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Piracy off the coast of Somalia

IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos has welcomed the adoption yesterday (2 June 2008) by the United Nations Security Council of a resolution authorizing a series of decisive measures to combat acts of piracy and armed robbery against vessels off the coast of Somalia.

Under the terms of resolution 1816 (2008), which was adopted unanimously, the Security Council decided that, following receipt of a letter from Somalia to the President of the UN Security Council giving the consent of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), States co-operating with the TFG would be allowed, for a period of six months, to enter the country's territorial waters and use "all necessary means" to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with relevant provisions of international law.

This latest move comes after more than two years of intensive effort by IMO to bring this matter to the attention of the Security Council and to urge concerted action, culminating in the adoption, last November, of a second IMO Assembly resolution on the subject. In welcoming the Security Council resolution, Secretary-General Mitropoulos said that firm action was needed, since the current situation was stifling the flow of much-needed aid to the people of Somalia, jeopardizing the lives of innocent seafarers, fishers and passengers, and adversely affecting international trade.

"I am very pleased with the outcome", said Mr. Mitropoulos, "which I consider a positive step in the right direction, and want to thank all Governments who worked hard on the draft and all those who supported the resolution in its final form, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General for his personal contribution to the end result."

He added, "IMO has been asking, since June 2007, that the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia consent to naval ships entering the country's territorial waters to protect shipping under attack by pirates and armed robbers. This has now been done, through the Security Council resolution, and we should work together to ensure that acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships sailing off the coast of Somalia are prevented and suppressed to the benefit of the Somali people, first and foremost, the seafarers and passengers on ships sailing in the region, the shipping industry and international seaborne trade."

The Security Council text was adopted with the consent of Somalia, which itself lacks the capacity to interdict pirates or patrol and secure its territorial waters. It follows a surge in attacks on ships in the waters off the country's coast, including hijackings of vessels operated by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other commercial vessels - all of which posed a threat "to the prompt, safe and effective delivery of food aid and other humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia", and a grave danger to vessels, crews, passengers and cargo.

Affirming that the authorization provided in the resolution applies only to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights and obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, nor be considered as establishing customary international law, the Security Council also requested co-operating States to ensure that anti-piracy actions they undertake do not deny or impair the right of innocent passage to the ships of any third State.

While urging States, whose naval vessels and military aircraft operate on the high seas and airspace adjacent to the coast of Somalia to be vigilant, the Security Council encouraged States interested in the use of commercial routes off the coast of Somalia to increase and co-ordinate their efforts to deter attacks upon and hijacking of vessels, in co-operation with the country's Government. All States were urged to co-operate with each other, with IMO and, as appropriate, with regional organizations, and to render assistance to vessels threatened by or under attack by pirates.

Background
In 2005, the growing number of reported attacks on ships off the coast of Somalia prompted the IMO Assembly to adopt a resolution (A.979(24)), which first brought the matter to the attention of the UN Security Council. This action resulted in a UN Security Council Presidential Statement, issued on 15 March 2006, encouraging UN Member States with naval vessels and military aircraft operating in international waters and airspace adjacent to the coast of Somalia to be vigilant for piracy incidents and to take appropriate action to protect merchant shipping - in particular, ships being used to transport humanitarian aid - against any such act, in line with relevant international law. Subsequently, there was a much-welcomed reduction in acts of piracy and armed robbery in the region.

Nevertheless, the continuing civil conflict and political instability in Somalia later gave rise to renewed attacks on ships and a worrying increase in the number of reported incidents.

Invaders from the Sea
The documentary film Invaders from the Sea which features tiny alien invaders transported in ballast water is now available from IMO's Publications Section. This documentary won the gold award in the category of "Best United Nations Feature" at this year's "Stories from the Field", the third annual United Nations Documentary Film Festival, which took place in New York from 21 to 22 April 2007. The film was produced by IMO, the United Nations agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships, in co-operation with the BBC and the shipping industry.

To see a clip from the film, click here.

For more information see the Global Ballast Water Management Programme.
IMO environment meeting approves revised regulations on ship emissions

Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) - 57th session: 31 March - 4 April 2008

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved proposed amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations to reduce harmful emissions from ships.

The main changes would see a progressive reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships, with the global sulphur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%, effective from 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

The limits applicable in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) would be reduced to 1.00%, beginning on 1 March 2010 (from the current 1.50 %); being further reduced to 0.10 % , effective from 1 January 2015.

Progressive reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from marine engines were also agreed, with the most stringent controls on so-called "Tier III" engines, i.e. those installed on ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016, operating in Emission control Areas.

