IMO MSC Meeting Results Announced, Documents Now Available

On May 26th, the International Maritime released a press briefing summarizing the results of the 89th session of its Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in London from May 11th to the 20th. In addition to safety, the MSC is responsible for maritime transportation security matters. The Meeting Documents have now also been made available for download on the public side of IMO’s document collection.
Meeting Results Relating to Maritime Transportation Security
SecurityThe MSC’s development of interim guidance on the employment of privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships transiting the high-risk piracy area, adoption of a resolution on the implementation of Best Management Practice (BMP) Guidance and approval of Guidelines to assist in the investigation of the crimes of piracy and armed robbery against ships, was previously reported.
In addition to piracy and armed robbery against ships, issues related to maritime security included matters regarding Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) and measures to enhance maritime security. The MSC agreed that the transfer of operations of the International LRIT Data Exchange (IDE) from the temporary facility in the United States to the European Maritime Safety Agency in Portugal should be completed by the end of the year. The Committee also reviewed performance reports and issues concerning the long-term operational and financial viability of the LRIT system. And finally, buried in a list of “other issues” at the end of the press briefing, is the notation that the MSC approved the “IMO User Guide to SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code.”
Meeting Documents Bearing on Maritime Security
SecurityBy my count, 43 of the 152 documents formally presented to the MSC at this session had a direct bearing on maritime security. Twenty-two related to piracy and armed robbery against ships, 19 dealt with LRIT matters, six fell under the measures to enhance maritime security, and one was lodged under the technical assistance agenda item. In following discussion, which highlights those items I thought were interesting, the number in brackets after a document is its number on the list of Meeting Documents (free registration required).
Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships
ShipsFirst up in the piracy category, a paper submitted by the US, “Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia Report of Working Group 3” [94], on the results of that Group’s February 28th meeting. It seems representatives of the P&I Clubs don’t think that a standard rate reduction for ships that comply with the BMPs would be “workable.” On the other hand, certain coverages are a matter of right under P&I policies and could not be withdrawn “where the extent of BMP compliance was in doubt.” However, the representatives thought that Club Directors (who are ship owners) would be “unsympathetic” to claims by ships that were not BMP-compliant for losses for which reimbursement is discretionary (p. 6, para. 6.3). This paper also discusses using the ISPS Code to require implementation of counter-piracy BMPs, an issue on which there had been no consensus at the 88th session of the MSC, in late 2010. The discussion is interesting for the line up of who was for and who was against the idea. Some countries evidently are using the International Safety Management (ISM) Code to require their flag shipping implement counter-piracy measure. France opined that “ISPS is about terrorism not piracy” and that efforts to compel BMP compliance through the ISPS Code “may dilute the effectiveness” of the Code. Many of the shipping industry associations thought it would be difficult to update the BMPs, if they were made part of the ISPS Code. The Marshall Islands suggested agreement that “piracy is a security issue dealt with under ISPS,” rather than requiring BMPs under ISPS. It was agreed to work intersessionally “to design a framework into which BMPs and other counter piracy guidance can be used that readily relates into the ISPS Code.” (p.8, paras. 9.1-9.3) After an extensive discussion of armed security to counter piracy, it was also agreed to work intersessionally “to develop guidelines for the employment of armed security teams,” with priority going to the latter task.
Nine other “piracy and armed robbery against ships” papers also dealt with armed security in one way or another. The IMO Secretariat [98] and the Cook Islands [103] separately provided the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. A Note by the Secretariat, “A preliminary brief on legal issues relating to the use of armed Security Services aboard vessels” [101], deals solely with the use of military Vessel Protection Detachments (VPDs) being offered by the European Union Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR), rather than including legal issues related to private security for which the MSC developed interim guidance at the meeting. As for the provision of VPDs, a paper by the Bahamas and the Marshall Islands, “The need for more proactive protective measures” [111], opines that it would appear that “EUNAVFOR is only interested in doing so solely on its terms, which we believe is counterproductive to all parties’ interests.” This paper also suggested that the MSC consider “recognizing an established international maritime security services industry association to which a flag State might choose, subject to its national laws and regulations, to refer vessel operators seeking maritime security advice and services” and provided suggested minimum criteria for earning such recognition. The MSC may have “considered” the idea, but there’s no indication that it conferred recognition on any organization.
