IMO ASSEMBLY, 31st SESSION 25 November – 4 December 2019

The IMO Assembly held its 31st Session from Monday 25 November through Wednesday 4 December 2019 under the Presidency of Her Excellency Ms. Nomatemba Tambo, High Commissioner of South Africa, as recommended by the Heads of Delegation Meeting preceding A 31 and subsequently endorsed in Plenary. Ms Park Enna (ROK) was elected as first Vice-President and Mr Ivan Romero-Martinez (Honduras) as second Vice-President.


It will be recalled that the IMO Assembly is the highest Governing Body of the organisation and meets once every 2 years to approve the work programme, voting the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organisation.  It also elects the 40–Member  Council, for a two year interim period, charged with supervising the on-going conduct of IMO’s work, and provides a forum for the annual Bravery at Sea awards and that for the International Maritime Prize.


The meeting was attended by representatives from 168 Member States, plus 2 Associates, 1 from the UN and Special Agencies,10 Inter-Governmental and 35 Non-Governmental organisations.  Of the 1700 delegates who registered for the meeting, approximately 1400 attended, a record number of participants making it an even larger gathering than on previous occasions.


OPENING ADDRESS BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL.  The Secretary-General of IMO Mr Kitack Lim, opened the proceedings by calling for concrete action to address climate change and other challenges.  He said that “in so many areas, we are now at a crossroads and in the next biennium, IMO will need to deliver tangible results to ensure that our strategies, plans and roadmaps are achieved”.


Whilst delivering results on the mission of IMO to ensure maritime safety and security, environmental protection and the efficiency of shipping, he felt that we also face key changes to the status quo such as those posed by climate change, a universal effort to steer our world into a future of sustainable development, the increasing benefits and risks from digitalisation and the need to preserve our oceans.  Thus the shipping industry is going through fundamental change as it responds to all these challenges.


Mr Lim highlighted the efforts made by IMO Member States and all stakeholders to pave the way for a harmonised and smooth entry into force of the global sulphur limit, referred to as “IMO 2020”, which will cut sulphur oxide emissions from ships substantially.


Moving onto climate change, he said that Member States could be proud of the adoption, in 2018, of the initial IMO strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and the subsequent progress which has been made in reducing emissions.  However, we must now move faster towards implementation of the initial strategy by looking at new fuels from renewable and sustainable sources, novel means of propulsion, and new ways of maximising the efficiency of existing propulsion methods.


He went on to reiterate the Organisation’s commitment to fishing vessel safety, to combating marine litter, to incorporating technologies which increase connectivity and efficiency of working practices in maritime transport and to addressing maritime security challenges, including cyber risks, also piracy and armed robbery in a constantly changing world. Continuing the theme of safety at sea, it remained a core activity in his view, along with the well-being of over 1.6 million seafarers working on board seagoing ships every day, to deliver goods to people around the world.  He believed all present to be passionate about the safety of shipping and seafarers as well as seafarers’ rights, including fair treatment in the event of a maritime accident.  This dictates a need to keep regulations and guidance up to date, as seafarers have to adapt to increasing demands, many driven by technology and which have a significant impact on their day-to-day lives.


Mr Lim noted that the Assembly will hear reports on the Organisation’s work over the past two years and will be requested to approve the work programme plus the budget needed to guarantee its delivery for the next biennium, as well as to elect a new Council to administer IMO until the next Assembly.  A number of Assembly resolutions will be adopted, including one on “preserving the legacy of the World Maritime theme 2019, that of achieving a barrier-free working environment for women in the maritime sector”, and building on efforts during 2019 to promote gender equality.


Concluding his address, Mr Lim referred to the vital role shipping plays in sustainable development, an enabling factor for good.  He stated that “we have before us an opportunity to revolutionise an industry that is indispensable to the world, its economy and its people.  It therefore behoves us to seize that opportunity”.


ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL.  With regard to the current composition of the 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 Category (a) were unchallenged and remain in post.  In Category (b) however, 164 valid votes were cast for 11 contenders vying for the 10 places.   This resulted in promotion to the Council of ARGENTINA whilst SWEDEN [to much surprise] failed to be re-elected.  Finally, Category (c) was also keenly contested by 24 Member States seeking to win the 20 seats for which 165 valid votes were cast.  In the event, three contender States did not receive sufficient votes, they being NIGERIA, SAUDI ARABIA and POLAND whilst also, LIBERIA failed to gain re-selection.


The composition of the new Council in the English language alphabetical order within the 3 categories is therefore:




REFORM OF THE COUNCIL.  At its 120th session, the Council agreed that it was timely to consider reforms to the Council in order to better position the Organisation to achieve its objectives.  To this end, an open-ended Working Group was established which met at C 121 and C122.  The Chair of the Council provided a concise summary on their recommendations following which, the Assembly:

  • Endorsed the recommendation to extend the term of the Members of the Council to four years and instructed the Council to prepare amendments to the IMO Convention for consideration at A 32;
  • Endorsed the recommendation to expand the size of the Council to 52 Members;
  • Endorsed the recommendation that 12 seats shall be allocated to categories (a) and (b) each and 28 seats to category (c);
  • Adopted the draft Assembly resolution on Ethical considerations and guidelines for conduct of IMO Council Election campaigns as recommended by Committee 1; and,
  • Endorsed the work plan of the Council on reform.


