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Actions to facilitate seafarer evacuation

IMO MSC Resolution Actions to facilitate seafarer evacuation

From 20 to 29 April the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 105) adopted a resolution 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’s aggression against Ukraine.

IMO’s mission

Delegates were reminded of the IMO Convention and the Strategic Plan of IMO being to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation,

Condemnation of the Russian Federation

UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/ES-11/1 of 2 March 2022, inter alia, condemned the declaration by the Russian Federation of a special military operation in Ukraine, deplored in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of article 2(4) of the Charter, and demanded that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State,

Seafarer safety and welfare

The paramount importance of preserving the safety and welfare of seafarers and urged Member States and observer organizations to provide maximum assistance to seafarers caught up in the conflict was underscored,

Also emphasised was the need to preserve the security of international shipping and the maritime community, and the supply chains that sustain other nations, as well as supply chains providing necessary food and medicines to the people of Ukraine,

Grave concern

At MSC delegates recalled the statement of the IMO Secretary-General of 26 February 2022 which expressed his grave concern regarding the spill over effects of the military action in Ukraine on global shipping, and logistics and supply chains, in particular the impacts on the delivery of commodities and food to developing .  To this is added the impacts on energy supplies and the need to appreciate that ships, seafarers and port workers engaged in legitimate trade should not be collateral victims in the political and military crisis,

The Committee emphasised that ships should be allowed to sail from the ports of Ukraine at the earliest opportunity without threat of attack; and that for those ships that cannot leave immediately, or where it would be unsafe to do so due to the presence of sea mines or other hazards, humanitarian corridors be set up to enable the safety of seafarers by allowing them to leave the conflict zone and return home, as appropriate,

Implementation of a blue safe maritime corridor

Furthermore the MSC invited the Secretary-General to collaborate with the relevant parties and take necessary immediate actions to initiate the establishment and support the implementation of a blue safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and keep Member States informed of developments, and to report to a future session of the Council,

Condemnation of seafarer harassment

MSC condemned any form of harassment of seafarers due to their nationality and underlined that seafarers affected by the conflict should be allowed free access to communications with their families,

The MSC indicated that it was deeply concerned by the impact of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine on the safety and welfare of seafarers, including their mental health and that of their families,

Impact on safety of navigation

Consideration was given to the impact of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine on the safety and security of navigation and the integrity of global supply chains. 

Importance of Ukraine’s grain export ports

It was emphasised that nearly all of Ukraine’s grain exports pass through seaports on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.  Here the Russian Federation naval blockade and shelling of ships and port infrastructure prevents commercial ships, including some loaded with grain and other agriculture commodities, from leaving the ports.  This situation prevailing was noted in the recent reports by UNCTAD and the decision of the International Grains Council of 6 April 2022 (for the latter readers are invited to see here http://www.igc.int/en/downloads/2022/Council-Declaration_06-04-2022.pdf )

Delegates at the MSC were gravely concerned by the number of ships and seafarers currently stranded in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov region and unable to leave the area safety, the collateral damage to many merchant ships and the tragic injuries and deaths of seafarers as a result of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine,

Suffering of seafarers in Ukrainian ports

There have been alarming reports that seafarers in some Ukrainian ports no longer have secure access to fresh food, water and medical supplies as a result of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine,

Further, there was concern over reports of illegal seizure and detention of civilian ships, including SAR vessels, and their crews, all of which enjoy special protection under international humanitarian law,

IMO accord with other organizations

Apparently the IMO Secretary-General and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), have jointly written to the Heads of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to request urgent action wherever feasible to assist in the re-provisioning of the ships concerned with the vital supplies needed by their seafarers,

Furthermore,  the MSC thanked the IMO Secretary-General for taking action to promote the establishment of a Blue Safe Corridor and to facilitate dialogue with key stakeholders to support the safety and security of seafarers, merchant shipping, the marine environment and global supply chains;

International humanitarian bodies 

In addition the MSC requested that the Secretary-General continues to use his good offices to secure the assistance of international humanitarian bodies  such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide, as a matter of urgency, humanitarian support to seafarers stranded in Ukrainian ports and to assist in their safe and expeditious evacuation; from the zone of hostilities;

Finally, MSC requested that the IMO Secretary-General continues to examine the establishment of other corridors for the continued safe and expeditious evacuation of seafarers and ships from the zone of hostilities. 

In conclusion the MSC further requested that the Secretary-General continues to provide regular updates on the impact of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine on international shipping and the wellbeing of seafarers;

The MSC also called on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally cease its aggression against Ukraine, withdraw its troops from the region, including Ukraine’s territorial waters, as well as refrain from taking steps in furtherance of the military operations, which affect the evacuation of commercial ships and seafarers from the war zones;

Member States of IMO were urged to raise concerns regarding the collateral impact of the Russian Federation aggression against Ukraine on seafarers, port workers, safety and security of navigation, global supply chains and food security at the United Nations General Assembly and other United Nations Specialized Agencies, and request those bodies to seek a solution to alleviate these critical concerns, aiming to contribute to a peaceful solution.

Editor’s note

This text is based on material kindly provided as a briefing by

IMO Media services.

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