Despite the challenges of virtual meetings throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) did not cease, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) delegation remained an active participant covering topics and issues relevant today and for the future. From serving in leadership roles at meetings, to actively contributing to discussions and submitting documents, the RMI delegation continues to support important initiatives at the IMO that will set the course for the future of shipping. While every delegation member plays a valuable role in this effort, below is a brief summary of several members of the RMI delegation that are directly engaged in work at the IMO in a chair or coordinator capacity.
Last winter, Thanos Theocharis, based in the RMI Registry’s Piraeus office, chaired the working group on the revision of the performance standards for water level detectors on bulk carriers and single hold cargo ships other than bulk carriers at the January session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Design and Construction (SDC). The group also considered several unified interpretations relating to the Load Line Convention and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Thanos is also an active contributor to a broad range of correspondence and drafting groups with subjects on ballast water, biofouling, air emissions, fire protection, International Safety Management (ISM) and survey/certification matters.
In Spring 2022, Diego Ramirez, based in the RMI Registry’s Fort Lauderdale office, chaired a drafting group at the 109th session of the IMO’s Legal Committee (LEG), which developed the LEG circular providing guidance on the impact of the situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov on insurance or other financial security certificates. In the same context, Diego also chaired a drafting group at the 105th session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which finalized the MSC resolution on actions to facilitate the urgent evacuation of seafarers from the war zone area in and around the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov as a result of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine. Diego is also actively involved with the RMI delegation to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPCF) meetings, and LEG correspondence groups addressing IMO liability and compensation related issues and seafarer abandonment.
Since late 2019, London based Maryanne Adams has chaired the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargo and Containers (CCC). She is the first RMI delegate to chair one of the seven IMO sub-committees and has successfully guided the work of this very technical sub-committee through the challenges of virtual meeting modalities during the pandemic. Her sub-committee will also be the first to return to in-person meetings in September this year. As part of the core team supporting the RMI delegation to the IMO, Maryanne participates in all meetings of the IMO Council, committees, and sub-committees, and where needed, actively contributes to working groups and correspondence groups established in areas of her expertise.
The 105th session of the MSC met in April 2022 to begin work on the development of an instrument to regulate the operation of maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS). RMI’s Charles McHardy, another integral member of the core IMO team based in London, has been heavily involved in this topic at IMO and continues to play an active role in the development of the MASS Code. He is presently coordinating the correspondence group established by the MSC to progress this work on MASS. Charles is also contributing to a wide range of other work streams addressing ship design and construction, diving systems, life-saving appliances, air emissions, and biofouling guidelines.
Mark Rijsdijk, located in Roosendaal, continues to serve as chairman of the working group established by the Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments and is tasked with keeping the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (HSSC) and the non-exhaustive list of obligations under IMO instruments up to date. At the last session of the Sub-Committee, his working group also considered draft guidance on assessments and applications of remote surveys, ISM Code audits and International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code verifications. In addition to chairing the working group, Mark is also the lead representative for the RMI at the Editorial and Technical (E&T) group meetings addressing requirements for carriage of cargoes under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
Eric Linsner, based in New York, chairs CCC’s working group on the application of high manganese austenitic steel for cryogenic service and acceptance of alternative metallic materials for cryogenic service in ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk and ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels. This group is now taking up work on revisions to the International Gas Carrier (IGC) Code. Eric also served as the coordinator for the correspondence groups established by CCC to progress work on this agenda between sessions.
The RMI delegation has also been actively engaged with work under IMO’s Facilitation Committee (FAL) on maritime anti-corruption. Rob Lomas, based in London, provided leadership in coordinating the correspondence group that developed non-mandatory guidance on implementing and adopting procedures against maritime corruption. These guidelines were approved at the last FAL session in May 2022.
Additionally, the Registry’s team is actively engaged in educational and professional development opportunities through IMO. Rose Catherine Hernandez, based in Reston, was awarded the Government of Malta Prize for Best Maritime Legislation Drafting Project at the 33rd Annual International Maritime Law Institute graduation ceremony in July 2022. Ms. Hernandez received her Master of Laws degree at the ceremony.
December 2022 will be the first meeting of the Joint International Labour Organization (ILO)–IMO Tripartite Working Group (JTWG) established to identify and address seafarers’ issues and the human element. The first topic for the JTWG will be to develop guidelines for port State and flag State authorities on how to address seafarer abandonment cases. In July 2022, the IMO Council appointed eight governments, including the RMI, as IMO representatives to the JTWG.
With so much IMO activity on the horizon, the RMI delegation looks to have a busy few months ahead.