FAL’s keeping ports in mind

COMMENT: Much attention has been paid of late to developments at the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) and Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), two venerable rule-making organs of global shipping regulator the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Recent and upcoming rules from MEPC and MSC, from greenhouse gas emission reductions to handling of ships’ ballast water and waste, reducing sulphur levels in marine fuels, verifying the weight of laden containers, ships’ mooring and safety aspects of shore power, among others, have an impact well beyond the shipping industry itself. Inevitably, ports and the shoreside cargo handling community are often on the front line.

Perhaps less well-publicised, but no less significant, is the work of FAL, IMO’s Facilitation and Legal Committee. Formed in 1967, FAL works with IMO Member States with the goal of ensuring that ships transit from port to port without unnecessary delays. A key focus is on simplifying and reducing paperwork and formalities during ships’ port stays and departures on international voyages. While this may all sound a bit dry, it’s critical to port performance and safety, as well as to shipping. And as technology and port globalisation move on apace, FAL has some big issues on its plate right now.

Not least of these are a review of the guidelines for setting up Single Window systems in maritime transport, as well as developing a new standard IMO reference data set to support automated and digital processing of mandatory reports on ships, cargo and people on board as vessels enter and exit port.

With input from NGOs including the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association (ICHCA), FAL has also recently approved a revised list of publications relevant to the ship/port interface – a welcome move as the previous list was issued in 2006 and seriously out of date.

At its 42nd meeting this April, FAL also approved revised guidelines on stowaways and discussed the negative impacts of corruption in a paper submitted by the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network and endorsed by various industry bodies including ICHCA.

Corruption has a significant impact on the reputation, efficiency and safety of shipping and shoreside operations and MACN is to be commended for getting it on the table at IMO. FAL has now invited Member States and international organisations to submit proposals to FAL 43 on ways ahead. Watch this space.

Rachael White is chief executive of the ICHCA secretariat.

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