At the United Nations, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is representing shipowners at the start of a major negotiation. The negotiation concerns a new legal instrument for the protection of the ocean under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Therefore, this will apply to ‘high seas’ areas ‘beyond national jurisdiction’.
ICS Chairman, Esben Poulsson addressed government negotiators in New York on 5 September. He highlighted the need to ensure that this UN initiative will not “unwittingly” impact on the effective future governance of global shipping.
He added that the initiative should not potentially interfere with principles such as freedom of navigation. Also, it should not otherwise cut across the work of shipping’s global regulator, the London-based UN International Maritime Organization (IMO).
“As a result of the global rules already provided by IMO, ships are not operating in a regulatory vacuum” stressed Poulsson.
“A shipowner’s activities are never beyond national jurisdiction, even on the high seas.”
ICS fully supports the objectives of the UN negotiations. There is the critical need to provide environmental protection for the ocean from activities such as fishing and seabed mining.
ICS says this IMO framework already governs virtually every aspect of maritime environmental protection, implemented on a worldwide basis.
This includes a sophisticated mechanism for Port State Control enforcement. Authorities inspect all visiting ships for full compliance with global IMO standards, regardless of the flag state of the ship.
IMO should always be lead organisation
ICS highlighted the development of Marine Protected Areas (MPAS).
It asserts IMO should determine the detail and appropriateness of any future measures apply in MPAs. Importantly, because it has long experience of implementing MPAs for global shipping.
“IMO should always be the lead organisation for developing environmental rules that may affect international shipping” said Poulsson.
“IMO’s jurisdiction is broad and extends already to shipping activity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.”
There are around 80,000 merchant vessels engaged in international trade, operating outside of territorial waters. They must all adhere to IMO rules throughout the ship’s voyage, including the MARPOL Convention for pollution prevention.
The UN negotiations are expected to conclude with the adoption of a new legal instrument by 2020.