina Angsell (SWEDEN). Following the resignation of Captain Moises de Gracia (PANAMA) as Vice-Chair, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman (NIGERIA) was elected as his replacement.  During the meeting, three Working Groups (WG) were formed and chaired as follows:


WG 1   Electronic business, Mr Roger Butturini (USA)


WG 2   Facilitation Instruments, Mr Fabien Joret (FRANCE)


WG 3   Other facilitation subjects, Mr Victor Jimenez (SPAIN)


The meeting was attended by representatives from 79 Member Governments, 2 Associate Members, 5 UN and Specialised Agencies, 4 Intergovernmental Organisations, and 23 Non-Governmental organisations.


Items of particular interest to InterManager Members are highlighted as follows:


ADDRESS BY THE IMO SECRETARY GENERAL.  Mr Lim welcomed delegates to the forty-third session of the Facilitation Committee and took the opportunity to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime Day theme, “Empowering women in the maritime community”, which will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 26 September, whilst a parallel event will be staged in Cartagena, Colombia from 15 to 17 September.  Stressing the importance of IMO and maritime sector to the world economy, he expressed the firm belief that shipping, ports and the people who operate them, play a significant role in helping Member States to create prosperity and stability ashore through the promotion of trade by sea.

The Secretary General next reminded delegations that the following day, 9 April, a new mandatory requirement of the FAL Convention would enter into force, whereby all Public Authorities have to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information, thus increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport whilst reducing the administrative burden.

In highlighting the main agenda items to be considered, he singled out:

  • Starting work on the review of the FAL Convention;
  • Completion of the Guidelines on single window;
  • Presentation of IMO’s maritime single window project implemented in Antigua and Barbuda;
  • Finalisation of the IMO Compendium phase 1;
  • Commencing phase 2 for data elements beyond the FAL Convention; and,
  • Starting work on the MASS scoping exercise of the FAL Convention.

Having outlined the many challenges confronting the Committee, Mr Lim wished delegates well in their deliberations.



DECISIONS OF OTHER IMO BODIES.  The committee noted, in particular, the following authorisations by Council 120 on measures to allow greater public access to information at IMO:

  1. Release of only the audio files of the Assembly plenary meetings to the public;
  2. Release of Secretariat documents pre-meeting for committee meetings, with the ability for committees to designate specific Secretariat documents as private and non-releasable in advance;
  3. Release of Council documents on IMODOCS to the public after a period of three years;
  4. Secretariat reports on the outcome of meetings prior to the meeting’s conclusion, if necessary and appropriate, and only after discussion of the relevant agenda item has been concluded;
  5. The removal of any restriction explicit or implied on sponsors of documents, so that those who wish to release their documents to the public via IMODOCS prior to a meeting may do so; and,
  6. Access of NGOs and IGOs to the Treaties section of IMODOCS.



REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THE ANNEX TO THE FAL CONVENTION.  The Committee recalled that FAL 42 had approved a new output on “Review and update of the annex to the FAL Convention” and had established a Correspondence Group (CG) on the review under the coordination of France.  The most contentious issues not agreed by the CG were considered by the Committee which agreed to:


  1. Convert Recommended Practice on the use of the single window into a Standard, keeping a generic definition of the single window so as to provide flexibility to Member States;
  2. Include a reference to the IMO Compendium in Standard 1.6bis by means of a footnote;
  3. Not to convert Recommended Practice 7.12, on National Maritime Transport Facilitation Committees, into a Standard;
  4. Not to request visa for shore leave and for passengers of cruise ships, referred to in Standard 3.45 and Recommended Practice 3.24, respectively, and therefore to maintain the current text; and,
  5. Not approve the use of seafarers’ identity documents in lieu of a valid passport, as referred to in Standard 3.10.


Regarding two proposed alternatives on functions of the seven FAL Forms, the Committee decided that this issue should be forwarded to the working group, as also were three documents submitted by WHO (World Health Organisation) which sought to ensure consistency between the provisions of the FAL Convention and the provisions of the International Health Regulations.  WG2 was accordingly instructed to further develop the revision of the annex to the FAL Convention and following several days work, duly submitted a record of its deliberations to the Committee which was approved in general and, in particular;


  1. Approved the text of the Explanatory Manual to the FAL Convention as provided in document FAL 43/5, slightly amended;
  2. Approved the inclusion of the output “Review and Update of the Explanatory Manual to the FAL Convention” in the post-biennial agenda;
  3. Noted the progress made by the Group on the review and update of the annex to the FAL Convention;
  4. Endorsed amendments to the Committee’s instructions so that a number of related issues could be deleted from the terms of reference issued to the current CG with those to be issued to the future CG. These are described above as ‘contentious issues’: Single window; IMO Compendium; National Maritime Transport Facilitation Committees; Visa requirements; and, Seafarers’ identity documents;
  5. Thanked UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and WHO for their contributions to the text of the Explanatory Manual to the FAL Convention and its annex, inviting both organisations to continue providing invaluable assistance on the review and update; and,
  6. Endorsed the re-establishment of the CG on the review and update to the FAL Convention and approved its terms of reference.