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.


COMMITTEE 1.  In consideration of Committee 1’s report, the Assembly:


  • Noted that Committee 1 approved the updated list of outputs for the 2020-2021 biennium and associated draft resolution and, through Committee 2, recommended that the Plenary adopt the updated list of outputs for the 2020-2021 biennium and the associated resolution;
  • Adopted the draft resolution on Ethical considerations and guidelines for conduct of IMO Council election campaigns;
  • Approved, in general, the reports of the Legal Committee on its 105th and 106th sessions;
  • Adopted the draft resolution on measures to prevent the fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships;
  • Approved, in general, the reports of the Technical Cooperation Committee on its 68th and 69th sessions;
  • Expressed sincere appreciation to Mr Shiundu, outgoing Director of the Technical Cooperation division for his distinguished services to the Organisation;
  • Adopted the draft resolution on Arrears of contributions;
  • Approved the audited financial statements for the financial years ended 2017 and 2018, together with the External Auditor’s reports thereon;
  • Adopted the draft resolution on the Presentation of accounts and audit report;
  • Adopted the draft resolution on the Results-based budget for the 2020-2021 biennium;
  • Adopted the draft resolution on Relations with non-government organisations;
  • Adopted the draft resolution with the consolidated revised Rules and guidelines for consultative status of NGOs with the IMO; and,
  • Approved the report of Committee 1 in general.



COMMITTEE 2.  In consideration of Committee 2’s report, the Assembly:


  • Adopted the resolution on List of outputs for the 2020-2021 biennium;
  • Took action as recommended by the Committee, with regard to the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (as described under a separate heading);
  • Adopted a resolution relating to maritime safety;
  • Referred the issues related to the “Use and fitting of retro-reflective materials on life-saving appliances” to MSC 102 for consideration, as appropriate, inviting interested Member States and international organisations to submit relevant proposals;
  • Adopted four resolutions relating to both maritime safety and marine environment protection;
  • Invited MSC 102 and MEPC 75 to consider document A 31/10/2 relating to the draft Assembly resolution on Survey Guidelines under the Harmonised System of Survey and Certification (HSSC), 2019, in particular regarding the principle that draft amendments to the HSSC Guidelines should be linked to mandatory requirements;
  • Noted the agreement of MSC 101 that resolutions A.739(18) and A.789(19) should be revoked at a future session of the Assembly, subject to concurrence by MEPC;
  • Approved the reports of MSC on its 99th, 100th and 101st sessions;
  • Approved the reports of MEPC on its 72nd, 73rd and 74th sessions;
  • Approved the reports of the Facilitation Committee on its 42nd and 43rd sessions;
  • Noted the reports of the 40th and 41st Consultative Meetings of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the 13th and 14th Meetings of Contracting Parties to the London Protocol;
  • Noted that the Committee authorised the Secretariat to effect any necessary editorial corrections to the resolutions considered and their respective annexes, as appropriate;
  • Noted the status of Revisions of IACS UIs on service tank arrangements (UI SC 123) and on selective disconnection or shutdown and equipment operable after an emergency shutdown (UI MODU3); and,
  • Approved the report of Committee 2 in general.


INTERNATIONAL MARITIME PRIZE.  The Prize for 2018 was presented to Mr Joe Angelo, former Deputy Managing Director of INTERTANKO, he being the 39th recipient of the silver dolphin statuette  which is awarded annually by the IMO Council to the individual or organisation judged to have made the most significant contribution to the work and objectives of IMO.   Admiral Mohab Mameesh, formerly MD of the Suez Canal Authority, was the recipient of a special certificate in recognition of his contribution to the work of the Organisation.


IMO BRAVERY AWARD.  The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, which was established in 2005 and first presented in 2007, provides international recognition for those who, at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the environment. There are three categories of honour: first, the Award itself, second, Certificates of Commendation for acts of extraordinary bravery and third, Letters of Commendation for meritorious actions.  The top award this year was made to a member of the United States Coast Guard, Petty Officer Michael Kelly, for his incredible feat in enabling four seafarers to be winched from their liferaft to an attendant rescue helicopter in extreme Force 9/10 weather conditions.  Four Certificates, and eight Letters, of Commendation were also awarded.  It is noteworthy, that over the last 12 years, 19 recipients nominated by 13 countries/organisations have been bestowed with the Award medal whilst more than 55 certificates and 90 letters of commendation have also been earned.


