Summary of 109th session of the IMO Legal Committee (LEG 109)

By Hendrike Kühl, IUMI Policy Director

The Legal Committee met virtually for its 109th session from 21-25 March 2022. Gillian Grant from Canada chaired the meeting assisted by her Vice-Chair, Ivane Abashidze from Georgia. IUMI was in attendance with Secretary General Lars Lange; Keeley Wylie, IUMI Legal & Liability Committee; and Policy Director Hendrike Kühl. Key issues of interest included: 


Black Sea and the Sea of Azov - Guidance on insurance or other financial security certificates

The Legal Committee approved a circular on “Guidance on the impact of the situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov on insurance or other financial security certificates.  This followed the decision of the IMO Council at its Extraordinary Session earlier in March to request IMO Committees to consider ways to support affected seafarers and commercial vessels, and to consider the implications of this situation for the implementation of the IMO's instruments.

The circular notes that a number of relevant IMO liability and compensation treaties require that State Parties issue certificates attesting that insurance or other financial security which meets the requirements of the conventions is in force. The introduction of economic sanctions may in some cases restrict the insurers or other financial security providers from processing claims or prohibit the payment of claims arising under these conventions. 

The circular recommends, in particular, that flag or certifying States issuing certificates based on Russian insurers or Russian financial security providers should verify that the coverage meets the criteria outlined in Circular Letter No.3464 - which provides guidance for accepting “Blue Cards” or similar documentation from insurance companies for specified treaties. 

Port States encountering certificates involving Russian insurers or financial security providers should consult with the issuing or certifying State whose responsibility it is to ensure that the insurance or financial security remains adequate, as called for in the relevant IMO liability and compensation treaties.

The circular also recommends that if a State Party to the following Conventions has issued certificates pursuant to Article VII of the 1969 Civil Liability Convention, Article 7 of the 1992 CLC Protocol, Article 7 of the 2001 Bunkers Convention, Article 12 of the 2007 Nairobi WRC and Article 4bis of the 2002 Athens Protocol, the issuing State or its designated authority should ensure that it cancels the certificate in accordance with the conventions if or when they receive notification of termination of the insurance or other financial security.

In the context, the Committee also agreed to include a new sub-item on the impact on shipping and seafarers of the situation in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov in the agenda of the Legal Committee.


Measures to assess the need to amend liability limits

The Committee discussed proposals to develop methodologies for assessing the need to amend liability limits in a number of liability and compensation treaties and established an intersessional correspondence group to develop a list of principles and policy considerations that will need to be decided by the Committee and begin developing elements that would need to be included in a draft methodology. The work will focus initially on the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, as amended by the 1996 Protocol (LLMC). IUMI is represented in the Correspondence Group by Charles Fernandez, Legal & Liability Committee Chair.


Guidance for implementation and application of IMO liability and compensation conventions

In 2021 an informal correspondence group started work to develop guidance for the proper implementation and application of IMO liability and compensation conventions. The issue was raised in relation to problems which had occurred with non-IG insurers.

At LEG 109, the Committee agreed to include a new output on the development of this guidance in the 2022-2023 biennial agenda with a target completion year of 2024. It was further agreed that Canada would lead the informal intersessional work and that the group would report back to LEG 110. IUMI will continue to participate in the Correspondence Group.


Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS)

Following the completion of the Committee's regulatory scoping exercise on Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), the Committee agreed to include a new output under the work programme on "Measures to address Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS) in instruments under the purview of LEG". The Committee invited proposals to LEG 110 (2023) on the scope of the work on the new output and a draft road map, in order to have a common understanding of the steps to be taken by the Committee. The human element should be an important aspect to consider and MASS should operate within the legal framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Committee approved the establishment of a joint Maritime Safety, Legal and Facilitation Committees (MSC-LEG-FAL) Working Group on MASS, as a cross-cutting mechanism to address common high-priority issues identified by the regulatory scoping exercises for the use of MASS. The Joint Working Group would be instructed to address the common issues identified by the three Committees; and provide advice to the Committees after every meeting. The establishment of the Joint Group is subject to approval by FAL and MSC.