A paper by the Philippines, Singapore, BIMCO, and the ICS, “Development of guidance for the industry on the employment of private armed security service providers to deter and counter piracy against ships” [109], and one by Liberia, “Use of armed security personnel on board vessels” [110] both include suggested guidance. While many of the concepts included in these two suggestions were incorporated into the Committee’s Interim Guidance, it wasn’t a word-for-word lift, and other concepts, including reference to and reliance on the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers, were left on the cutting room floor. Finally, a paper by IPTA (the International Parcel Tankers Association), “Employment of private armed security providers” [115], provides a short and sweet statement of the reasons why many chemical and product tanker companies have shifted to supporting the use of armed security. (p. 2, paras. 4-6)
LRIT IssuesWhile most of the LRIT work dealt with administrative, technical, and financial matters, two documents struck me as interesting. “LRIT Shipborne equipment not operating as expected within the LRIT system: statistical information” [28], submitted by the European Commission, suggests that the LRIT system still has a lot of teething to go through. For the second half of 2010, on average approximately 17 percent of registered ships do not report into the EU Cooperative LRIT Data Centre (DC), for a variety of reasons. (p.3, para, 14) Of the almost 83 percent that did report, not all were reporting in accordance with LRIT performance standards. Only 77 % of the registered ships were doing that. (p.5, para. 19) In a similar vein, in “Report on the performance of the LRIT system from a port State tracking perspective” [36], Canada reported that its requests, in January 2011, for LRIT information on ships that had submitted Notices of Arrival (NOAs) to Canada were successful only 73 % of the time and that this figure is consistent with recent Canadian experience. In 52 % of the cases, the LRIT DC was unable to provide LRIT information; 45% of the time, the LRIT DC did not have the ship registered to the flag reported in the NOA. The remaining 3% of failures resulted from communications issues between DCs. (pp.1-2, paras. 2-3)
Enhancing Maritime Security
SecurityThe LRIT performance shortfalls provide a nice segue to a Korean proposal, under the rubric of measures to enhance maritime security, for mandatory periodic surveys of Ship’s Security Alert Systems (SSASs)—”Consideration of periodical survey to Ship Security Alert System (SSAS)” [17]. Although the MSC had, at its 82nd session in late 2006, declined to make periodic SSAS surveys an international requirement (“due to concerns related to confidentiality and other specificities of the ISPS Code”), the Republic of Korea mandates them for its flag shipping. Korea reported that SSAS malfunctions had been found in almost 11% of the 801 inspections that had been conducted under its program. Viewing that malfunction rate unacceptable and assuming that other countries would experience similar rates, if they mandated periodic SSAS surveys, Korea proposed mandatory requirements for SSAS surveys by radio inspectors in conjunction with the other required radio surveys. The Korean paper suggested ways to ensure that radio inspectors would be required to maintain the confidentiality of SSAS information. Whether the MSC agreed to take up the Korean proposal is currently unknown.
