Shipping & Logistics

Marine safety boosted as Canada signs treaty

A ship arrives at the port of Mombasa. FILE
A ship arrives at the port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has received a major boost after Canada acceded to it, bringing to 44 the number of countries that are now committed to ensuring increased safety of Kenya's and global marine and coastal environment.

The High Commissioner to United Kingdom and Permanent Representative of Canada to IMO, Janice Charette, deposited her country’s instrument of accession to IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim at the IMO headquarters in London on April 30, a statement from the IMO said.

“Hazardous shipwrecks can cause many problems. Depending on its location, a wreck may be a hazard to navigation, potentially endangering other vessels and their crews. IMO's Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention goes some way to resolving these issues. It covers the legal basis for states to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks, drifting ships, objects from ships at sea, and floating offshore installations. Canada has become the 44th state to accede to this important IMO treaty,” said IMO.

Kenya was upbeat that with strong and wealthy nations becoming part of the convention, it will go a long way in enhancing efforts in mitigating the effects of ship wreck in the ocean.

Shipping and Maritime PS Nancy Karigithu told Shipping in an interview that the move by the Canadian government will definitely be a commitment by wealthy nations on how they can come in and assist in implementing the resolutions of the convention.


“Canada is a strong country and the move has definitely shaped and brought to the fore commitments by wealthy nations on the same. We are happy that this convention continues to get more endorsements to meet its course,” said Dr Karigithu.

On the Kenya ship wreck removal, Dr Karigithu said the country is currently in the process of updating the Merchant Shipping Act in general to give full effect to the Nairobi Convention.

“We are not silent on this and once the update of the Merchant Shipping Act is completed, then we shall have more opportunities to address it. Let us wait for the process which is currently ongoing to end,” she said.

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, was adopted by an international conference held in Kenya in 2007.

It provides the 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 environment.

The convention provides a set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea.

Dr Karigithu said that the convention also includes an optional clause enabling states to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea.

“Although the incidence of marine casualties has decreased dramatically 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, estimated at almost 1300 worldwide, has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal states and shipping in general have, if anything, become more acute,” she said.

The convention provides a sound legal basis for coastal states to remove, or have removed, from their coastlines, wrecks which pose a hazard to the safety of navigation or to the marine and coastal environments, or both. The treaty also covers any prevention, mitigation or elimination of hazards created by any object lost at sea from a ship such as lost containers.

The convention makes ship-owners financially liable and require them to take out insurance or provide other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal. It also gives States the right of direct action against insurers.

Articles in the convention cover reporting and locating ships and wrecks - covering the reporting of casualties to the nearest coastal state, warnings to mariners and coastal states about the wreck and action by the coastal state to locate the ship or wreck, criteria for determining the hazard posed by wrecks, including depth of water above the wreck, proximity of shipping routes, traffic density and frequency, type of traffic and vulnerability of port facilities. Environmental criteria such as damage likely to result from the release into the marine environment of cargo or oil are also included.

The PS further said that any one single country alone cannot fully address the problem of abandoned vessels and wrecks alone as shipping is a global industry and global solutions are required.

"To this end, the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007, known variously as the Nairobi Convention, the International Wreck Removal Convention or the Wreck Removal Convention which was adopted on May 18, 2007. It entered into force in April 2015 and constitutes the first set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea,” she said.

Dr Karigithu further said that convention applies to a State Party's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as extending not more than 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

“In turn, territorial sea is defined as the area up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with UNCLOS. By November 2017, the Convention had been ratified by 41 states, which together accounted for 72 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage,” the PS said.

In February 2019, Canada enacted the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.

“The new legislation prohibits vessel abandonment and enacts within Canadian law the International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, 2007.Acceding to this Convention brings Canada in line with international standards, to enable us to better protect our coastlines. By requiring responsible vessel management, and making vessel owners accountable in the event of a marine incident, we ensure that Canadian waters remain safe and healthy, a source of enjoyment and economic benefit for years to come. Thanks to the Oceans Protection Plan, Canada's marine safety system is stronger than it has ever been,” said Marc Garneau, the Canadian minister for responsible for sea transport.