Home CSN news Addressing seafarers’ challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

Addressing seafarers’ challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic


At its 32nd session, the IMO Assembly adopted a resolution on comprehensive action to address seafarers’ challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the 32nd session of the IMO Assembly (A 32) from 6-15 December 2021, the Assembly adopted a resolution on comprehensive action to address seafarers’ challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, consolidating issues related to crew change, access to medical care, ʺkey workerʺ designation and seafarers’ prioritization for COVID-19 vaccination.

The resolution urges Member States to:

  • designate seafarers as ʺkey workersʺ in order to facilitate shore leave and safe and unhindered movement across borders, and recognize their relevant documentation for this purpose;
  • consider the implementation of the Industry recommended framework of protocols for ensuring safe ship crew changes and travel during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic;
  • prioritize vaccination of seafarers, as far as practicable, in their national COVID-19 vaccination programmes;
  • consider exempting seafarers from any national policy requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for entry, taking into account that seafarers should be designated as ʺkey workersʺ and that they travel across borders frequently;
  • provide seafarers with immediate access to medical care and facilitate medical evacuation of seafarers in need of urgent medical attention when the required medical care cannot be provided either on board or in the port of call.

The Assembly also adopted the work programme and budget of the Organization, elected the IMO Council for 2022-2023 and adopted a number of important resolutions, including those covering prevention and suppression of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, capacity building, fishing vessel safety and prevention of fraudulent registries and other fraudulent acts.

Prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships and illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea 

The Assembly adopted an updated resolution on prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships and illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea (to update IMO Assembly resolution A.1069(28)).

The resolution acknowledges the serious safety and security concerns of the industry and the seafaring community as a result of the attacks against ships sailing in the Gulf of Guinea and the grave danger to life and serious risks to navigational safety and the environment that attacks by pirates, armed robbers and other criminals may cause.

Acknowledging the efforts made by countries in the region as well as other entities, the resolution urges Governments to cooperate with and assist States in the Gulf of Guinea to develop their national and regional capabilities to improve maritime governance in waters under their jurisdiction; to prevent piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activities in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS. Governments are urged to assist States to build capacity to interdict and bring to justice those who commit crimes. Such assistance might include strengthening of the legal frameworks, including anti-piracy laws and enforcement regulations; the training of national maritime law enforcement agencies; promoting anti-piracy and law enforcement coordination and cooperation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry; and the sharing of information

Entry into force and implementation of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety

The adopted resolution urges Governments that have not yet become parties to the 2012 Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety to consider doing so by 11 October 2022, the tenth anniversary of the Agreement’s adoption.

The date reflects the commitment by States which signed a declaration at the 2019 Torremolinos Conference.

The resolution recognizes the efforts and contributions made by Member States, FAO, ILO and The Pew Charitable Trusts to support the regional and national seminars and webinars, which have been held in all regions of the globe since 2014, on the implementation and ratification of the Agreement, including webinars held during 2020-2021.

The capacity-building decade 2021-2030

The Assembly adopted a resolution setting out the Organization’s aims and ambitions related to capacity building during the current decade, adopting the Capacity-Building Decade 2021-2030 Strategy. The strategy aims to support Member States in the adoption, implementation and enhancement of compliance with IMO instruments.

The strategy will address the needs of Member States including issues identified through the IMO Member State Audit Scheme (IMSAS); and achieve the maritime aspects of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through a focus on supporting the development and implementation of robust national maritime policies and strategies predicated on harnessing the full potential of the maritime economies.

The strategy includes: mission statement; vision statement; overarching principles for the Capacity-Building Decade 2021-2030 Strategy; and four work streams setting out the areas of particular strategic focus for the period 2021 to 2030: 1. to reform and streamline IMO’s internal organization for delivery of technical assistance; 2. support Member States in maritime development; 3. enhance the Regional Presence Office (RPO) Scheme; and 4. strengthen the global training and development network.