The revised Annex VI will allow for an Emission Control Area to be designated for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a Party or Parties to the Annex which would be considered for adoption by the Organization, if supported by a demonstrated need to prevent, reduce and control one or all three of those emissions from ships.

In the current Annex VI, there are two SECAs designated, namely, the Baltic Sea and the North Sea area, which also includes the English Channel.

Speaking at the close of MEPC, IMO Secretary-General Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos praised the excellent progress made during the week-long MEPC session in IMO's long-standing efforts to limit and reduce pollution of the atmospheric environment and thanked and congratulated all the parties concerned (Member States and observer organizations) for their hard work and contribution to the results achieved.

"The fact that representatives of some 100 Governments were able to reach decisions by consensus on complicated issues of great importance to the environment not only bears testimony to the responsible manner with which the Members address environmental matters nowadays but also to the great results that can be achieved when States, with the same concerns and determination to produce meaningful solutions to global problems, work together under the auspices of IMO. The co-operation of the shipping industry and environmentalist groups has been of great value and I thank them for that. I am confident that, once adopted as amendments to MARPOL Annex VI, in the coming October, the new measures will prove extremely beneficial to the environment and I commend the Committee wholeheartedly for its achievement in developing them," he said. "It will certainly be one of IMO's finest hours when this happens six months from now", he added.

Mr. Mitropoulos also commended the progress in work on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from shipping operations, including the search for practical means to devise any mechanisms deemed appropriate to address this important issue. He welcomed the MEPC's endorsement of his proposal to expedite the Organization's related work, in particular, as regards the CO2 Emission Indexing Scheme and the CO2 Emission baseline(s).

"I wish also to express our gratitude to Norway for offering to host an intersessional meeting of the GHG Working Group at the end of June, which will give us all the opportunity to further progress the work in hand and, with that goal in mind, I commend the efforts of the Working Group to seek agreement on global solutions to further develop the action plan approved by the Committee, identifying practical next steps that will facilitate the completion of the plan's three elements within the newly-agreed timelines. Of course, these are issues which, although complex and intricate in nature, are by no means impossible to resolve, especially with the constructive engagement we have witnessed here this week. In this regard, I am confident that, as we look beyond Kyoto, we should be able to put in place a robust regime that will apply fairly to shipping while, at the same time, achieving our main objective of protecting the marine and atmospheric environment," he said.

MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships entered into force in May 2005 and has, so far, been ratified by 49 countries, representing approximately 74.77% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping fleet.

The proposed draft amendments to Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code will now be submitted to MEPC 58 (which meets from 6 to 10 October 2008) for adoption, in accordance with an agreed timetable. This would see the revised Annex VI enter into force in 2010.

The work on greenhouse gases is scheduled for completion in 2009, in time for IMO to submit a position paper to the Copenhagen Conference (December 2009) called for by last year's Conference in Bali on climate change.

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Voyage Data Recorders

Passenger ships and ships other than passenger ships of 3000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2002 must carry voyage data recorders (VDRs) to assist in accident investigations, under regulations adopted in 2000, which entered into force on 1 July 2002.

The mandatory regulations are contained in chapter V on Safety of Navigation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS).

Like the black boxes carried on aircraft, VDRs enable accident investigators to review procedures and instructions in the moments before an incident and help to identify the cause of any accident.

VDR requirements

Under regulation 20 of SOLAS chapter V on Voyage data recorders (VDR), the following ships are required to carry VDRs:

· passenger ships constructed on or after 1 July 2002;

· ro-ro passenger ships constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than the first survey on or after 1 July 2002;

· passenger ships other than ro-ro passenger ships constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than 1 January 2004; and

· ships, other than passenger ships, of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2002.

VDRs are required to meet performance standards "not inferior to those adopted by the Organization".

Performance standards for VDRs were adopted in 1997 and give details on data to be recorded and VDR specifications. They state that the VDR should continuously maintain sequential records of preselected data items relating to status and output of the ship's equipment and command and control of the ship. The VDR should be installed in a protective capsule that is brightly coloured and fitted with an appropriate device to aid location. It should be entirely automatic in normal operation.

Administrations may exempt ships, other than ro-ro passenger ships, constructed before 1 July 2002, from being fitted with a VDR where it can be demonstrated that interfacing a VDR with the existing equipment on the ship is unreasonable and impracticable.

Regulation18 of SOLAS chapter V on Approval, surveys and performance standards of navigational systems and equipment and voyage data recorder states that:

The voyage data recorder (VDR) system, including all sensors, shall be subjected to an annual performance test. The test shall be conducted by an approved testing or servicing facility to verify the accuracy, duration and recoverability of the recorded data. In addition, tests and inspections shall be conducted to determine the serviceability of all protective enclosures and devices fitted to aid location. A copy of a the certificate of compliance issued by the testing facility, stating the date of compliance and the applicable performance standards, shall be retained on board the ship.

Simplified VDRs

The MSC at its 79th session in December 2004 adopted amendments to regulation 20 of SOLAS chapter V (Safety of Navigation) on a phased-in carriage requirement for a shipborne simplified voyage data recorder (S-VDR). The amendment entered into force on 1 July 2006.

The regulation requires a VDR, which may be an S-VDR, to be fitted on existing cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards, phasing in the requirement for cargo ships of 20,000 gross tonnage and upwards first, to be followed by cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards.

The S-VDR is not required to store the same level of detailed data as a standard VDR, but nonetheless should maintain a store, in a secure and retrievable form, of information concerning the position, movement, physical status, command and control of a vessel over the period leading up to and following an incident.

The phase-in is as follows:

To assist in casualty investigations, cargo ships, when engaged on international voyages, shall be fitted with a VDR which may be a simplified voyage data recorder (S VDR) as follows:

  • in the case of cargo ships of 20,000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed before 1 July 2002, at the first scheduled dry-docking after 1 July 2006 but not later than 1 July 2009;
  • in the case of cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 20,000 gross tonnage constructed before 1 July 2002, at the first scheduled dry-docking after 1 July 2007 but not later than 1 July 2010; and
  • Administrations may exempt cargo ships from the application of the requirements when such ships will be taken permanently out of service within two years after the implementation date specified above.

AIS transponders

Automatic identification systems (AISs) are designed to be capable of providing information about the ship to other ships and to coastal authorities automatically.

Regulations for carriage of AIS
Maritime security - AIS ship data

Regulations for carriage of AIS

Regulation 19 of SOLAS Chapter V - Carriage requirements for shipborne navigational systems and equipment - sets out navigational equipment to be carried on board ships, according to ship type. In 2000, IMO adopted a new requirement (as part of a revised new chapter V) for all ships to carry automatic identification systems (AISs) capable of providing information about the ship to other ships and to coastal authorities automatically.

The regulation requires AIS to be fitted aboard all ships of 300 gross tonnage and upwards engaged on international voyages, cargo ships of 500 gross tonnage and upwards not engaged on international voyages and all passenger ships irrespective of size. The requirement became effective for all ships by 31 December 2004.

Ships fitted with AIS shall maintain AIS in operation at all times except where international agreements, rules or standards provide for the protection of navigational information.

A flag State may exempt ships from carrying AISs when ships will be taken permanently out of service within two years after the implementation date. Performance standards for AIS were adopted in 1998.

The regulation requires that AIS shall:

  • provide information - including the ship's identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status and other safety-related information - automatically to appropriately equipped shore stations, other ships and aircraft;
  • receive automatically such information from similarly fitted ships; · monitor and track ships;
  • exchange data with shore-based facilities.

The regulation applies to ships built on or after 1 July 2002 and to ships engaged on international voyages constructed before 1 July 2002, according to the following timetable:

  • passenger ships, not later than 1 July 2003;
  • tankers, not later than the first survey for safety equipment on or after 1 July 2003;
  • ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 50,000 gross tonnage and upwards, not later than 1 July 2004.

An amendment adopted by the Diplomatic Conference on Maritime Security in December 2002 states that, additionally, ships of 300 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 50,000 gross tonnage, are required to fit AIS not later than the first safety equipment survey after 1 July 2004 or by 31 December 2004, whichever occurs earlier. (The original regulation adopted in 2000 exempted these vessels.)

Maritime security - AIS ship data
At its79th session in December 2004, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) agreed that, in relation to the issue of freely available automatic information system (AIS)-generated ship data on the world-wide web, the publication on the world-wide web or elsewhere of AIS data transmitted by ships could be detrimental to the safety and security of ships and port facilities and was undermining the efforts of the Organization and its Member States to enhance the safety of navigation and security in the international maritime transport sector.

The Committee condemned the regrettable publication on the world-wide web, or elsewhere, of AIS data transmitted by ships and urged Member Governments, subject to the provisions of their national laws, to discourage those who make available AIS data to others for publication on the world-wide web, or elsewhere from doing so.

In addition, the Committee condemned those who irresponsibly publish AIS data transmitted by ships on the world-wide web, or elsewhere, particularly if they offer services to the shipping and port industries.