Summary of the 44th session of the IMO’s Facilitation Committee (FAL 44)

By Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The Facilitation Committee met over five days in the first ever virtual regular session of an IMO Committee from 28 September to 2 October 2020. Strong support for a resolution on actions to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic was voiced during the meeting. 

The Committee approved a revised version of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business, including new data sets related to the shipping and the ship/port interface communications beyond the FAL Convention. The IMO Expert Group on Data Harmonisation (EGDH), which considers new or amended data sets for the Compendium, will continue intersessionally on related matters, including work related to the maintenance of the Compendium.

One of the priorities of the Committee is the increased use of digitalisation. The Committee agreed to develop guidelines for harmonised communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls. The guidelines are expected to improve efficient operational ship-port data exchange and will contribute to reducing emissions and increasing the safety of operations. A correspondence group was established to work on the matter intersessionally. These guidelines will support port call optimisation, in particular the implementation of Just-In-Time (JIT) arrivals, which can have a significant environmental impact through reducing GHG emissions by optimizing a ship's speed to arrive just in time. JIT arrivals also contribute to reduced time at anchorage and therefore reduced congestion in the port area. It is estimated that ships spend up to 9% of their time waiting at anchorage.

The Committee also considered draft guidelines for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window, prepared by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO). The guidelines are aimed at meeting the need for authentication, integrity checks and confidentiality in electronic information exchanges, both for cybersecurity purposes and for building trust in automated ship and shore processes. A correspondence group was tasked with further reviewing and developing the guidelines, taking into account existing and emerging standards, methodologies and legal frameworks to promote interoperability. The group was also instructed to consider how common functions related to the authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information exchanges via maritime single windows and related services can be organised.

The Committee commenced its work on the development of guidance to address maritime corruption, noting that there are a number of national jurisdictional and legal matters which need to be considered, as well as a number of other legal and policy concerns. IUMI co-sponsored a paper which served as basis for the Committee’s discussion. The maritime industry is exposed to the risk of many forms of corruption, particularly with respect to the multi-layered interface with ports. Corrupt demands include unlawful requests for payments to allow ships to enter and depart the port or disproportionate penalties being applied for minor errors. Such illegal practices can lead to interruptions to normal operations, a risk to personal and ship safety, ships being delayed, and incurring higher operational costs. Tackling this far-reaching problem reflects IUMI’s approach to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

The Committee also agreed to develop guidelines for the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic. Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to generate US$50-150 billion per year and is one of the five most lucrative global crimes. The guidelines will serve as a tool to combat wildlife trafficking in the maritime sector and will take into account the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).