IMO adopts new wreck removal convention
The International Maritime Organization has adopted a new treaty on the removal of wrecks.
The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, (WRC) was adopted last week by the IMO at a diplomatic convention in Kenya.
The IMO said the new 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 the territorial sea. The new convention also includes an optional clause enabling countries to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea.
The treaty provides the legal basis for states to remove or have removed shipwrecks that may have the potential to impact the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine environment.
An organization of marine salvage companies hailed the agreement.
International Salvage Union President Hans van Rooij said the new IMO convention “clarifies many issues of importance to coastal states and salvors. Times have changed and the main motivation for wreck removal today is often concern for the environment, rather than any threat to safety of navigation. We now have a new international instrument which recognizes both priorities, in full measure.”
The convention will open for signature from Nov. 18. It will enter into force a year after 10 countries approve it.
The new convention defines a wreck-related hazard as a “danger or impediment to navigation” or a condition or threat that “may reasonably be expected to result in major harmful consequences to the marine environment, or damage to the coastline or related interests of one or more states.” A “wreck” includes not only a ship, but also any object that was aboard a ship.
The convention is unusual because “it was principally designed for use in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),' said Archie Bishop, International Salvage Union legal advisor. 'Normally, law is made for application in a jurisdiction, rather than in international waters. As a result, this convention’s provisions, insofar as they relate to the EEZ, apply only when both flag state and coastal state are parties to the new convention.”
But he noted states have the option to extend the convention to wrecks within their territorial waters.
He predicted “this is likely to be an attractive option and cause more states to adopt the convention, because of the provisions for compulsory insurance and the right of direct action against the insurer. In short, applying the Nairobi WRC in territorial waters offers the coastal state additional financial comfort.”
So Bishop predicted that, “over the long term, the Nairobi WRC may contribute to an increase in salvors’ wreck removal workload in the EEZ, but its main importance will be in those states which adopt the option for its provisions to apply in territorial waters. The financial security gained will encourage states to more readily take action whenever there is a danger to navigation or an environmental threat.”