IBIA report from IMO: Council 117

IBIA report from IMO: Council 117

Council had few items of specific interest for IBIA members on the agenda; however, a few items may be of general interest. This report summarises those items, including:

  • Consideration of the report of the Marine Environment Protection
  • Protection of vital shipping lanes – focusing on areas where piracy have also affected bunkering activities
  • Development of the IMO’s draft vision statement and strategic directions for the Organization for the six-year period 2018-2023
  • Other items

Consideration of the report from MEPC 70

Highlights from MEPC 70 were reiterated, including the 2020 sulphur cap decision, the approval of draft amendments to Annex VI for a new NOx ECA to take effect in the North Sea and Baltic Sea from 1 January, 2021, the adoption of amendments to MAPROL Annex VI to introduce mandatory fuel consumption data collection, the adoption of a roadmap for IMO’s strategy for dealing with greenhouse gases (GHG) and the adoption of new 2016 guidelines for approval of ballast water management systems (G8), to supersede previous ones, which will take effect when the BWM Convention enters into force in September 2017.

Recognising that developing and managing the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database and produce an annual report for MEPC with a summary of the data collected will lead to more work, the Council endorsed a request for additional human resources in the IMO’s Secretariat.

With GHG becoming an increasingly important area of focus, Council endorsed the holding of two intersessional meetings of the Working Group on Reduction of GHG emissions from ships in 2017, before MEPC 71 and in autumn 2017, respectively.

Council also endorsed, in principle, the holding of further intersessional meetings on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships during the next biennium and note that further meetings for multiple years during the implementation of the “Roadmap for developing a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships” may be necessary.

Council approved the MEPC 70 report in general which means it will be transmitted, with its comments and recommendations, to the thirtieth session of the Assembly.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships

Council heard that piracy and armed robbery instances in the Gulf of Guinea have increased this year. The number of people kidnapped is also up and there have been several very violent incidents.

Piracy off Somalia, meanwhile, has decreased but there are still issues and about 10 seafarers that remain held as hostages. Also attacks emanating from Yemen are a cause for concern.

It was noted that the improvement in the situation off Somalia and the Red Sea is evidence that naval resources placed in the region has been effective, while efforts of states in Africa to tackle piracy and its root causes were commended and encouraged to continue with support of the Djibouti Code Trust Fund.

Council also heard about the Cooperative Mechanism for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore (SOMS), a collaborative effort by Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia – the SOMS littoral States. Since its inception in 2007, the Cooperative Mechanism “has made good progress in keeping the SOMS safe, clean and open for shipping,” according to the paper submitted.

Regional collaboration was seen as perhaps the most important factor in dealing with piracy issues. All member states, and organisations involved in the issue, were invited to continue their efforts in combating piracy.

IMO HQ London

Draft strategic plan for IMO for six-year period 2018-2023

Council spent a large part of Monday discussing a draft vision statement and strategic directions for the Organization for the six-year period 2018-2023, before sending out a working group to discuss the text in more detail.

In general, the draft was welcomed but there were some elements of concern, in particular clarifying the role of the human element within the strategic plan. The WG reported back to plenary on Thursday with a revised draft.

The draft consists of a Mission Statement (not new), a Vision Statement (new), a set of overarching principles for the Organization’s strategic plan 2018-2023 (new) and finally a set of Strategic Directions (SD 1 to SD 7) for the period.

There was a long debate on whether the role of the human element, or people, should be a separate SD. Many thought it should have its own SD; however, the winning argument was that the way the human element is covered in the overarching principles was the right way to go, as this reflect how important it is to all aspects of shipping. “That way the human element is in everything we do,” as one delegate put it, and underpins everything the IMO does.

Although the strategic framework document was not ‘perfect’ and some member states had reservations about it, most thought it was good and Council reached consensus to approve it.

Key points in the draft strategic plan for the IMO for the 2018-223 period:

VISION STATEMENT (summary extract): Says IMO “will uphold its leadership role as the global regulator of shipping” while also promoting the sector and focus on meeting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To achieve this, IMO will focus on review, development and implementation of and compliance with IMO instruments.


IMO will aim to regulate international shipping in a way that finds a balance between the needs for economic development, facilitation of international trade, safety, security and environmental protection. It says IMO “will ensure that the views of all stakeholders are taken into account in its decision-making processes” and continue to pay particular attention to the needs of developing countries. There are several mentions of the human element to ensure this is always considered to look after the safety and wellbeing of people, but also develop people and skills to deal with and successfully implement the raft of existing and new regulations and new technologies. There is also a focus on promoting the IMO and stressing its role in achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS2023 (summary extract):

SD 1: Improve implementation
Increased focus on effective and uniform implementation of IMO’s instruments, meaning encouraging enforcement and compliance.
SD 2: Integrate new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework
SD 3: Respond to climate change
IMO 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
SD 5: Enhance global facilitation and security of international trade
This relates to issues such a piracy and cyber security
SD 6: Ensure regulatory effectiveness
The aim of this SD is to ensure regulations achieve what they set out to do without unnecessary burdens, and to analyse relevant data to identify potential issues, and review regulations.
SD 7: Ensure organizational effectiveness
This relates to the internal workings of the IMO itself.

Other items

There were no comments on the status of outputs for the period 2016-2017, suggesting Council is satisfied that the IMO is on track with the strategies agreed for this period.

A paper submitted by Greece, Sweden, the United Kingdom, BIMCO, IACS, INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO proposed that the IMO should have “an enhanced and more robust regulatory assessment process” and that in future there should be “full and effective regulatory impact and feasibility assessments” and pay attention to the practicality and timescale allowed for the implementation of new requirements. It also said that the development of a new regulation, significant amendments and minor corrections should be seen differently. This substantive paper was not supported, but the subject will be kept open and submissions have been invited.

Council welcomed Belarus as the 172nd member state of IMO. The country deposited the instruments of accession on December 5.

Draft amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Council regarding the use of gender-neutral language were approved; meaning for example that the term ‘Chairman’ will be replaced with ‘Chair’.  

Council 117 took place from 5 to 8 December, 2016

Council will meet for its 118th regular session at the IMO Headquarters from 24 to 28 July 2017.

Unni Einemo, IMO Representative for IBIA

Share this: