IBIA report (for members only) from IMO Council Session 118 (C 118)

IBIA report (for members only) from IMO Council Session 118 (C 118)


The Council is the executive organ of IMO and is responsible, under the Assembly, for supervising the work of the Organization. It met for its 118th Session (C 118) from Monday 24 July to Friday 28 July. There were some items of particular interest on the agenda:

Agenda item 3: Strategy, planning and reform to decide on the priorities for IMO’s work both near term (2018-2019 biennium) and the new Strategic Plan for the six-year period 2018-2023.
Agenda item 17: External relations which included a periodic review of NGO’s with consultative status at the IMO, of which IBIA is one, and considering new applications for such status.
Agenda item 14:  Protection of vital shipping lanes looking at the subjects of piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit activities.
Agenda item 19:  Report on the status of conventions and other multilateral instruments in respect of which the Organization performs functions.

Below is more detail on each of these items.

Agenda item 3: Strategy, planning and reform

Over the past year, work has been underway to set out the priorities for IMO’s work for the a six-year period 2018 to 2023. The Council has decided that the new Strategic Plan will in principle be fixed over a six-year period, with a set of Strategic Directions that will be focused in a few areas. It will be fundamentally different from the current Strategic Plan (http://www.imo.org/en/About/strategy/Pages/default.aspx) in a number of areas, for example by having more general Strategic Directions which will not cover all areas of work of the Organization, as the current Strategic Plan does.  In the future, the Strategic Plan will be completely redeveloped every six years in order to take into account changing challenges from emerging trends and developments. However, in order to ensure the Organization remains flexible and able to respond to changing priorities and issues, the Strategic Plan’s continued appropriateness will be considered on a biennial basis and revised, if necessary.

The new Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2023 is expected to be adopted at the 30th session of Assembly in November this year. It contains an IMO Mission Statement, Vision Statement, a set of Overarching Principles and seven Strategic Directions approved by Council at its 117th session (C 117).

At C 118, the focus was on preparing the final documents on the Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2023, including a set of Performance Indicators (PIs) created by the IMO Secretariat. The PIs are meant to help IMO measure the extent to the goals set in its seven Strategic Directions are achieved.

The task of reviewing and refining the PIs was given to a working group (WG). IBIA participated in this WG to offer relevant input in pertinent areas, having also been part of the process leading up the formulation of the IMO’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2023, which included assessing the trends, developments and challenges that IMO needs to respond to.

Short of repeating the entire Strategic Plan for the 2018-2023 period due to be adopted later this year, the key elements are:

MISSION STATEMENT – This sets out the IMO’s role, as a United Nations Agency, to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation.

VISION STATEMENT – This says IMO should uphold its leadership role as the global regulator for shipping, while also noting the need to meet the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

OVERARCHING PRINCIPLES – There are 11 in total, talking about high-level issues such as maintaining a level playing field for all States involved in international shipping while paying attention to the needs of developing countries, the need for people with the right skills to be employed in the maritime sector and keep focus on the human element in all aspects of IMO’s work, and playing an active part in achieving global and national sustainability and development goals.


SD 1: Improve implementation
The current situation demands that IMO places increased focus on implementation of IMO instruments as well as promotion of the entry into force of its instruments. IMO’s crucial role in the creation of a level playing field for its Members can only be achieved through effective and uniform implementation of IMO’s instruments, their enforcement by the States parties to them, and full compliance by the States concerned and the shipping industry.

 SD 2: Integrate new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework
As technological development accelerates, new and advancing technologies will significantly affect shipping, creating a more interconnected and efficient industry more closely integrated with the global supply chain. IMO will strive towards a legal framework that accommodates new and advancing technologies and approaches by being technology neutral through the development of IMO instruments and performance standards without preference or hindrance of one technology over another.

SD 3: Respond to climate change
With the adoption of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement at COP 21, climate change has been recognized as one of the greatest challenges of our time. Although shipping is one of the most energy-efficient modes of transportation, the shipping industry continues to pursue strategies to reduce emissions worldwide. Having already developed global regulations on energy efficiency for ships, IMO will also develop appropriate solutions to reduce the shipping industry’s contribution to air pollution and its impact on climate change, and will develop a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships which will be ambitious and realistic.

