THE International Chamber of Shipping is in New York, representing shipowners at the beginning of a major negotiation to agree on a new legal instrument for the protection of the ocean under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
ICS chairman Esben Poulsson addressed government negotiators, highlighting the need to ensure that the UN initiative would not “unwittingly” impact on the effective future governance of global shipping, potentially interfering with principles such as freedom of navigation, or otherwise cutting across the work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
“As a result of the global rules already provided by IMO, ships are not operating in a regulatory vacuum,” he said. “A shipowner’s activities are never beyond national jurisdiction, even on the high seas.”
In a statement released yesterday, ICS registered its support for the objectives of the UN negotiations and the critical need to provide environmental protection for the ocean from activities such as fishing and seabed mining.
However, ICS pointed out these are activities which, unlike commercial shipping, do not enjoy a comprehensive framework of global regulation such as that which has been developed, over a period of 50 years, by the UN IMO and its 174 member states.
ICS said this IMO framework already governs virtually every aspect of maritime environmental protection and is genuinely implemented on a worldwide basis.
This includes a sophisticated mechanism for port state control enforcement, whereby all visiting ships are inspected for full compliance with global IMO standards, regardless of the flag state of the ship.
According to ICS, there are around 80,000 merchant vessels engaged in international trade, operating outside of territorial waters, which must all adhere to IMO rules throughout voyages, including the MARPOL Convention for pollution prevention.
The UN negotiations for the development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction are expected to conclude with the adoption of a new legal instrument by 2020.