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Monday, June 24, 2024

IMO Finalizes Guidelines on Fair Treatment of Seafarers

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 29, 2024

Source: IMO

Source: IMO

The IMO's Legal Committee met in person for its 111th session at IMO Headquarters in London from April 22 to 26 April 2024, and finalized guidelines on the fair treatment of seafarers detained on suspicion of committing crimes.

These are to be applied where seafarers may be detained in a jurisdiction other than that of the seafarers' nationality on suspicion of committing crimes during the course of their employment on board a ship.

The objective is to ensure that seafarers are treated fairly during any investigation and detention by public authorities, and that detention is for no longer than necessary, in accordance with the laws of the port or coastal states. The guidelines contain guidance for port states, flag states, coastal states, states of which the seafarer is a national, shipowners and seafarers.

The finalized guidelines will be submitted as a base document to the Joint IMO-ILO Tripartite Working Group (JTWG) for further refinement. The JTWG will then submit the guidelines to the Legal Committee and to the ILO Governing Bodies for endorsement.

Other business covered at the meeting include:

New task force to review abandonment database

Seafarer abandonment happens when shipowners fail to fulfil obligations to seafarers related to timely repatriation, payment of outstanding wages or salary, and even the provision of basic necessities such as food, accommodation and medical care.  

The Committee noted the alarming rise in the number of cases of abandonment reported via the IMO/ILO abandonment database, including a considerable number that remain unresolved. In 2023, 142 new cases were reported, compared to 109 incidents in 2022, 95 in 2021 and 85 cases in 2020. Previously, between 40 to 55 incidents were reported each year between 2017 and 2019, while a range of 12 to 19 cases were reported per year between 2011 and 2016. In first four months of 2024, a further 100 cases were reported. Thus, the numbers are likely to surpass last year’s record of reported cases of abandonment.  

The Committee agreed that reporting information in a timely manner is critical to resolving cases. Both flag States and port states play an important role in verifying financial security for abandoned seafarers on board their vessels and in their ports.

The Committee established a new Task Force to review and update (or redevelop) the joint ILO/IMO abandonment database, including all procedural, policy, financial and technical aspects. Created in 2004, this database contains regularly updated information on vessels and seafarers that have been reported as abandoned worldwide. An upgrade of the system would enhance data accuracy and monitoring capabilities and support the swifter resolution of abandonment cases.  

The Task Force will submit a report for further consideration by the Joint ILO/IMO Tripartite Working Group to identify and address seafarers' issues and the human element (JTWG). The JTWG will conduct a final review and subsequently provide a clear report to the ILO Governing Body and the IMO Legal Committee for endorsement.  

The updated database will support the implementation of the Guidelines on how to deal with seafarer abandonment cases, adopted at LEG 110.

Fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships - work on due diligence continues

The Committee agreed to continue its work to address the fraudulent registration of ships and the fraudulent use of the IMO identification number schemes. This includes addressing measures to be exercised by flag state administrations, in line with their obligations to have adequate control over their ships.  

The Committee re-established the Correspondence Group on Due Diligence and IMO Identification Number Schemes, to continue to define and develop the elements of "due diligence" to be exercised in the process of registration of ships under the flag of a State. This pertains to vessels in the IMO unique company and registered owner identification number scheme. The Correspondence Group will report back on progress to the Committee at LEG 112.

New output to be developed on guidelines or best practices on the registration of ships  

The Committee tasked the Correspondence Group on Due Diligence to work inter-sessionally to develop a draft proposal for a new output on guidelines or best practices on the registration of ships, for consideration at LEG 112.  

This follows recommendations made in the final report by the Study Group on Fraudulent Registration and Fraudulent Registries of Ships, which was considered by the Committee. The Study Group was established at LEG 109 to initiate a comprehensive study to address all issues arising in connection with fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries of ships, and possible measures to prevent and combat them. It was composed of the World Maritime University (WMU), the IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMO IMLI) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  

In addition to the development of guidelines or best practices for the registration of ships, including stringent measures to deter fraudulent ship registrations practices, the final report by the Study Group recommended a number of actions. These include, amongst others, enhancing existing tools to counter fraudulent ship registration; development of harmonized procedures for registration; addressing current loopholes; conducting awareness campaigns; and making improvements to IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) – specifically the database on ship particulars, which contains information on individual ships (IMO number, flag etc.) and indicates when a ship is identified as  “false flag” or “under UN sanctions”.  

The Committee agreed that the recommendations contained in the report should continue to be considered.  

