The IMO Council held its 124th session (C124) remotely from Monday 12 through Wednesday 14 October 2020 under the coordination of the Chair, Mr Xiaojie Zhang (CHINA) supported by his Vice Chair, Mr Edmundo Deville del Campo (PERU).
PARTICIPANTS. All Council Members that had registered on the Online Meeting Registration System (OMRS) and were listed as participants in the remote session were deemed to be “present” within the rules of procedure of the Council, and in accordance with the interim guidance to facilitate remote sessions of the IMO Council during the COVID-19 pandemic . A number of Observer Member States also took part in the meeting, together with Associate Members, Intergovernmental organisations, and Non-governmental organisations.
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. This agenda item covered a wide range of topics:
- Human resource matters including amendments to the Staff Regulations and Rules. In this regard, the Secretary-General was encouraged to continue his efforts regarding the achievement of gender balance and equitable geographical distribution of staff, reporting further information on progress achieved to the 125th session of the Council;
- The Financial report and audited financial statements for the period ended 31 December 2019 to which Council noted and welcomed the unqualified opinion of the External Auditor in addition to expressing appreciation for the Secretary-General’s stewardship of the Organisation’s Funds and his report to the Council;
- A Report on Investments and on Contributions and with regard to the latter, Council urged all Member States that had not yet done so to fulfil their financial obligations to the Organisation as early as possible; and,
- Budgetary matters (update on 2020, outlook for 2021 and framework for 2022-2023) budget. During discussion, Council approved, in principle, the transfer of resources between strategic directions by the Secretary-General as necessary, reflecting the need to reallocate existing resources to meeting changing priorities. The conclusion that expenditure for 2020 could be maintained within the approved allotment across all Funds and that no additional funds would be required for 2021 was welcomed by Council.
CONSIDERATION OF THE REPORT OF ALCOMES/ES. Although this agenda item was not discussed due to time constraints, the simultaneous remote extraordinary session of all Committees (ALCOM/ES) jointly approved ‘Interim guidance to facilitate remote sessions of the Committees during the COVID-19 pandemic’; and, the Marine Safety Committee adopted resolution MSC.473(ES.2) on ‘Recommended action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic’ and invited other IMO committees to note and consider taking action with regard to the resolution.
EXTERNAL RELATIONS. This item covered a spread of topics as follows:
- Relations with the United Nations and specialised agencies. Although not discussed due to time constraints, with respect to the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Council intended requesting the Secretary-General to keep it informed of any relevant developments;
- Relations with intergovernmental organisations. Again, not discussed but expressions of interest have been received from two intergovernmental organisations, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC) wishing to enter into agreements of cooperation with IMO enabling them to participate in IMO meetings. Consideration of new draft agreements of cooperation were accordingly postponed by default to Council’s 125th session;
- Relations with non-governmental organisations. The Council noted that new applications for consultative status with IMO had been received from nine non-governmental organisations. A group of Council Members were selected to screen the new applications, working intersessionally and remotely, comprising representatives from the delegations of Brazil, Canada, Greece, France, South Africa and Thailand, under the coordination of Mr Mehmet Guler of Turkey. Delegations from other IMO Member States were also authorised to participate in the group’s work;
- International Maritime Prize. The Council unanimously awarded the International Maritime Prize for 2019 to Mr Peter Hinchliffe (lately S-G of the International Chamber of Shipping) in recognition for his invaluable contribution, extending over many years, to the work and objectives of the Organisation in particular, and the international maritime community as a whole;
- Day of the Seafarer. The theme for this year, “Seafarers are key workers”, called on Member States to recognise that the ability of seafarers to deliver vital goods is central to responding to the pandemic. The campaign encouraged all Member States to treat Seafarers with the respect and dignity that they deserve so that they can keep world trade moving. In support of the campaign, a Webinar was held on Friday 26 June, addressing issues faced by Seafarers during the pandemic, most notably crew changes and repatriation. The panel (IMO, ICS & ITF) urged countries to implement the protocols on safe crew changes developed by the Maritime Industry and circulated by IMO;
- IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. The Council endorsed the decisions of the Panel of Judges to bestow the 2020 IMO Award on Mr Marcio Santos Teixeira and Mr Fabio Rodrigues Alves de Abreu, members of the Sao Paulo Pilots, nominated by Brazil; as well as on Petty Officer Ralph Ofalla Barajan of the Philippine Coast Guard, nominated by the Philippines. In addition, the Council endorsed the decision of the Panel of Judges to award a well merited four Certificates of Commendation plus a further ten Letters of Commendation; and,
- IMO Goodwill Maritime Ambassador Scheme. The Council noted the information set out in document C 124/5(g), as well as that provided orally by the Secretary-General. Following the decision taken by C 122 to streamline the scheme and to call for fresh nominations which were duly processed, the Goodwill Maritime Ambassadors were appointed for a 2-year term commencing on 1 January 2020 and expiring on 31 December 2021. The 39 IMO-GMAs represent 26 nominating authorities, currently 22 Member States and 4 Non-Governmental Organisations.
