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IMO to debate threats posed by increasing ship-to-ship transfers
Dr.G.R.Balakrishnan 2023-03-08 12:46:48 Trade Bodies (World Marine)

IMO to debate threats posed by increasing ship-to-ship transfers

Member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will debate a proposal to clamp down on ship-to-ship transfers at the next meeting of the United Nations body’s legal committee this spring.

In the wake of sanctions against Russia, the volume of ship-to-ship transfers has soared with Russia taking cargoes from its coast on smaller tankers and then moving them onto larger ships before heading to the likes of India and China, a trend that has alarmed many governments at the potential environmental risks posed.

Australia, Canada and United States have sent the IMO a joint submission raising concerns for the global liability and compensation regime relating to the increase in ship-to-ship transfers in the open ocean.

The submission argues that these transfers undermine the rules-based international order, increase the risk of pollution to nearby coastal states and also threaten the shared liability and compensation regime set out in the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 Fund Convention and its supplementary fund protocol. The submission also argues the rise of Russian-backed ship-to-ship transfers undermines the fundamental principle of the polluter-pays regime if the so-called ‘dark’ ships and shipowners involved cannot be identified and held liable for damage caused by the oil carried on board their ships.

“These risky practices unjustly expose national and local governments and authorities to potentially fill the void of paying for response and clean-up costs and compensating victims where no international or domestic compensation fund can do so,” the submission states.

Finally, the submission suggests that should port states become aware of any ships going dark, they should consider subjecting such vessels to enhanced inspections as authorised, and notifying the respective vessel’s flag administration as appropriate.