REPORT OF WORKING GROUP 1 (WG 1).  Four agenda items were considered by WG 1 as follows:


  1. Application of Single Window Concept;
  2. Review and revision of the IMO Compendium on facilitation and electronic business, including additional e-business solutions;
  3. Developing guidance for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via Maritime Single Window; and,
  4. Guidelines for setting up a Maritime Single Window.




Prior to WG1 embarking on its work, each of the four items were discussed in Plenary during which a number of pertinent observations were made.  With regard to the ‘Application of Single Window Concept’, duplication of data elements should be avoided and the interoperability of single windows ensured.  The Secretariat listed reporting obligations that burdened the ship, master and crew, making recommendations that might be relevant to the implementation of the single window concept and also the outputs of the committees that have some relation to electronic exchange of information or single window.  Discussions at MEPC 73 resulted in approval, in principle, a draft MEPC resolution on Guidelines for the use of electronic record books under MARPOL whilst MEPC 74 is expected to approve draft amendments to the Procedures for port State control, 2017 and forward them to the III Sub-Committee for inclusion in future amendments to the Procedures.

Second of WG1s four items, that of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation, promoted much discussion in Plenary where it was recalled that the WCO (World Customs Organisation) had coordinated a CG, working on reviewing and revising the IMO Compendium.  The Committee recalled that FAL 42 had approved the new format of the IMO Compendium and in its progress report to FAL 43, WCO described the progress of the work in harmonising data definitions and map relationships among data elements related to the ongoing review and revision of the IMO Compendium.   Particular thanks were expressed to WCO, UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe)  and ISO for their commitment in the harmonisation of the various data models, also participant Member States.  Recalling that WCO has coordinated , since 2014, an informal group addressing the IMO Compendium, comprised of interested Member States and international organisations, including UNECE and ISO, it was nevertheless agreed that future maintenance of the Compendium would be undertaken by a group of organisations and interested parties coordinated by the IMO Secretariat.  Towards this end, the four organisations (IMO, UNECE, WCO and ISO) would establish a memorandum of understanding to agree on the basic principles for the maintenance of the IMO Compendium.

Regarding WG1s third item, the Committee considered document FAL 43/8 (ISO) on Developing Guidance for Authentication, Integrity and Confidentiality of Content for the purpose of exchange via Maritime Single Window.  This raised the question as to whether new standards would need to be developed and included in the draft guidelines, for some of the components needed to realise electronic signatures and efficient maritime messaging and also, whether the Maritime Safety Committee should be alerted so that it could consider their usefulness in the data exchanges that are being developed in the scope of e-navigation maritime services.  Following discussion, it was agreed to inform MSC on the work related to the Guidelines.

The last of the four items, Guidelines for Setting up a Maritime Single Window, was dealt with quickly as the Committee recalled that the WG on Electronic Business at FAL 42 had resolved priority outstanding issues identified by the CG on Update of the Guidelines.  The Committee noted with appreciation the report of the CG to amend the Guidelines, in particular the work carried out by its coordinator, Mr J Lida (Japan).


Following the extensive Plenary discussions of these four items, appropriate terms of reference were given to WG 1 with which to commence its work, following which the Sub-Committee considered the Group’s subsequent report, approving it in general, and in particular:


  1. Noted the Group’s discussion related to the ‘Guidelines for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window’, including both general support for these and concerns raised, whilst agreeing that MSC and MEPC should be advised on progress of the guidelines, encouraging further comments to be submitted;
  2. Invited ISO to develop international standards for consideration at the next session;
  3. Noted agreement within the Group that documents FAL 43/6 and C 113/1 identify recommendations that might be relevant to implementation of the single window concept, and that the list of the outputs of the committees might also have some relation to the electronic exchange of information or single window and that both could be taken into account in relation to future reviews of the IMO Compendium;
  4. Invited other committees and sub-committees to approach the FAL Committee for advice and assistance in preparing the reporting and information exchange requirements for their current and future mandatory instruments for electronic exchange;
  5. Agreed to establish a correspondence group to review the initial descriptions of Maritime Services 4 (Port Support Service) and 8 (Vessel shore reporting) in the draft MSC circular on initial descriptions of Maritime Services in the context of e-navigation, and as appropriate, also the descriptions of Maritime Services 6 (Pilotage service), 7 (Tug Service), and 10 (Maritime Assistance service) with the associated terms of reference;
  6. Agreed, with respect to Maritime Services, that the Committee should be included as an associated organ in the existing output 2.1, and to ask MSC to instruct NCSR 7 to report to FAL 44 on the outcome of its work;
  7. Encouraged Member Governments to take action to ensure that new as well as existing Single Window environments adopt the IMO reference model and the associated data elements as set out in the IMO Compendium;
  8. Approved the finalised IMO Compendium;
  9. Considered the creation of a new reference in GISIS, based on feedback from Member States to inform which single window environments are able to receive machine-to-machine data exchange according to the updated IMO Compendium;
  10. Approved the terms of reference for an intersessional group of experts to be hosted at IMO twice annually, with the associated prioritised list of tasks, and the timeline for its review on data elements beyond the FAL Convention; and,
  11. Approved the revised ‘Guidelines for setting up a maritime single window’.



