BUSINESS Ship owners to take responsibility for wreck-removal on sea
The Nairobi International Convention on the removal of wrecks will become effective on 14 April 2015 following the deposit, on 14 April 2014, of an instrument of ratification by Denmark, with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
A statement from the IMO said among several provisions, the convention will place financial responsibility for the removal of certain hazardous wrecks on ship owners, making insurance or some other forms of financial security compulsory.
Denmark became the 10th country to ratify the convention, thereby triggering its entry into force exactly 12 months later.
The convention will fill a gap in the existing international legal framework by providing the first set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond a country’s territorial sea. The convention also contains a clause that enables states parties to ‘opt in’ to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea.
“The convention will provide a sound legal basis for states to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have the potential to affect adversely the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine and coastal environment. It will make ship owners financially liable and require them to take out insurance or provide other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal. It will also provide states with a right of direct action against insurers.”
The IMO said although the incidence of marine casualties has decreased in recent years, mainly thanks to the work of IMO and the persistent efforts of governments and industry to enhance safety in shipping operations, the number of abandoned wrecks has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal states and shipping in general have become more acute.
“There are a number of problems: first, and depending on its location, a wreck may constitute a hazard to navigation, potentially endangering other vessels and their crews; second, and of equal concern, depending on the nature of the cargo, is the potential for a wreck to cause substantial damage to the marine and coastal environments; third, in an age where goods and services are becoming increasingly expensive, is the issue of the costs involved in the marking and removal of hazardous wrecks; and fourth, most of the dangerous wrecks lie in shallow coastal waters, within the territorial sea, where coastal states have unrestricted rights to remove them, without engagement of the ship owner. The convention attempts to resolve all of these and other, related, issues,” the statement added.