Prevention and suppression of fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries and other fraudulent acts in the maritime sector 

The adopted resolution encourages Governments to review the provisions in their national law relating to the prevention and suppression of all forms of maritime fraud and to make such additions or improvements, regarding, inter alia, the exercise of due diligence, as may be necessary for the prevention and suppression of such acts and practices, and for safeguarding the interests of all stakeholders concerned.

Governments are urged to take all possible measures of cooperation with each other and with relevant intergovernmental organizations and maritime stakeholders in order to maintain and develop coordinated actions in all relevant areas to combat maritime fraud, including the exchange of information and reporting the names of ships and registries involved in fraudulent acts.

The resolution urges Governments, the IMO Secretary-General, port State control authorities, vessel owners and operators, non-governmental organizations, the private sector including the maritime insurance industry, ship brokers and other relevant maritime stakeholders to develop workshops that will focus on enhancing capabilities and due diligence practices for the prevention, detection and reporting of fraudulent registration documentation.

Strategic plan updated to include human element strategic direction

The Assembly updated the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan for the Organization, to include a new strategic direction (SD) on the human element.

The strategic plan now includes eight strategic directions: SD 1 Improve implementation; SD 2 Integrate new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework; SD 3 Respond to climate change; SD 4 Engage in ocean governance; SD 5 Enhance global facilitation and security of international trade; SD 6 Ensure regulatory effectiveness; SD 7 Ensure organizational effectiveness; SD 8 Human element.

The strategic direction on the human element says: “In its role as the global regulator of shipping, IMO will build on work already completed to address the human element and will take the human element into account in the review, development and implementation of new and existing requirements. This includes the provision of machinery for cooperation among governments on practices concerning the human element in the maritime sector. To address human element-related issues, the Organization will develop or amend provisions, including but not limited to: training, certification and watchkeeping, including consideration of new technologies; human-centered design; safe manning; drills and exercises; fatigue management; operational safety, security, and environmental protection; and fair treatment of seafarers; taking into account the important role of gender equality.”

The inclusion of the human element as a specific strategic direction recognizes its significance, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when the human element has been a focus for joint work with UN sister organizations, in particular ILO, ICAO and WHO, industry associations and social partners.

International Day for Women in Maritime 

The Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming an International Day for Women in Maritime, to be observed on 18 May every year.

The observance will celebrate women in the industry and is intended to promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector, raise the profile of women in maritime, strengthen IMO’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) and support work to address the current gender imbalance in maritime.

The resolution invites IMO Member States, the maritime industry, and all others in the maritime endeavour to promote and celebrate the International Day for Women in Maritime in an appropriate and meaningful manner.

Budget and work programme

The Assembly adopted the Organization’s budget and work programme for 2022 and 2023.

The IMO Council has already approved a regular budget outline for the 2022-2023 biennium of £75,671,000, comprising an appropriation of £37,350,000 for 2022 and an appropriation of £38,321,000 for 2023.

Election of Council

IMO Council elected for 2022-2023

The Assembly elected the 40 Members of its Council for the 2022-2023 biennium. (Read more here).

The newly-elected IMO Council met for its 126th session on 16 December. It elected Víctor Jiménez of Spain as Chair, and Amane Fathallah of Morocco as Vice-Chair.

Adoption of amendments to the IMO Convention – expansion of Council

The Assembly adopted amendments to the IMO Convention to expand the size of the Council to 52 Member States, from 40, and extend the term of its Members. Until the amendments enter into force, the current structure will remain unchanged.

The amendments require acceptance by two thirds of the IMO Membership, or 117 Member States (based on the current membership of 175 Member States for entry into force. (Read more here.)

The Assembly adopted a resolution urging the Members of the Organization to accept the amendments as soon as possible, with the goal of entry into force of these amendments by 2025.

Guidance on Article 17 of the IMO Convention

The Assembly adopted guidance on consistent application of Article 17 of the IMO Convention.  Article 17 covers the election of Members of the Council, specifically that election under category (c) should ensure a wide geographic representation.