REPORT ON THE STATUS OF CONVENTIONS AND OTHER MULTILATERAL INSTRUMENTS. The Council endorsed and supported the Secretary-General’s continuing efforts encouraging 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 2012 Cape Town Agreement and the 2010 HNS Protocol to enable their entry into force as soon as possible.
MATTERS ARISING FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. The Council endorsed the approach adopted by the Secretary-General to hold remote multilingual meetings and gain experience in the use of video conferencing platforms, while closely monitoring developments in this fast-moving sector in order to determine the best way forward in the longer term. He was also encouraged to keep Member States informed of developments across the United Nations system in relation to the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as necessary.
PLACE, DATE AND DURATION OF THE NEXT SESSION OF THE COUNCIL (C 125). A 1-day extraordinary session of the Council will take place before May 2021, also, the 125th session of Council is expected to be scheduled in late June or early July 2021, further details of which will be communicated by the Secretariat in due course.
SUPPLEMENTARY AGENDA ITEMS. A number of items were discussed under this heading:
- Urgent matters emanating from the forty-fourth session of the Facilitation Committee. The Council endorsed a new FAL Committee output on “Development of guidelines for harmonised communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls”; and the holding of two intersessional meetings of the IMO Expert Group on Data Harmonisation;
- IMO public website. The Council took note of the re-design of the IMO public website by the Secretariat which provides better access to information by delegations and more accurately promotes the work of the Organisation;
- Proposal by the Chair and Vice-Chair to progress the work on Council reform. Note was taken of the information set out in document C 124/10/1 by the Chair and Vice-Chair on proposals to progress the work on Council reform. In particular, the Council re-established the Council Working Group on Council Reform as an open-ended Working Group, to meet intersessionally and remotely to prepare draft amendments to the IMO Convention as well as carrying out its work in accordance with approved terms of reference given by Council. It was also agreed to hold the thirty-third extraordinary session of the Council remotely, as a 1-day session prior to May 2021, for the sole purpose of approving amendments to the IMO Convention submitted by the intersessional Working Group. Member States will thus receive them 6 months in advance of A 32, and enable transmission of comments to the thirty-second regular session of the Assembly, for its consideration;
- Chair and Vice-Chair for the 2020-2021 biennium. The Council noted that the current Chair of the Council, Mr. Xiaojie Xhang, would be stepping down on completion of the current Council session and joined the Secretary-General in expressing its deep appreciation to Mr Zhang for his excellent service as Chair of the Council since December 2017. It was also noted that, in accordance with rules 19 and 20 of its rules of procedure, the current Vice-Chair, Mr Edmundo Deville del Campo, will act as Chair, pending the election of a new Chair at the first meeting of the Council following the thirty-second regular session of the Assembly in 2021; and,
- Considerations on convening the remote thirty-second regular session of the Assembly during COVID-19. The Council noted the information set out in document C 124/10/2 by the United Arab Emirates, on considerations for convening the thirty-second regular session of the Assembly remotely in the event that the COVID-19 pandemic was still ongoing at that time. Council agreed to forward the proposals made by the UAE to C 125 for consideration which include: the development of draft interim guidance to facilitate remote sessions of the Assembly during the pandemic; a waiver of the relevant Rules of Procedure of the Assembly to allow for holding the thirty-second regular session and other committees established, also adopting the draft interim guidance; reviewing all relevant policies, procedures and guidelines, in particular, voting procedures related to the elections or other activities that may require voting; and, the connectivity and use of an e-conferencing platform to accommodate the large number of participants during Assembly session with integration to the IMO interpretation services as well as the development of necessary arrangements, as a contingency, for alternative means in case of technical failures, aimed at ensuring equal and full participation. The Council requested the Secretary-General to keep it informed of the progress made in the planning and preparation for the thirty-second regular session of the Assembly and noted that he would submit a comparative analysis of remote meeting modalities, including voting and e-conferencing capabilities, to the 125th session of the Council.
CAPTAIN PADDY MCKNIGHT