The IMO Facilitation Committee held its 42st Session (FAL 41), from Tuesday 4 through Friday 7 April 2017. Mr Y Melanas (RUSSIAN FEDERATION) chaired the meeting together with his Vice Chair, Mrs M Angsell (SWEDEN), both of whom were subsequently re-elected for 2018. Two Working Groups (WG) were formed and chaired as follows:
WG1 – Electronic means for the clearance of Ships, Mr R Butturini (USA)
WG2 – Review and update the Explanatory Manual to the FAL Convention, Mrs M Angsell (SWEDEN)
The meeting was attended by representatives from 76 Member States, 1 Associate Member of IMO plus 5 Inter-Governmental and 23 Non-Governmental Organisations.
- Address by the IMO Secretary General.
Mr Mahapatra, Director Marine Safety Division welcomed delegates on the Secretary-General’s behalf. He expressed condolences to all those affected by the terrorist attacks committed in St Petersburg the previous day. Mr Mahapatra also informed the Committee of the loss of the Marshall Islands flagged Very Large Ore Carrier STELLAR DAISY in the South Atlantic off Uruguay in which 2 crew members had been rescued although 8 Korean and 14 Filipino seafarers were still unaccounted for. Similar sincere condolences to the families affected by this casualty were also expressed. Delegates were reminded that this year’s World Maritime Theme, which is ‘Connecting Ships, Ports and People’ should contribute to building on the long standing effort of Member States towards the achieving of these objectives. The international instruments developed and adopted by IMO for international shipping make such policies a reality. Referring to some key issues on the FAL 41 agenda, he viewed revision of the ‘Explanatory Manual to the Annex to the FAL Convention’ as a means of achieving more effective implementation of facilitation. Whilst the ‘Maritime Single Window project’ was deemed to be ambitious, it is necessary for Member States to stipulate specific needs in order to explore possible solutions and these should be submitted to the Secretariat. Finally, he endorsed reinstatement of the ‘Ship/Port Interface’ as a FAL agenda item in order to consider more specifically, how ships and ports interface with each other. Before concluding, he reminded delegates that the submission of nominations for the 2017 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea remains open until 14 April 2017.
- Prposed amendments to the Fal Convention.
The meeting agreed a proposal to include port, terminal, and berth information when reporting the place of boarding of stowaways in the FAL Convention (appendix 3 to the annex), together with it’s associated Resolution and Circular. As to whether appendix 3 forms an integral part of the FAL Convention, the matter was referred to the Legal Committee, which meets later this month. Meanwhile, the delegation of BAHAMAS proposal that a Unified Interpretation of Appendix 3 was the simplest solution to address this issue, was approved by the Committee. The UI read, very simply indeed, that ‘Place of boarding’ should include port, berth and terminal information. In addition, the Committee approved FAL.2/Circ.50/Rev 3, Information on stowaway incidents. It was agreed to inform MSC of these actions noting that a corresponding resolution, MSC.312(88), had been adopted by MSC.
- Review and update the explanatory manual to the Fal Convention.
The Committee approved the report of WG2 in general and, in particular,noted the progress made, following which it endorsed the document produced by the Group as a basis for further work;
- agreed to extend the target completion year for the Explanatory Manual to 2019; and
- approved the establishment and draft terms of reference for a Correspondence Group to continue work on the review and update of the Manual.
- Application of single window concept.