 SD 4: Engage in ocean governance
This entails striking a balance between use of the marine space with the capacity of oceans to remain healthy and diverse.

 SD 5: Enhance global facilitation and security of international trade
Shipping is an integral part of the global economy and supply chain and so prevention of disruption to international shipping is in the interest of all. Continued effort is needed to ensure that ships move from port to port without undue delay, facilitate electronic information exchange, while also protect shipping from disruption from threats such as piracy and cyber risks.

SD 6: Ensure regulatory effectiveness
IMO’s main role as the global regulator of safe, secure and environmentally sound shipping requires it to ensure that a universally adopted, effective, international regulatory framework is in place and implemented consistently, embracing and integrating new and advancing technologies, without causing unnecessary burdens. IMO’s instruments must continue to be globally implemented and applicable to ensure a level playing field. Information should be systematically fed back into the regulatory processes of the Organization to allow it to make informed decisions for reviewing existing regulations and developing new ones

SD 7: Ensure organizational effectiveness
To successfully achieve the Organization’s vision and respond to current and future challenges, IMO will improve its working practices, where needed, and foster broader participation by Member States in its work and decision-making, including through the use of appropriate technologies. To effectively facilitate its work and improve knowledge sharing, the Organization will consider means of strengthening its technical and analytical capabilities to collect, manage, analyse and report on relevant information and data.


The above reflects just highlights from the seven SDs. The WG considered PIs for each of the SDs. We will not go into detail on those, except for one interesting item, namely the four PIs drafted for SD 3: Respond to climate change.

The WG discussions on these, which IBIA took part in, noted that as drafted, they included references to air pollution and monitoring average sulphur content in fuel. While the IMO has annual data on sulphur content, the WG agreed that this does not constitute a helpful PI to assess performance relating to the SD on climate change (IBIA pointed out that sulphur emissions have a net cooling effect and that having this PI alongside others such as monitoring tonnes of CO2 from international shipping and improvements in attained EEDI would likely be confusing and counterproductive). The PI on monitoring sulphur content was therefore removed, while the reference to “air pollution” in another PI was replaced with more appropriate wording.

Back in plenary, some countries made it clear that they think the new strategic plan still has a number of shortcomings, for example a lack of PIs covering safety and the human element. Nevertheless, Council adopted the revised PIs from the WG and the new Strategic Plan for 2018-2023, recognising that while it is not perfect, it is to be seen not as fixed document but an evolving one.

Agenda item 17: External relations

Since the 117th session of the Council, held in December 2016, there has been no change in the membership of the Organization, which continues to stand at 172 Member States, and no change in the number of Associate Members, which continues to stand at three. (They are Hong Kong, China, Macao, China and the Faroes)

Every two years, the IMO reviews organisations in consultative status. IBIA is pleased to report we continue to satisfy the criteria.

There were, however, three NGOs whose activity level at the IMO has been so low that Council would consider withdrawing their consultative status. They attended no meetings and submitted no documents during the period under review. After discussion and examining the reasons for their inactivity, and given the possibility that they may be of value in the near future, Council decided that letters should be sent to these three NGOs to encourage them to fulfil their obligations.

Council also had for its consideration eight new applications for consultative status, of which two were accepted, namely the Active Shipbuilding Experts’ Federation (ASEF), under Shipbuilding, and The Pew Charitable Trust under Environment.

Agenda item 14:  Protection of vital shipping lanes

Council discussed piracy and anti-piracy efforts in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden Area, noting that the trend is downwards but a resumption of piracy activity has been seen off Somalia in 2017. It also noted recent activities of the Cooperative Mechanism for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore which was praised for its efforts to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea. In general, Council reiterated concerns about piracy and urged flag States, shipmasters, and shipping companies in general to take protective measures through diligent application of IMO guidance on best management practices and to report incidents in a timely manner to relevant organisations.

Agenda item 19

A paper from the IMO Secretariat, C 118/19, reported on the status, as of 9 June 2017, of IMO treaties and amendments, for example new parts or amendments to MARPOL or SOLAS.
Section I reports on the entry into force of instruments and amendments thereto; and Section II reports on developments with regard to instruments and amendments thereto in respect of which the conditions for entry into force have not yet been fulfilled. Members that want to know more about this can contact me.

Report by Unni Einemo

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