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IMO Adopts New Maritime Guidelines

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

25 April 2013

Draft guidelines advising of best practice on board a ship in relation to the collection of evidence following criminal acts, in relation to missing persons, and the administration of medical care, were among proposals adopted at the 100th session of the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The draft guidelines, which focus on what can practically be carried out on board a ship to preserve and/or collect evidence and protect persons affected by serious crimes, until such time as the relevant law enforcement authorities commence an investigation, will now be submitted to the IMO Assembly 28th session, in November 2013, along with an associated draft resolution, for consideration with a view to adoption.

The primary purpose of the draft guidelines is to assist masters in the preservation of evidence and in the pastoral and medical care of persons affected and, when appropriate, in the collection of evidence, during the period between the report or discovery of a possible serious crime and the time when law enforcement authorities or other professional crime scene investigators take action.

The draft guidelines provide safeguards reinforcing that the master is not a professional crime scene investigator and does not act as a criminal law enforcement official when applying the guidelines. Furthermore, the IMF has underscored that the guidelines should not be construed as establishing a basis of any liability, criminal or otherwise, of the master in preserving and/or handling evidence or related matters.

The draft guidelines include sections covering co-operation and coordination between interested States and parties, the role of the master, missing persons, and pastoral and medical care.

Also at the Legal Committee's meeting, guidelines to assist countries in meeting reporting requirements under the 2010 International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) by Sea, 2010, were endorsed by the Committee.

The guidelines, on HNS reporting to facilitate the submission by States to the Secretary-General of contributing cargo data for the purposes of article 20(4) and (6) of the 2010 HNS Protocol, were developed and adopted at a two-day workshop convened jointly by IMO and the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) Secretariats and held at IMO in October 2012. The guidelines are expected to help in overcoming one of the main obstacles preventing States from ratifying the Protocol, namely the difficulty of complying with this reporting requirement, particularly in view of the enormous variety of HNS substances that are potentially subject to the reporting requirement. As well as the guidelines, the Committee also approved a model letter to accompany the model form for receivers, a State model reporting form, a receiver model reporting form and an HNS contributing cargo nil declaration form.

The Committee was also provided with the findings of a survey, conducted by Seafarers’ Rights International (SRI), concerning respect for the rights of seafarers facing criminal prosecution. The survey results were submitted by the observer delegations of the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and the International Federation of Shipmasters' Associations (IFSMA). The findings strongly suggested that the rights of seafarers, as enshrined in the Guidelines on fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident, adopted jointly by IMO and the International Labour Organization (ILO), are often subject to violation.

TAGS: marine

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