The guidance aims to facilitate compliance with the criteria in Article 17 of the IMO Convention, in particular the special interests in maritime transport or navigation; and to better reflect geographical distribution and representation, including small island developing States (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs).

Full list of Assembly resolutions adopted 

A.1148(32)      Results-based budget for the 2022-2023 biennium

A.1149(32)      Revised strategic plan for the Organization for the six-year period 2018 to 2023

A.1150(32)      Arrears of contribution

A.1151(32)      Presentation of audited financial statements and report of the external auditors

A.1152(32)      Amendments to the Convention on the International Maritime Organization

A.1153(32)      Guidance on consistent application of Article 17 of the IMO Convention [item 9(b)]]

A.1154(32)      Revised Rules of Procedure of the Assembly

A.1155(32)      Procedures for Port State Control, 2021

A.1156(32)      Survey guidelines under the Harmonized System of Survey and Certification (HSSC), 2021

A.1157(32)      2021 Non-exhaustive list of obligations under instruments relevant to the IMO Instruments Implementation Code (III CODE)

A.1158(32)      Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services

A.1159(32)      Prevention and suppression of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in the Gulf of Guinea

A.1160(32)      Comprehensive action to address seafarersʹ challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic

A.1161(32)      Entry into force and implementation of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement

A.1162(32)      Encouragement of Member States and all relevant stakeholders to promote actions for the prevention and suppression of fraudulent registration and fraudulent registries and other fraudulent acts in the maritime sector

A.1163(32)      Interpretation of Article 4 of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, adopted by the States Parties to the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, present at the Thirty-Second session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization

A.1164(32)      Interpretation of Article 4 of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, adopted by the States Parties to the Protocol of 1996 to amend the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, present at the Thirty-Second session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization

A.1165(32)      Interpretation of Article 6 of the Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, 1969 amending Article v(2) of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage,, 1969, adopted by the States Parties to the Protocol of 1992 to amend the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage,, 1969, present at the Thirty-Second session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization

A.1166(32)      The capacity-building decade 2021-2030 strategy

A.1167(32)      Revised financing and partnership arrangements for an effective and sustainable Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme

A.1168(32)      Relations with Intergovernmental Organizations

A.1169(32)      Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations

A.1170(32)      International Day for Women in Maritime

A.1171(32)      Revision of the Organization’s financial regulations

A.1172(32)      Urging Member States to accept the Amendments to the IMO Convention

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IMO Assembly

The IMO Assembly met for its 32nd session (A 32) from 6-15 December 2021, in remote session. more than 1,300 delegates registered to attend. A limited number of delegates attended the online meeting at the IMO Headquarters.

The Assembly is open to all 175 IMO Member States and three Associate Members. Observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations also attend.

The Assembly is the highest Governing Body of the Organization. It consists of all Member States and meets once every two years in regular sessions, but may also meet in an extraordinary session, if necessary. The Assembly is responsible for approving the work programme, the budget and determining the financial arrangements of the Organization. The Assembly also elects the Members of the Council.  In addition, the Assembly adopts certain resolutions emanating from the five IMO Committees and endorses actions of the Council with respect to the admission of new intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations as observers.  The Assembly also adopts amendments to certain treaties, if a Committee is unable to do so.

Assembly documents:  IMODOCS

Officers of the Assembly

The Assembly elected the following officers:

Assembly President

H.E. Mr. Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to IMO.

Vice-Presidents

1st Vice-President: H.E. Ms. Linda Scott, High Commissioner and Permanent Representative of Namibia to IMO.

2nd Vice-President: H.E. Mr. Raffaele Trombetta, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Italy to IMO.

Chair of Committee 1, H.E. Mr. Laurent Parenté, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to IMO, and Chair of TCC.

Chair of Committee 2, Ms. Marina Angsell, Head of Section for International Liaison, Department of Civil Aviation and Maritime Affairs, Swedish Transport Agency, and Chair of FAL.

Chair of the Credentials Committee, Ms. Małgorzata Buszyńska of Poland