Places of refuge on the IMO agenda - NCSR 8 (19-23 April)

By Lars Lange, IUMI Secretary General

The MSC Flaminia incident, which in 2012 fire-stricken was left adrift for weeks until finally granted a port of refuge in Germany, prompted a new European Commission (EC) Cooperation Group on Places of Refuge. Four years after the MSC Flaminia incident, new emergency response procedures for ships in distress were agreed across the European Union (EU). Several industry stakeholders, including IUMI, participated together with EU Member States, the EC, and European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in the drafting. The aim had been to ensure better coordination and exchange of information by providing guidance that led to better advised and quicker decision making. It also emphasised that there shall be no denial of access on anything (commercial or financial) other than safety grounds.

While a modernised EU regulation is in place, the existing International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulation A.949(23) needed, in the view of stakeholders, an update as well. In August 2018, EU Member States together with the EC and industry organisations, including IUMI, proposed in a submission to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) 100 a review of the IMO PoR (Places of Refuge) guidelines. In January 2020, the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) subsequently agreed to form a Correspondence Group and MSC 102 endorsed in November 2020 an accelerated process in which Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 76, Legal Committee (LEG) 108 and MSC 104 receive the draft text for approval in view of adoption by Assembly in 2021.

Very recently, after intense debates at NCSR 8 in April 2021, NCSR 8 re-established the Correspondence Group on Revision of the Guidelines instructing it to further develop the draft revision of the Guidelines with a view to finalisation by NCSR 9 and to consider what issues should be brought to the attention of MEPC and the LEG Committee. IUMI will keep a close eye on the work and will continue to report.