IMO: Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea

Friday, October 18, 2002
IMO will consider proposed amendments to expand the scope and effectiveness of regulations concerning the prosecution and extradition of those engaged in the perpetration of unlawful acts at sea during the 85th session of the Organization's Legal Committee (IMO Headquarters, London, October 22 - 24 ). The Committee will review the text of draft proposed amendments to the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention) and its related Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, 1988. In particular, the proposed amendments, developed by a Correspondence Group, would expand the list of offences in article 3 of the SUA Convention to ensure that it sufficiently covers a wide range of terrorist acts and would introduce a variety of measures aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the Convention. The review of the SUA Convention and its related Protocol followed the unanimous adoption in November 2001 by the IMO Assembly of resolution A.924(22) calling for a review of measures and procedures to prevent acts of terrorism which threaten the security of passengers and crews and the safety of ships. The main purpose of the SUA convention and its related protocol is to ensure that appropriate action is taken against persons committing unlawful acts against ships. In the present Convention, these acts include the seizure of ships by force; acts of violence against persons on board ships; and the placing of devices on board a ship which are likely to destroy or damage it. The proposed amendments would significantly broaden the range of offences and make it more relevant to modern conditions.

The Convention obliges Contracting Governments either to extradite or prosecute alleged offenders thereby ensuring that those responsible for perpetrating acts of violence against or on board ships, will be brought to justice, wherever in the world they seek to hide. The SUA Convention has been ratified by 73 States, representing 75.4 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage and the SUA Protocol has been ratified by 66 States, representing 75.1 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage Wreck removal The Committee is expected to consider the text of the draft wreck removal convention (WRC), with a view to making a recommendation to the IMO Assembly as to the holding of a diplomatic conference to adopt it. The WRC is intended to provide international rules on the rights and obligations of States and shipowners in dealing with wrecks and drifting or sunken cargo which may pose a hazard to navigation and/or pose a threat to the marine environment. The draft Convention currently being considered by the Legal Committee is intended to clarify rights and obligations regarding the identification, reporting, locating and removal of hazardous wrecks, in particular those found beyond territorial waters. The current session is expected to address some fundamental issues such as the definitions of "wreck" and "hazard", the "convention area", the "State whose interests are most directly threatened by the wreck" and issues concerning liability, compensation and financial security. Other matters Other items on the Legal Committee's agenda include issues relating to monitoring the implementation of the HNS Convention, which forms a vital link in the compensatory regime for pollution damage at sea. The Committee will also receive an oral report of the fourth session of the Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers, which developed proposed questionnaires to be distributed in order to monitor implementation of previous Assembly resolutions and guidelines on these issues. The Legal Committee will meet for three days (Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 October), alongside the International Conference on the Revision of the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 1974) which opens on Monday 21 October and continues on Friday 25 October through to Friday November 1. The Conference is expected to adopt a Protocol to revise the Athens Convention (see briefing 31/2002).

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