Revised Guidelines for accepting Insurance Companies and Certificates approved  

The Committee approved the revision of the Guidelines for accepting insurance companies, financial security providers and the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Associations (P & I Clubs) (CL No.3464).  The updated Guidelines will be issued via a LEG circular.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide state parties to conventions covering liability issues with guidance for accepting insurance companies and certificates or similar documentation from insurance companies, financial security providers, International Group (IG) P&I Clubs and P&I Clubs outside the IG. Relevant conventions include:

• the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992, as amended (1992 Civil Liability Convention);

• the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001 (2001 Bunkers Convention);

• the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007 (2007 Nairobi WRC); and  

• the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 1996, as amended by the Protocol of 2010 to the Convention (the 2010 HNS Convention).

The revised Guidelines include a list of definitions and a new section on ‘Criteria for accepting Insurance Certificates’. The criteria and documentation for accepting insurers and insurance certificates have also been modified and expanded.  

Information brochure on the Athens Convention approved

The Committee approved the text of an information brochure on the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea, 2002. The brochure is intended as a guide for claimants on claims for death or personal injury to a passenger, or for the loss of or damage to luggage or vehicles during carriage by sea under the Protocol. The brochure will be made available on the IMO website, with regular updates to be made by the IMO Secretariat, as necessary.  

Information brochures currently available online include:

• Bunkers Convention

• Civil Liability Convention

• Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention.

Measures to assess the need to amend liability limits approved

The Legal Committee deals with issues related to liability and compensation for damage caused by ships, such as pollution.  

The Committee approved the following methodologies to transparently assess the need to amend liability limits: 

• methodology for the collection and reporting of experiences of incidents and resulting damage; and 

• methodology for assessing changes in monetary value. 

These methodologies will be issued as an annex to a LEG circular. This completes the work under this output.

Revised roadmap for Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)  

The Committee approved a revised road map for addressing legal issues related to Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) - commercial vessels that can operate (to varying degrees) independent of human interaction. 

Under the revised roadmap, the Committee is expected to: 

• LEG 112 (Spring, 2025): assess the finalized non-mandatory MASS Code and consider a need for amendments to, or interpretations of, treaties under the purview of the Legal Committee based on the outcomes of the MASS-JWG, MSC and FAL; consider proposals to develop guidelines on the implementation of LEG instruments by MASS;  

• LEG 113 (Spring, 2026): assess the approved mandatory MASS Code and consider a need for amendments to, or interpretations of, treaties under the purview of the Legal Committee;

• LEG 114 (Spring, 2027): adopt or approve amendments to, or interpretations of, treaties under the purview of the Legal Committee.
The Committee approved the report of the MSC-LEG-FAL Joint Working Group on MASS (MASS-JWG), which held its second session in April 2023.  

The Committee supported the actions outlined in the MASS-JWG report, concurring with key elements related to the role and responsibilities of the MASS master, MASS crew and remote operation centers. Among these, MASS-JWG had agreed that:  

• there should be a human master responsible for a MASS, regardless of mode of operation or degree/level of autonomy; 

• the master may not need to be on board, depending on the technology used in the MASS and the human presence on board, if any;  

• regardless of mode of operation or degree or level of autonomy, the master of a MASS should have the means to intervene when necessary;

• only a single master should be responsible for a MASS at any one time, although several masters could be responsible for a MASS on a single voyage, under certain conditions; and

• a detailed discussion is needed about the circumstances where a master of a MASS could be responsible for several MASS. 

The third meeting of MASS-JWG will take place May 8-10, 2024. 

Facilitation of the entry into force of the 2010 HNS Protocol

The Committee welcomed the progress towards the entry into force of the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea, 2010 (2010 HNS Convention). The Committee noted that the 2010 HNS Protocol needed only four more ratifications with the required contributing cargo, and is thus significantly closer to its entry into force.  

The Committee noted that France had deposited an instrument of ratification in October 2023 and Slovakia in November 2023, bringing the number of Contracting States to eight. Five of these Contracting States had more than 2 million units of gross tonnage each.

The HNS Convention is the last major IMO Convention involving liability to come into force.  It is key to ensuring that those affected by incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) carried on ships have access to a comprehensive and international liability and compensation regime. This is particularly relevant given the increasing amounts of chemicals and new fuels being transported in bulk in ships.

A workshop on the HNS Convention will be held on May 1 and 2 at IMO Headquarters, hosted by the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

The Committee noted key developments in legal issues related to piracy and armed robbery of ships since the previous session (LEG 110).  Proposals regarding the work program of the Committee as well as urgent measures to address Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden were discussed.   

The Committee noted that the Maritime Safety Committee is the principal organ at IMO for discussing maritime security, but that the Legal Committee has a role in the consideration of associated legal issues. The Committee noted support for the submission of concrete proposals on these issues at LEG 112, with the possibility of developing a new output.