Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
A new international convention on wreck removal has been adopted in Kenya. The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, will provide the legal basis for States to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have the potential to affect adversely the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine environment.

The convention was adopted by a five-day Diplomatic Conference - held in the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for safety and security at sea and prevention of marine pollution from ships - which was addressed by His Excellency, the President of Kenya, the Honourable Mwai Kibaki.

The Convention will fill a gap in the existing international legal framework, by providing the first set of uniform international rules aimed ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea. The new Convention also includes an optional clause enabling States Parties to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea. Although the incidence of marine casualties has decreased dramatically in recent years, mainly thanks to the work of IMO and the persistent efforts of Governments and industry to enhance safety in shipping operations, the number of abandoned wrecks, estimated at almost thirteen hundred worldwide, has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal States and shipping in general have, if anything, become more acute.

These problems are three-fold: first, and depending on its location, a wreck may constitute a hazard to navigation, potentially endangering other vessels and their crews; second, and of equal concern, depending on the nature of the cargo, is the potential for a wreck to cause substantial damage to the marine and coastal environments; and third, in an age where goods and services are becoming increasingly expensive, is the issue of the costs involved in the marking and removal of hazardous wrecks. The convention attempts to resolve all of these and other, related, issues.

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