The world’s marine salvors have welcomed the International Maritime Organization’s adoption of a new Wreck Removal Convention
(WRC). International Salvage Union (ISU) President Hans van Rooij says: “The new Convention clarifies many issues of importance to Coastal States and salvors. Times have changed and the main motivation for wreck removal today is often concern for the environment, rather than any threat to safety of navigation. We now have a new international instrument which recognises both priorities, in full measure.”
The new convention defines a wreck-related hazard as a “danger or impediment to navigation” or a condition or threat that “may reasonably be expected to result in major harmful consequences to the marine environment, or damage to the coastline or related interests of one or more states.” A “wreck” includes not only a ship but any object that was aboard a ship.
The new convention was adopted at an IMO diplomatic conference in Nairobi (May 14-18). The Nairobi WRC will enter into force 12 months after ratification by 10 states. The Nairobi WRC requires shipowners to obtain insurance cover for the costs of wreck removal. Coastal States have the power of direct action against insurers. The convention provisions apply to the wrecks of vessels of 300 GT and over.
The ISU has consultative status with the IMO. The conference was attended by ISU Legal Adviser Archie Bishop. He says: “The Nairobi WRC is an important step forward. This instrument is unusual, however, in that it was principally designed for use in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Normally, law is made for application in a jurisdiction, rather than in international waters. As a result, this convention’s provisions, insofar as they relate to the EEZ, apply only when both Flag State and Coastal State are parties to the new convention.