The IMO Committee on Facilitation held its 44th Session (FAL 44) from Monday 28 through Friday 02 October 2020 under the Chairmanship of Mrs Marina Angsell (SWEDEN), supported by her Vice-Chair, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman (NIGERIA), both of whom were subsequently re-elected.  This was the first virtual regular session of an IMO Committee to be held on-line using the KUDO platform and it proved to be a steep learning curve both for the system and its operatives, although it was extremely successful, especially given the requirement for simultaneous interpretation into the traditional six languages of Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.


The meeting was ably conducted on line by Mrs Angsell supported by IMO Moderator, Mr Julian Abril whose job it was on behalf of the Chair, to control the sequence of delegates requesting to speak. The traditional on site working hours were reduced from 5 to 3, working on a daily time slot from 1100 to 1400 which catered for all time zones, plus a daily one hour precursor which enabled Mr Paoletti, Head of Meeting Services and Interpretation Section Conference Division, to efficiently check KUDO connection with all participants.


ADRESS BY THE IMO SECRETARIAL GENERAL.  Mr Kitack Lim, the SG-IMO warmly greeted  all delegations to the meeting, stating that two weeks ago, an extraordinary session of every IMO Committee agreed on the administrative matters necessary to facilitate the holding of virtual regular sessions of all Committees during the COVID-19 pandemic.  He asserted that, taking into account the constraints imposed globally by the pandemic and subsequent restrictions on travel, as well as the profound changes the current situation has brought to traditional working methods, the IMO Secretariat continued doing its utmost to best serve Member States.  He expected that the Chair would propose streamlining the agenda for the meeting in view of the reduced time available and stressed the importance of concentrating effort on the most pressing items, leaving other matters for the next session in 2021, hopefully under much more “normal” conditions.

In this regard, a main topic of the session would be finalizing the revised version of the IMO Compendium, an instrument critical towards accelerating digitalisation in shipping business in the ship/port interface, a matter of great importance which has gained enormously in significance during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Other important topics for consideration include the impact of the pandemic on facilitation and, in particular, possible amendments to the FAL Convention to minimize the impact of any future pandemic as well as discussions on guidance to address maritime corruption.

Mr Lim wished delegates well in their deliberations before inviting the Chair of the FAL Committee to open the forty-fourth session.


Following the S-G’s welcoming address, the Chair informed the Committee that, as forewarned by the Secretary General, discussion would be limited to a relatively small number of items from the original Agenda; these naturally would be dictated by the time available, and a summary of those discussed is given later in this report.  Items postponed to FAL 45 were then agreed as follows:


  • Consideration and adoption of proposed amendments to the Convention;
  • Consideration of descriptions of Maritime Services in the context of e-navigation;
  • Development of amendments to the ‘Recommendations on the establishment of National Facilitation Committees’ (FAL.5/Circ.2);
  • Unsafe mixed migration by sea;
  • Consideration and analysis of reports and information on persons rescued at sea and stowaways; also,
  • Regulatory scoping exercise for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS).


The virtual meeting was well attended by representatives from  Member Governments,  Associate Members,  UN and Specialised Agencies,  Intergovernmental Organisations, and  Non-Governmental organisations.


During preliminary discussions, the Committee noted that, pursuant to the request by Member States, the Secretary-General had convened an extraordinary session of all IMO Committees.  In addition to resolving administrative matters, agreement was also sought on a number of procedural issues concerning the holding of remote sessions of the Committees.  The session was extended by one day (MSC/ES.2) to enable MSC to discuss concerns regarding compliance with international regulations for ensuring the safety, health and welfare of crews and the prevention of fatigue, also in particular, the crafting of a draft MSC resolution to urgently address the ongoing crew change crisis.  As a result, the Committee noted that MSC/ES.2 had indeed adopted the 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 had invited other IMO Committees to note and consider taking action with regard to the resolution.


REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THE ANNEX TO THE FAL CONVENTION.  Taking into account the time limitations during this remote session, the Committee decided not to establish a working group on facilitation instruments, and to postpone the approval of amendments to the FAL Convention Annex until FAL 45. However, the work carried out by the Correspondence Group (CG) led by Mr Fabien Joret (France) was noted with appreciation and the Committee took the following actions on the CG’s report:

  • Agreed to delete all the lists of data provided for each of the FAL declarations and replace those lists in Standard 2.10.5 with a single reference to a table that would sum up all the data required in the various declarations;
  • Agreed to merge, in a single Standard, the existing Standards related to the authentication requirements for each of the declarations in the FAL Convention Annex (new Standard 1.8.2); and,
  • Approved a questionnaire on the use of the document Cargo Declaration, inviting Member States to complete it by 15 December 2020. The answers given would enable the CG to determine how FAL Form 2 is used in practice and for what purpose, leading to a decision as to whether it should be deleted from the FAL Convention.