During a lengthy discussion in Plenary, it was recalled that document FAL 405 (Secretariat) provided information on the IMO project for development of a prototype maritime single window (MSW). Prior to FAL 40 and following decisions taken by TC (Technical Committee) 65 and offers of assistance made by CHILE, NORWAY, THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA and the European Commission , the Secretariat established a series of consultation meetings with UNCTAD, WCO and IPCSA in order to establish the scope and management of the project. These meetings concluded that one of the main challenges was a lack of harmonisation of formats for data submission, of which there were basically 3 different preferences: EDIFACT (noting that there are different versions in place), XML and Excel. Plenary duly recognised that harmonisation and standardisation of data elements is a core part of the interoperability of MSWs whilst also noting that such issues are often driven by unavoidable differences in national legislation, organisation, and data needs among the various receivers of information, including individual ports and port States. With regard to the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, the definitions for data in FAL forms contained in Annex 1 were deemed ready for review/clarification given their positive impact on work made by the Committee on interoperability, MSW, implementation of electronic certificates and e-navigation. Importantly the Committee noted that the Secretariat had contacted the Port State Control regimes in December 2016 to establish that they had released instructions to PSC officers for the acceptance of electronic certificates to which the Secretariats of the Paris, Black Sea, Riyadh and Tokyo MoUs responded that indeed they had. The Committee then established WG 1 on ‘electronic means for the clearance of ships’, subsequently approving its report in general, and in particular:
- noted discussion related to the future of the IMO prototype MSW system and general support for number 2 of the 3 featured options, namely development of a new prototype, taking into account the experience of others in the development and implementation of MSW systems, as being the best way to incorporate expertise and lessons learned;
- as the WG lacked information concerning scope and plans for a prototype, requested Member States to inform the Organisation about the main deliverables, budget implications, schedule and how the project will help recipient nations meet the scope, concepts and guidance in FAL.5/Circ.36 and the fundamental single window goals by the effected date of 2019;
- invited WCO to report progress made by the informal correspondence group on interoperability, standardisation and harmonisation, to FAL 42;
- invited submission of papers to FAL 42 on topics such as electronic exchange of information (including machine to machine), web-based services, graphic user interfaces, integration of other national agencies, streamlining government to business communication and clearance of ships and cargo, also ways in which the Committee can support application of MSW concepts in developing countries;
- agreed to establish a correspondence group to update FAL.5/Circ.36, with appropriate terms of reference, having prepared the justification for a new output to update ‘Guidelines for setting up a single window system in maritime transport’; and
- agreed to add the development of guidance for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange of electronic information as a new unplanned output to the high level action plan.
- Measures to protect the safety of persons rescued at sea.
There were no submissions on this item. However, the Committee recalled that MSC 96 had encouraged Member States and observer organisations to promote the availability of the industry Guidance as widely as possible. The second edition of ‘Large scale rescue operations at sea: Guidance on ensuring the safety and security of seafarers and rescued persons’, headed by ICS, remains extant and has been included on the IMO website.
- Unsafe mixed migration by sea.
The Committee noted that, although no documents had been submitted on this agenda item at this, or its preceding session, it concurred with decisions taken by MSC 97 and invited Member States and international organisations to submit documents to the next FAL session, encouraging Member States to report incidents with the information included in the appendix of MSC.1/Circ.896/Rev.2 via the facilitation module in GISIS.
The Committee recalled that FAL 40 had encouraged Member States and international organisations to make use of the Global Integrated shipping Information System (GISIS) modules for uploading data and consulting information. Improvements introduced in the interface of the stowaway module in GISIS were noted, following which it was agreed to discontinue the issue of a quarterly list of stowaway incidents for the calendar years. The numbers of reported stowaways from a total of 2052 in 2008, have declined gradually over the years, despite a slight spike in 2013, and amounted to 80 in 2015. Of some concern however, the number in 2016 increased to 163 so the figure for 2017 will either prove or disprove such an ominous trend. The P&I Clubs (IG) informed the Committee that in respect to the ports of stowaway embarkation, it was noteworthy that European ports featured significantly for the first time. On the other hand, there had been a significant reduction in the number of stowaway incidents in some of the ports where IMO had organised regional seminars, suggesting that this had been on effective method of tackling this issue. IG’s third data collection exercise will be reported to FAL 42. Concern was expressed that, since the launch of the platform to process timely and accurate information on migrant incidents and on suspected smugglers and vessels via the facilitation module in GISIS, only four incidents have been reported in the joint database. Member Governments were therefore encouraged to provide more timely and accurate information to the GISIS facilitation module.
- Cyber security.