UNSAFE MIXED MIGRATION BY SEA.  There were two submissions only with regard to this item, both by the Secretariat.  The Committee recalled that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Global compact for migration) was a three-phase UN-wide approach to address the issue and that the consultation phase on it had taken place from April to November 2017.  In document 43/10/1, it was noted that the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global compact for migration had taken place in Marrakech, Morocco, on 10 and 11 December 2018 where the UN Secretary General launched a new UN Network on Migration to best position the UN to support Member States as they implement the compact.  The UN General Assembly officially endorsed the Global compact for migration on 19 December 2018.

Of note, a number of migrants from a group of more than 100 persons who had been rescued by the Palau-flagged small tanker ELHIBLU 1 off Libya, hijacked the vessel after being told they would be returning to Libya and instead forced the Captain of the vessel to proceed to Malta.  However, the Maltese armed forces took control of the tanker some 30 miles off Malta and arrived in Senglea, Valetta, on the morning of 28 April 2019 to be handed over to the Maltese police for further investigation.



REPORT OF WORKING GROUP 3 (WG 3).  Two agenda items were allocated to WG 3 as follows:


  1. Development of amendments to the recommendations on the establishment of national facilitation committees; and,
  2. Development of Guidelines on creating a tool to measure domestic implementation of the FAL Convention.


With regard to the first item, following a request by the Committee, the Secretariat requested Contracting Governments that had national maritime facilitation committees to update the “Notifications pursuant to article VIII of the FAL Convention” module in GISIS.  Of the total number of replies received from 78 Member States, 21 reported national facilitation committees and 14 have national facilitation programmes, whilst nine submitted a link to their national facilitation committees and eight to their programmes.  The creation of a database in the facilitation module in GISIS to collect the information on the national facilitation committees was referred to by the Secretariat together with a plan to release instructions on its use shortly after FAL 43, by means of a circular letter.

Concerning the second item, the Committee considered document FAL 43/12 by Chile presenting a proposed text for a FAL circular on developing a measurement tool.  In the ensuing discussion, some felt that the tool should be voluntary and national administrations would have the choice to use it or not, whilst also deciding on the methodology.  It was also thought that the inclusion of a checklist in the guidelines tool would be useful for Member States, observing that WTO has a similar tool that comes with a guidance document for

implementing the facilitation of trade agreements.


On conclusion of Plenary discussion, the Committee instructed WG 3 on Other Facilitation Subjects, established under the two items above, and taking into account the comments and decisions made in Plenary, to develop the requisite amendments to the recommendations and development of the guidelines on creating a tool as dictated by their terms of reference.  Following WG 3’s deliberations, the Committee approved their subsequent report in general, and in particular:


  1. Further emphasised the importance of establishing national facilitation committees and programmes;
  2. Encouraged Member States to provide information on national facilitation committees and programmes in the new module of GISIS in order to make more effective use of the FAL Convention implementation;
  3. Agreed to modify the title of FAL.5/Circ.2 on ‘Guidelines for the establishment, membership and operation of national facilitation committees’, to ‘Guidelines for national maritime transport facilitation committees and programmes’;
  4. Agreed to establish a Correspondence Group on such Guidelines and approved the terms of reference for the Group;
  5. Noted the progress made by the Group with regard to the development of guidelines on creating a tool to measure domestic implementation of the FAL Convention; and,
  6. Invited Member States to submit concrete proposals on other elements such as checklist, questionary template or explanatory note to FAL 44.



CONSIDERATION AND ANALYSIS OF REPORTS AND INFORMATION ON PERSONS RESCUED AT SEA AND STOWAWAYS.  The Committee noted that, in accordance with the amendments to the FAL Convention adopted by resolution FAL.12(40), public authorities have to report all stowaway incidents of which they become aware to the IMO Secretary-General.  The Committee noted that the total number of reports received by the Organisation up to 31 December 2018 was 4,624, which involved 14,452 stowaways; and the fact that, despite the new facility in GISIS, the downward trend of notifications to IMO was pronounced and the number of reports submitted very low make the statistics not very reliable.