The Committee next considered a submission by Cameroon and Ghana (FAL 44/4/1) proposing to amend section 4 of the annex to the FAL Convention, based on seminars in Africa as recently as 2018, to reduce the number of incidents involving stowaways. Following discussion, the Committee instructed the CG on the Review and Update of the FAL Convention to consider the proposal.


It was agreed to re-establish the CG on the Review and Update of the FAL Convention Annex, continuing under the coordination of France and instructed it to:

  • Further consider the draft definition of “authenticate”;
  • On the basis of the questionnaire, consider whether FAL Form 2 is still required, in view of the use of the manifest and the requirement of the pre-arrival and pre-departure information;
  • Further examine the drafting of Recommended Practice 3.10 and its related provisions to provide clarity and ensure consistency in their application;
  • Further consider the proposals regarding stowaways included in the annex to document FAL 42/10/1 and in document FAL 44/4/1;
  • Examine whether some current standards and Recommended Practices are relevant only in a paper environment but not in the case of exchanging information electronically;
  • Consider the suggestions for possible amendments to the FAL Convention Annex to ensure the facilitation of maritime traffic during a public health emergency of international concern given in the Annex to document FAL 44/20/5; and,
  • Identify any other areas where amendments might be needed in order to ensure a harmonized and more effective application of the FAL Convention Annex.


REVIEW AND REVISION OF THE IMO COMPENDIUM ON FACILITATION AND ELECTRONIC BUSINESS, INCLUDING ADDITIONAL E-BUSINESS SOLUTIONS.  The Committee recalled that FAL 43 had agreed to move the future maintenance of the Compendium from WCO to IMO and to bring the work to the attention of MSC, notably in relation to e-navigation and Maritime Services.  It had also converted the target year of the output to ‘continuous’ and made provision for electronic access to the IMO Compendium through an IMO Server, as is now the case.

Further, FAL 43 had approved FAL.5/Circ.41 on ‘Revised IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business and a priority list of data elements’ whilst also agreeing the terms of reference for the ‘IMO Expert Group on Data Harmonisation’ (EGDH), to be hosted at IMO twice annually.

The partnership agreement between IMO, WCO, UNECE and ISO concerning the maintenance of the IMO Reference Data Model which entered into force on 15 March 2020 was acknowledged.


The first meeting of the Expert Group on Data Harmonisation (EGDH) was held from 4 to 8 November 2019, chaired by Mr.Mikael Renz (Sweden).  Documents submitted provided modelling of the data sets approved by EGDH 1: the revised Data structure report (table 2 of the Compendium) and the revised UML class diagram (figure 3 of the Compendium).  UNECE et al introduced amendments to the data set in the Compendium approved by FAL 43 including some inconsistencies, following the outcome of EGDH 1, found by the co-sponsors during the modelling exercise.

Delegations welcomed the progress made by EGDH, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had shown the relevance of digitalisation.  Views were also expressed that: prioritising real-time data in the work of the Compendium was important to make automation possible; privacy and cybersecurity are important aspects of electronic data exchange; and,data sets on privately contracted armed guards data could be considered for inclusion in the IMO Compendium.


A Working Group (WG1) was formed on Electronic Business, and, taking into account the comments and decisions taken in plenary, WG1 was instructed to:

  • Finalise the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business;
  • Review the priority list of data sets, if necessary;
  • Prepare the working procedure of EGDH, taking into account the proposal to include sequence diagrams;
  • Amend the terms of reference of EGDH if necessary;
  • Further develop the Guidelines for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window;
  • Consider whether it is necessary to establish a correspondence group (CG) on guidelines for an electronic signature system for the purpose of digital information exchange and, if so, prepare terms of reference for consideration by the Committee; and,
  • Develop terms of reference for a CG to work on developing guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls in expectation of Council 124’s endorsement on the issue.