WORLD MARITIME DAY.  The theme chosen by the Council for the 2018 celebrations was “IMO 70: our Heritage – Better Shipping for a Better Future” and, for 2019, “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.  A special feature of WMD at IMO Headquarters has always been a reception to bring together members of the diplomatic corps, the maritime community in London, representatives of various organisations and bodies associated with the work of the Organisation, port, shipowners, ship managers and seafarer representative organisations and the IMO Secretariat.  Both the 2018 and 2019 receptions were well attended, and most enjoyable, occasions.  The WMD parallel event in 2018 was celebrated in Szczecin, Poland; 2019 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia; and in 2020, will be staged in South Africa.  As to the WMD theme for 2020, the Council, at its 122nd session in July this year, endorsed the proposal “Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet” This will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and to showcase the work that the IMO and its Member States are undertaking to achieve the targets.


RELATIONS BETWEEN IMO AND NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS.  Since Assembly 30, 12 new applications for consultative status have been received.  Only 2 were granted namely that to the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA International) and the Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel Ltd. (SGMF) whilst the remaining 10 applicants were turned down.  The Assembly also endorsed the recommendation of Council  to maintain the consultative status of the current list of authorised organisations (which includes InterManager).  In addition, a revision of the Rules and Guidelines for Consultative Status of Non-Governmental International Organisations with the IMO, produced by Council 122, was adopted by an Assembly resolution following  recommendation by Committee 1.


THE ARCTIC COUNCIL.  The Assembly decided to approve the decision of the Council to endorse IMO’s observer status with the Arctic Council.  This will permit IMO to build on previous cooperation with the Arctic Council and engage in close collaboration on a range of issues related to shipping in the Arctic, in particular, search and rescue, pollution response, also maritime safety and protection of the marine environment. Gratitude was expressed to those IMO Member States which are also Arctic Council Members for supporting IMO’s application.


MEMBER STATE AUDIT (MSA) SCHEME.  Committee 2 considered document A 31/9, in particular para 21 which recommended the Assembly to:

  • Encourage Member States to nominate an individual authorised to access Member State audit reports through GISIS;
  • Invite audited Member States whose target deadlines for the implementation of the corrective action plan have been reached to provide the Secretariat with their comments on progress achieved;
  • Request MSC and MEPC to consider the CASRs containing lessons learned from 17 mandatory audits completed in 2017 and 2018, advising the Council as to the outcome of their consideration; and,
  • Encourage auditors to update their profiles in the E-roster and for those nominated for inclusion in the roster of auditors to use the procedures set out in Circular Letter No.3547.


DAY OF THE SEAFARER.  Celebrations of the Day of the Seafarer took place on 25 June in 2018 and 2019.  The Day has become extremely popular and enjoys well-supported events around the globe.  Importantly, it highlights the issues confronting the seafaring professions, such as the issue of seafarer’s welfare in 2018 and gender diversity in 2019.  Plans for when the occasion will be staged during 2020 were not discussed.


IMO GOODWILL AMBASSADORS SCHEME.  Document A 31/19(h)/Rev.1 informed the Assembly on the current status of the Scheme and provided amended Terms of Reference in its Annex.  A review of the programme was undertaken by the Internal Oversight and Ethics office in March 2019 in order to align the IMO-GMA scheme with Goodwill Ambassador programmes throughout the United Nations system.  The additional improvements made to the Scheme were endorsed by the Council in July 2019, ensuring that it will continue to operate efficiently within resource constraints.  Member Governments and intergovernmental organisations can participate in the Scheme for the period 2020 to 2021 by forwarding the revised endorsed nomination forms, which are available on the IMO website, to the External Relations Office, deadline for which is 15 December 2019.


GLOBAL MARITIME TRAINING INSTITUTIONS.  The President of the World Maritime University (WMU), Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, and the Director of the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), Professor David Attard, both delivered highly encouraging reports on the activities of their respective organisations since the Assembly last met.


APPROVAL OF THE RENEWAL OF APPOINTMENT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL.  Following the decision by Council to renew the mandate of Mr Kitack Lim as Secretary-General of the Organisation for another four-year final term, concluding on 31 December 2023, the Assembly approved the appointment in accordance with Article 22 of the IMO Convention and, to that effect, adopted the text of the resolution annexed to document

A 31/25.


MEETING OF COUNCIL 123.  Following dissolution of Assembly 31, the newly formed Council met for the first time as C123, the primary purpose being to appoint Council officials.  Mr. Xiaojie Zhang (CHINA) was re-elected as Chair of the Council whilst Mr. Edmundo Deville del Campo (PERU) was also re-elected as Vice-Chair of the Council, both by acclamation. The Council then approved the appointment of Mr Lim as Secretary-General of the Organisation for his second term and authorised Mr Zhang to sign the employment contract on behalf of the Organisation which he did simultaneously with Mr. Lim.

The Council decided to hold its 124th regular session at IMO Headquarters from 29 June to 3 July 2020 and noted that budgetry provisions have been made for 10 plenary sessions with full interpretation over a five-day meeting.


DATE OF NEXT MEETING.  Assembly 32 will be held during Autumn 2021 as decided by the Council.




END                                                                                    CAPTAIN PADDY MCKNIGHT


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