An actual enhancement to maritime security, however, was presented in two documents submitted by Canada, “Maritime Security Manual — Guidance for port facilities, ports and ships” [14] and “Report of the Correspondence Group on the Maritime Security Manual” [16]. The Maritime Security Manual is presumably the “IMO User Guide to SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code” that the IMO press briefing says that the MSC approved. Since the accompanying Report [14] included in its description of the Correspondence Group’s review and editing of the Draft Maritime Security Manual the statement, “[t]he Group was encouraged to provide any further proposed amendments to the coordinators so as to inform discussions on the manual at MSC 89,” it is possible that further modifications were made during the MSC’s consideration of the document. The Group also suggested that “it would be beneficial to publish an electronic version of the Manual.” If IMO’s past practice is any guide, any electronic version will carry the same hefty price tag as the hard copy. (The IMO Publications Catalog and E-book price list charge the same for the paperback and electronic versions of the ISPS Code and for printed and downloaded copies of the Model Courses for ISPS Security Officers.) While it’s quite understandable for a public body to charge for a hard copy of a publication, should a document prepared largely by government experts, who were paid by their countries’ taxpayers, wind up as a pricey e-book in IMO’s publications catalog? (Consider that the ILO-IMO Code of Practice on Security in Ports is available for free download on the International Labour Organization website.)
A quick comparison between the Maritime Security Manual’s Table of Contents and that of the original draft reveals that the new version is almost 40 pages shorter, even though “Section 1 Introduction to the Manual” has gained 13 pages and “Section 2 Security Responsibilities of Governments and their National Authorities” has been lengthened by six pages. The slimming down of the Manual has been accomplished by cutting 20 pages from “Section 3 Security Responsibilities of Port and Facility Operators,” while “Section 4 Security Responsibilities of Ship Operators,” has lost 35 pages. “Section 5 Framework for Conducting Security Assessments” (previously entitled “Security Assessment Methodology for ports, port facilities and ships”) has lost one-page appendices on “Practical Application of a Security Assessment Methodology for” “Port Facilities”/”SOLAS Ships.” Besides the gross page differences between old and new sections, new subsections have been added and others have been rearranged. At the end of the day, the version of the Maritime Security Manual presented to the MSC at this session boils down ISPS Code requirements, “explanatory text,” and “details of practices that will help security practitioners to meet security objectives” to 94 pages for governments, 45 pages for port facility and port operators, and 78 pages for ship operators, plus 10 pages on Security Assessments. Pending a more detailed review of the latest version, I’m left with the suspicion that a lot of very commendable effort on a good idea has ended up producing a volume that covers the topic, but is missing the level of detail that would truly benefit the experienced maritime transportation security practitioner.
Maritime Security Training
The final document of interest to maritime transportation security aficionados is one submitted by the Secretariat, “Periodical report on model courses” [87], under the agenda item “Technical Assistance Sub-Programme in Maritime Safety and Security.” This report indicates that Model Courses “3.19 Ship Security Officer,” “3.20 Company Security Officer,” and “3.21 Port Facility Security Officer” are all “under revision.” Confusingly, this is indicated under both the headings “Model courses printed and available for use” (p. 2) and “Model courses currently out of print pending revision” (p.3). In addition, new “Model courses under development” include:
* Security awareness training for seafarers with designated security duties
* Security awareness training for all seafarers
* Security awareness training for port facility personnel with designated security duties
* Security awareness training for all port facility personnel
What’s interesting about the titles of the first and third courses is that the ISPS Code refers to personnel “having specific security duties” not people “with designated security duties.
The report also says that “[e]xisting model courses are being revised and updated within the available resources in a phased manner,” so it’s anybody’s guess as to when the revised Security Officer courses will be rolled out. No schedule was given for the new maritime security awareness courses either. All we do know is that those of us who do maritime security training will have to shell out tidy sums to stay current. The current IMO Publications Catalog lists the three maritime Security Officer training courses at £20 (more than $32) each. (The much longer ISPS Code and SOLAS Amendments is a relative bargain at £14.) I don’t know who is doing the revising of these three courses, or the development of the new maritime security awareness training courses, but the original IMO Model Courses for Security Officers were paid for by US and Indian taxpayers, since they were produced in a joint effort by the US Merchant Marine Academy, the US Coast Guard, and the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India. So, once again, I ask why they are not available for free download? I guess I’m spoiled by the prohibition on the US Government claiming copyright for any of its works.
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By Professional Mariner Staff