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April 19, 2002

Security issues include "transparency"
In today's security climate, there are fears that the corporate veil so beloved by some shipowners could be a corporate burkah with a Usama Bin Laden beneath it. Next week, the Legal Committee of the International Maritime Organization (OMO) starts a detailed review of the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention) and its related Protocol.

The Legal Committee is set to consider a comparison made by the U.S. between the SUA Convention and the more recent UN International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (STB Convention). Among the issues to be discussed are proposals to incorporate a number of additional offenses into the SUA Convention.

At the request of the Maritime Safety Committee's Intersessional Working Group (ISWG) on Maritime Security, which met in February this year, the Committee will also be considering how best to define the terms "ownership" and "control" of ships in the context of maritime security. In discussing the provision of information on ships, their cargos and the people on board, the ISWG had agreed that transparency of ownership and control of the ship was desirable, bearing in mind that many IMO instruments place responsibilities on the shipowner. The guidance provided by the Legal Committee will assist in the development of guidelines on disclosure of information related to ownership and control of ships consistent with the preservation of rights which ensure the continued efficiency of commercial navigation.

On another front, the Legal Committee is expected to examine a draft protocol to establish a voluntary third tier of compensation for oil pollution victims, supplementary to the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund Convention, 1992. The draft protocol has been prepared under the aegis of the IOPC Fund and the IMO Assembly has agreed to it being considered by a diplomatic conference in 2003. In line with standard IMO practice, the draft protocol must first be approved by the Legal Committee. The new treaty, once it is adopted and enters into force, will enhance considerably the provision of adequate compensation to victims of oil pollution damage in more serious incidents.

Other items on Legal Committee agenda include issues relating to the legal framework surrounding IMO's work on places of refuge, the continuation of work towards a draft convention on wreck removal and further steps to ensure the soonest possible implementation of the HNS Convention, which forms a vital link in the compensatory regime for pollution damage at sea. The Committee will also be discussing the arrangements for the diplomatic conference on the Athens Protocol, which will be held back-to-back with the 85th session of the Legal Committee in October 2002.

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