IUMI supports EU paper on Places of Refuge to IMO MSC 100 in December 2018

Once a casualty has occurred and a vessel is in distress – whether due to fire or any issue threatening its safety – this vessel needs a place of shelter, and the place of refuge convention is meant to ensure immediate access to a safe, close and prepared port.

However, IUMI secretary general lars Lange has noted in the latest Iumi Eye that a number of incidents, such as the MSC Flaminia fire in 2012, had shown that this was not always the case.

The IMO had agreed in 2004 on the places of refuge guidelines for ships in need of assistance (Resolution A.949(23)).

Also, the EU had in place directives 2002/59/EG and 2009/17/EG, mandating EU Member States to provide places of refuge for stricken vessels in order to prevent greater damage to the environment.

However, Lange noted that, put simply, it lacked on practical procedures within the Member States to comply with these regulations once an incident happened.

Lange said that the “not in my back-yard” mentality led to an approach where coastal states would prefer vessels in distress approach another state, whether due to insufficient equipment or staff, or due to justified environmental concerns.

To avoid this, the European Commission had, together with an industry group, developed the EU Operational Guidelines on Places of Refuge, published in January 2017. IUMI was part of this “Places of Refuge Cooperation Group” and an active contributor. The idea was to establish very concrete organization and reporting procedures within the EU Member States in order to ensure that a vessel in distress knew whom to approach, the coastal state knew what to do and when to do it, and the EU monitored that decisions taken on granting or not granting a place of refuge were reasonable and based on regulation and the guidelines.

After several meetings and practical table top exercises the 2017 guidelines were amended. The European Commission took the initiative to provide the next meeting of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee MSC (MSC 100 from 3rd to 7th December 2018) with a “Proposal for a new output for a revision of resolution A.949(23) on Guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance”. The paper by the EU member states has been co-sponsored by several international maritime associations:

  • International Chamber of Shipping (ICS)
  • International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI),
  • BIMCO,
  • International Salvage Union (ISU),
  • the P&I Clubs.

The document recommends the topic as a new item in the upcoming biennial agenda for the MSC Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) for a revision of resolution A.949(23). This is in order to ensure that the resolution remains up to date and continues to serve as an effective instrument providing a clear framework to deal with a ship in need of assistance seeking a place of refuge in a consistent and harmonised manner globally.