Experts seek improved maritime security in West, Central Africa

MORE than 60 participants from the 20 coastal Member States  of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA)  recently in Cotonou, Benin Republic joined international experts for a seminar on maritime and port security.

The event organised by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had in attendance experts from France, the United States Coast Guard, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international police organization, Interpol.

According to IMO, they  shared their knowledge and respective areas of expertise on a range of issues, including the practical implementation of security measure in ports, the facilitation of maritime traffic, the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, dealing with illicit maritime trafficking and countering transnational organised crime.

IMO welcomed the opportunity to collaborate closely with PMAWCA as part of IMO’s continuing technical co-operation programme in the region.

“Going  forward, PMAWCA  will build on the issues raised in this seminar to create a network for sharing port and maritime security information, intelligence gathering and information sharing as the Association seeks to contribute towards the wider effort to strengthen maritime security,” said Michael Luguje, PMAWCA Secretary-General.

IMO explained that the seminar complements the maritime security assistance programme conducted by the Organization in the region, including the integrated coast guard function network project and the recent series of national table top exercises.

The seminar is also an example of the spirit of cooperation outlined in the recently-signed Code of Conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa, which aims to build capacity in west and central Africa to counter piracy, armed robbery and other illicit acts at sea.

Successful implementation of the Code of Conduct, according to IMO  is expected to stimulate economic development in the member states, develop sustainable fisheries and promote the development of the maritime sector.

IMO Secretary-General,  Koji Sekimizu recently  announced the creation of a multi donor trust fund for west and central Africa to support maritime security capacity-building activities in the region.

Meanwhile, International experts recently  met in London to review the growing problems in the marine environment caused by micro-plastics – tiny pieces of plastic or fibres which may act as a pathway for persistent, bio-accumulating and toxic substances entering the food chain.

The experts form a key working group (WG-40) under the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body that advises the United Nations (UN) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the Administrative Secretariat of GESAMP, which has, to date, produced more than 85 reports, including numerous in-depth technical studies contributing to the assessment on the state of the global marine environment.

The working group,  according to IMO met  for its second session (from 23 to 25 July), completed a draft assessment report, covering the inputs of plastics and micro-plastics into the ocean, from land- and sea-based human activities; the mechanisms and rates of particle degradation and fragmentation; the processes controlling particle transport and accumulation; the interaction of micro-plastics with organisms, and potential physical and chemical impacts; and public perceptions about marine litter in general and micro-plastics in particular.

Further meetings will be held in 2013 and 2014, with a view to presenting the final global assessment report on micro plastics in the ocean at the 2nd international Ocean Research Conference in Barcelona, Spain, in November 2014.

The principal audience for the assessment consists of the five UN Agencies supporting the work (IMO, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Intergovernmental   Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC), as the lead Agency).  The group recognized that the results will also be of interest to many other stakeholders, including intergovernmental bodies, regional seas organizations, maritime and relevant land-based sectors, industry, conservation bodies, scientists and the general public.

The workshop brought together experts in chemistry, ecology, eco-toxicology, human toxicology, materials science, physical oceanography, psychology, science-policy interface, social media and waste management, from nine countries on five continents, and observers from PlasticsEurope and the American Chemistry Council.

IMO explained that Plastic debris comes in a wide variety of sizes and compositions and has been found throughout the world’s oceans, carried by ocean currents and biological vectors, such as in the stomach contents of fish, mammals and birds, adding that  “plastics degrade extremely slowly in the open ocean, partly due to UV absorption by seawater and relatively low temperatures. The dumping of plastics into the sea from ships is prohibited under international treaties.

IMO,  Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) recently  agreed to a restructuring of IMO’s Sub-Committees, in order to deal more effectively with the technical and operational issues covered by IMO regulations, in line with  a review and reform process initiated Sekimizu.

The restructuring will see the number of Sub-Committees reduced from nine to seven, with their terms of reference covering the following issues:

Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW): to address issues relating to human element training and watch keeping, including minimum international standards for training and certification of seafarers and fishing vessel personnel; and technical and operational issues related to maritime safety, security, and environmental protection, to encourage a safety culture in all ship operations; safe manning; the review, updating and revision of IMO model courses; and promotion and implementation of the Organization’s human element strategy.

Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III):  to address the effective and consistent global implementation and enforcement of IMO instruments concerning maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment, including: comprehensive review of the rights and obligations of States emanating from the IMO treaty instruments; assessment, monitoring and review of the current level of implementation of IMO instruments by States in their capacity as flag, port and coastal States and countries training and certifying officers and crews.

Others include identification of the reasons for the difficulties in implementing provisions of relevant IMO instruments; consideration of proposals to assist States in implementing and complying with IMO instruments; analyses of investigations reports into marine casualties and incidents; review of IMO standards on maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment, to maintain an updated and harmonized guidance on survey and certification related requirements; and promotion of global harmonization of port State control activities.

Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR): to consider technical and operational matters related to the obligations of Governments and operational measures related to safety of navigation, including hydrographic and meteorological services, ships’ routeing, ship reporting systems, aids to navigation, radio-navigation systems, vessel traffic services, and pilotage; operational requirements and guidelines relating to navigational safety and associated issues, such as regulations for the prevention of collisions and groundings, bridge procedures, voyage planning, avoidance of dangerous situations, places of refuge including maritime assistance services and relevant aspects of maritime security; carriage requirements, performance standards and operational guidelines for the use of shipborne navigational equipment and other navigational requirements.

Other issues are  obligations of Governments and operational measures related to the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), development and maintenance of the global search and rescue (SAR) Plan and the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system; operational requirements and guidelines relating to radiocommunications and search and rescue, and, in co-operation with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the harmonization of aeronautical and maritime search and rescue procedures; carriage requirements, performance standards and operational guidelines for the use of ship borne radiocommunications and search and rescue equipment; and liaison with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on maritime mobile radiocommunication matters.

Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR): to consider technical and operational matters related to: prevention and control of pollution of the marine environment from ships and other related maritime operations; safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships; evaluation of safety and pollution hazards of liquid substances in bulk transported by ships; control and management of harmful aquatic organisms in ships’ ballast water and sediments.

Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC): to consider technical and operational matters related to: design, construction, subdivision and stability, buoyancy, sea-keeping and arrangements, including evacuation matters   of all types of ships, vessels, craft and mobile units covered by IMO instruments; testing and approval of construction and materials; load line matters; tonnage measurement matters; safety of fishing vessels and fishermen; and survey and certification.

Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE): to consider technical and operational matters related to: systems and equipment, including machinery and electrical installations, of all types of ships, vessels, craft and mobile units covered by IMO instruments; testing and approval of systems and equipment; life-saving equipment, appliances and arrangements; fire protection systems; and analyses of casualty and incident records relating to ship systems and equipment.


Original Article