The Committee considered document FAL 43/13 by the P&I Clubs which provide information on an analysis of claims data collated by them on stowaway cases in policy years 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2017, the latest of which suggested that the scale of the stowaway problem was still significant.  While the number of incidents had nearly halved during the 11-year period from 2007 to 2017, the number of stowaways per incident  increased by nearly 50%, and the total, net of deductibles, to the P&I Clubs, including fines imposed by Governments on shipowners, had decreased by some 30%, from $14.3 million in 2007 to $9.5 in 2017.  The P&I Clubs noted a significant reduction in the number of incidents emanating from some West African ports, which could represent a positive outcome of the seminars on stowaways organised by IMO in Abidjan and Durban in 2014 and in Yaounde in 2017.  The document also mentioned the low number of stowaway incidents reported to IMO in GISIS compared with the numbers collected by the P&I Clubs and accordingly, the Committee urged Member States and international organisations to provide more timely and accurate information on stowaway cases to IMO in accordance with Standard 4.7.1 of the FAL Convention, making use of the GISIS module.  In the ensuing discussion, views were expressed that the efforts of authorities, including port and maritime authorities, to enhance enforcement of the ISPS Code and other relevant legislation had been an important factor in reducing the number of stowaway incidents.  Also, IMO should continue engaging with Member States to solve this problem and the Secretariat should explore the reasons for the disparity in reports from Member States and the statistics of the P&I Clubs.  Masters and shipowners should submit information to PSC when discovering stowaways after leaving port, for necessary follow-up and proper action by port States , together with the employment of appropriate verification procedures to determine the nationality of the stowaway.  As to persons rescued at sea, since the launch of the Inter-agency platform for information-sharing on migrant smuggling by sea in GISIS on 6 July 2015, only seven incidents have been entered in the database prompting the Committee to encourage Member States to better provide and update such information.



MARITIME CORRUPTION AND THE IMPACT ON GLOBAL TRADE, PORT GOVERNANCE AND SEAFARERS.  The Committee considered document FAL 43/17 on this subject submitted by 6 Member States and 14 NGOs (including InterManager) proposing a new output; also that amendments to the annex to the FAL Convention be considered and that guidance on best practices on the subject be developed.  Having noted the existing output 5.10, “Review and update the annex of the FAL Convention”, with the target completion year of 2021, under which proposals to include the issue of maritime corruption in the FAL Convention could be made, agreed to include in its 2020-2021 biennial agenda and the provisional agenda for FAL 44 an output on “Guidance to address maritime corruption”, with a target completion year of 2021.  The Secretariat’s proposal for using GISIS as a reporting and restricted dissemination mechanism, and any legal implications, will be discussed under this new output whilst the Secretariat was further instructed to liaise with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as appropriate, with a view to seeking their input for the benefit of future discussions.  On a related aspect to this subject introduced under ‘Any Other Business’, that of the problem encountered by Ship Suppliers when accessing port areas, the delegation of ISSA expressed concern that the application of ISPS by Member States in ports, even though the role of the ship supplier was properly reflected in the Code, was still creating unwarranted delays, obstruction and unfair charges when they wished to enter ports to deliver stores to ships.  ISSA requested Member States to take proper consideration of the application of the ISPS Code to facilitate the access of ship suppliers to port areas when serving the global fleet.



REGULATORY SCOPING EXERCISE FOR THE USE OF MARITIME AUTONOMOUS SURFACE SHIPS (MASS).  The Committee considered document FAL 43/19/2 by the Secretariat providing information related to the decisions of other IMO bodies in respect of MASS, in particular MSC 98, LEG 105, MSC 99, MEPC 73 and MSC 100; and a plan of work and procedures for a regulatory scoping exercise for the use of MASS by the FAL Committee, based on the plan of work approved by MSC 100 for the Maritime Safety Committee.  Note was taken of the decisions by LEG 106 with respect to the regulatory scoping exercise and gap analysis of Conventions emanating from the Legal Committee relating to MASS.  The Committee agreed to include the output on “Regulatory scoping exercise for the use of MASS” in its 2020-2021 biennial agenda and the provisional agenda for FAL 44 with a target completion year of 2020, informing C 122 accordingly; and, to utilize the framework for the regulatory scoping exercise approved by MSC 100.  A plan of work and procedures for the regulatory scoping exercise to achieve timely completion was produced by the Secretariat and endorsed by the Committee.




The next meeting, FAL 44, has been provisionally scheduled from 20 to 24 April 2020.


END                                                                                                   CAPTAIN PADDY McKNIGHT


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