Taking into account that no documents had been submitted on this agenda item, it was decided not to discuss any further amendments to MSC.1/Circ.1326. The Committee approved a joint MSC-FAL circular on ‘Guidelines on maritime cyber risk management’, subject to concurrent decision at MSC 98, and agreed to notify the Council that action on this agenda item has now been completed.
- Reduction of administrative burdens in IMO instruments including those identified by SG-RAR.
The Committee recalled that FAL 40 instructed the Secretariat to analyse the information in the annex to document FAL 40/17/1, taking into account the decisions by Assembly 28 concerning reporting through GISIS (resolution A.1074(28)) and output on the issues from MEPC 69 and MSC 96. Following consideration of document FAL 41/10 providing the Secretariat’s analysis of the information in the annex to document FAL 40/17/1, the Committee:
- encouraged Member Governments to use the GISIS module on ‘Notifications pursuant to article VII of the FAL Convention’ to fulfill these notification requirements as well as to keep the information they supply up to date;
- encouraged Member Governments to raise any concerns and/or recommendations with regard to the use of this particular GISIS module;
- agreed that no action is necessary with regard to requirements relating to the work of the IMO depository;
- agreed that no action is necessary with regard to the requirement relating to the responsibility of the Secretary-General to provide information to the signatory parties with regard to cases of acceptance, accession, denunciation etc., because the existing GISIS module on ‘Status of Treaties’ can provide this information;
- agreed to develop a circular to recommend provision of information by public authorities to the master of a vessel on their requirements and procedures needed to put sick or injured persons ashore in order to facilitate the process; and
- agreed that no action should be taken on requirements provided by SG-RAR (The Steering Group on the Reduction of Administrative Requirements) that had no specified recommendations or comments.
Finally, the Committee agreed to notify the Council that action on this agenda item has now been completed and also adopted a FAL Circular on ‘Provision of information to the master of a vessel needing to put sick or injured persons ashore’.
- Technical cooperation activities related to facilitation of maritime traffic.
The Committee considered document FAL 41/11 by the Secretariat reporting on the status of activities relevant to the implementation of the FAL Convention conducted under the ITCP (Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme) in the period from December 2015 to December 2016. A number of regional and national seminars were held, also important projects related to facilitation. A further document submitted by the Secretariat, FAL 41/11/1 invited the Committee to review and agree thematic priorities related to facilitation for inclusion in the ITCP covering the 2018-2019 biennium so as to inform the Technical Cooperation Committee (TCC) accordingly. This was duly approved and in addition, Member States were urged to ensure that their FAL-related technical assistance needs are well reflected in their CMPs (Country Maritime Profile).
- Application of the Committee’s procedures on organization and method of work.
Although this item is of peripheral interest to InterManager members, it is worth mentioning because it sparked a prolonged and heated debate whilst also taking up a disproportionate chunk of the Committee’s time. In essence, it was agreed to harmonise the rules of procedure of committees (and by extension sub-committees) and to limit the total term of Office of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman to 5 years, also to use the gender-neutral term ‘Chair’. However, proposals to delete rule 3 (by COOK ISLANDS, UK and USA) which addressed provisions for holding extraordinary sessions of the Committee and rule 34.1 referring to the number of Member States required to constitute a quorum were hotly debated. An informal group was formed but proved unable to reach consensus, so the Committee decided that:
- the amendments to the Rules of Procedure other than those to Rule 3 were to be agreed;
- the decisions on rule 3 would be reconsidered by FAL 42 in the light of decisions by MSC 98; and
- the agreed amendments to the Rules of Procedure would be held in abeyance until the issue of rule 3 is resolved.
- List of certificates and documents required to be carried on board.
The Committee considered the consolidated draft list of certificates and documents required to be carried on board ships set out in the annex of document FAL 41/16 (Secretariat) which it approved as a FAL.2/Circular subject to a concurrent decision by LEG 104.
- Date of next meeting.
FAL 42 has been tentatively scheduled to take place from 5 to 8 June 2018 at IMO.