How IMO helps in free flow of trade – IMO Secretary-General

By Gboyega Oni
The Secretary-General of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim, has said that for shipping trade to flow effectively worldwide, IMO ensures that connections between ships, ports and people are secure and helps member states to enhance their maritime security by focussing on what the civil maritime stakeholders – both the shipping and port sectors – can do to protect themselves and to assist governments to protect global maritime trade.

Kitack Lim stated this in a speech on ‘How can the IMO help in the free flow of trade?’ he delivered at a recent London International Shipping Week, London.

He noted that helping free flow of trade is a vital part work of the IMO in the areas of safety and environmental protection, which he said attract the most attention. He added that the topic was tried to be highlighted in 2017 under World Maritime Day theme ‘Connecting ships, ports and people.’

He said the issue of the free flow of trade had since been recognized by IMO way back 1965 with development of the Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic – the FAL Convention 1965. He noted that the convention has standardized shipping requirements worldwide and cut red tape.

If every country and every port within each country has different requirements for ships, cargoes and people, there would be chaos and inefficiency. There is a clear need for standardization and cutting red tape. This was recognized by IMO many years ago, resulting in the development of the Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965 – the FAL Convention.

The Secretary General averred that the FAL Convention evolves to take into account new developments and technologies in shipping, saying that a series of amendments to the Convention will enter into force on 1 January 2018. These include new systems for the electronic exchange of information for the clearance of ships, cargo, crew and passengers by April 2019.

According to him, IMO is also working on the development of so-called maritime ‘single window’ systems, in which all the many agencies and authorities involved exchange data via a single point of contact, using harmonized and standardized data reporting formats.

“Helping the free flow of trade is a vital part of our work and, indeed, one which we have tried to highlight throughout this year under our World Maritime Day theme “Connecting ships, ports and people.”

“Everyone today understands the importance of shipping to global trade. So it is in everyone’s interests to make the process as smooth as possible. But ships, crew-members and the goods and passengers that they carry across borders are subject to a range of government controls, both on arrival and departure. These controls address a wide range of issues including ensuring public health, revenue protection, security, immigration, enforcing controls on importing and exporting prohibited and restricted items, and sanctions enforcement.

“If every country and every port within each country has different requirements for ships, cargoes and people, there would be chaos and inefficiency. There is a clear need for standardization and cutting red tape. This was recognized by IMO many years ago, resulting in the development of the Convention on the Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic, 1965 – the FAL Convention.

The FAL Convention was the first international convention developed by IMO. It entered into force on in 1967 and is currently binding on 118 Contracting Governments.

“The Convention is crucial to the free flow of maritime trade. It sets out internationally agreed ‘Standards’ and ‘Recommended Practices’ in respect of the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargoes and includes provisions in respect of stowaways, public health, and quarantine.

“As with all IMO conventions, the FAL Convention evolves to take into account new developments and technologies. A series of amendments to the Convention will enter into force on 1 January 2018. These include new systems for the electronic exchange of information for the clearance of ships, cargo, crew and passengers by April 2019.

“IMO is also working on the development of so-called maritime ‘single window’ systems, in which all the many agencies and authorities involved exchange data via a single point of contact, using harmonized and standardized data reporting formats.”

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