Having completed its work in compliance with its terms of reference, WG1 submitted a report to the Committee for approval.  This was granted in general, and in particular, the Committee:

  • Agreed to issue a revision of the IMO Compendium Circular in case of minor amendments such as textual changes, and to issue a new FAL circular for major amendments that affect the data set and data models as the procedural means in keeping track of the progress in the IMO Compendium;
  • Noted IALA’s invitation to IMO to become a Maritime Resources Name (MRN) domain manager;
  • Agreed to submit DMRs to UNECE for the review of the code list of UN/EDIFACT 8273; to add ISO 7372/UNTDED/UN/EDIFACT a new Tag UID 7411: and, to include a code list on “Transfer of personnel” in the review of the code list of UN/EDIFACT 8025;
  • Noted that the modelling of the Maritime Declaration of Health was not finalized yet and would be discussed at the next meeting of EGDH;
  • Approved the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business;
  • Approved the priority list of Data sets;
  • Approved the working procedure of EGDH, including the new format for the priority list of data sets;
  • Approved the terms of reference of EGDH;
  • Noted the close relationship between the guidance for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window and the guidelines for harmonised communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls, and establish a single correspondence group on developing guidelines for electronic signature systems and operational port data for the purpose of digital information exchange to develop both sets of guidelines, in expectation that C 124 will endorse the new output; and,
  • Approved the terms of reference of the correspondence group on developing guidelines for electronic signature systems and operational port data for the purpose of digital information exchange, subject to the output on this issue being endorsed by C 124.


GUIDANCE TO ADDRESS MARITIME CORRUPTION.  By way of background, FAL 42 requested the IMO Secretariat, in coordination with the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division (LED) to advise FAL 43 on a possible way forward to address maritime corruption, including alternatives for using GISIS as a reporting mechanism.  FAL 43 recognised that capacity-building on the subject of corruption in the maritime industry could contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16, Target 16.5 (Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms), and had agreed to inform the Technical Cooperation Committee about its decision to embark on this work. It was agreed that the proposal for using GISIS as a reporting and restricted dissemination mechanism , and any legal implications, should be discussed under the new output and LED was invited to inform FAL 44 regarding potential legal exposure, if any, pertaining to the dissemination of potential cases of corruption to parties concerned.

During discussion, the Committee considered document FAL 44/13 (Liberia et al, of which InterManager is one of a co-signatorys), providing a proposal with respect to developing IMO guidance to address bribery and corruption in the maritime sector, aiming to align actions in the maritime sector with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) (General Assembly resolution 58/4 of 31 October 2003) and other related instruments,

The Director of the Legal Division stated that the questions raised at FAL 43 were still valid but would benefit from a thorough discussion by the Committee before a complete analysis of a potential legal exposure could be considered, although in terms of liability, the comprehensively worded disclaimer already displayed in GISIS and the Organisation’s privileges and immunities, provided a fair measure of legal protection.

Views were expressed as follows during the subsequent discussion:

  • A correspondence group should be established with a view to continuing the development of guidance for consideration by FAL 45;
  • Currently, there are no applicable industry standards and, therefore, the draft guidance in the annex to FAL 44/13 should be approved as interim guidance;
  • The title of the guidance should read “IMO Guidance to implement and embrace anti-bribery and anti-corruption practices and procedure”
  • That future submissions related to a database are necessary in order to further consider this matter;
  • Confidentiality and data sensitivity are critical elements which need to be considered in the development of the guidance and all political and legal ramifications will need to be carefully considered before a decision to develop a database is made; and,
  • Any decision to develop a database will have to be approved by the IMO Council as it has budgetary implications for the Organisation.


The Committee agreed to establish the Correspondence Group on Guidance to Address Maritime Corruption under the coordination of the Marshall Islands and instructed it, taking into account document FAL 44/13 as well as comments made and decisions taken at FAL 44, to:

  • Develop draft Guidance to implement and embrace anti-bribery and anti-corruption practices and procedures, based on the annex to document FAL 44/13; and,
  • Submit a report in time for consideration at FAL 45.


TECHNICAL COOPERATION ACTIVITIES RELATED TO FACILITATION OF MARITIME TRAFFIC.  Document FAL 44/15 submitted by the Secretariat, reported on the status of activities relevant to the implementation of the FAL Convention, conducted under the Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme (ITCP) in the period from December 2018 to December 2019, noting that:

  • Two national seminars have been held, in Djibouti and Georgia, to promote accession to the FAL Convention and encourage better implementation of its provisions. The seminars addressed, in particular, the requirements of the FAL Convention, electronic means for the clearance of ships, and the use of the single window; and,
  • The regional seminar scheduled to be held in Alexandra, Egypt, has been postponed.


WORK PROGRAMME.  The Committee invited Council to endorse two new outputs:

  • Development of guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international traffic; and,
  • Development of guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls.




The Committee noted that the dates for FAL 45 have not yet been decided and will be determined after discussion at C 124 on prioritisation and reconstruction of the IMO meetings schedule.

With this in mind, Council meeting C 124 has been scheduled to take place (virtually) from 12 to 14 October and likewise, the Maritime Safety Committee meeting MSC 102 from 4 through 11 November 2020.

END                                                                                                   CAPTAIN PADDY McKNIGHT



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