Home » Breaking News, Maritime » UN negotiation on future ocean governance starts

The United Nations oceans conference currently being held in New York is taking the first steps to develop a legally binding international instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, known as “BBNJ.”

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) in a statement said it welcomes the efforts to further address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Moreover, it said it is encouraging that the preparatory process for the new instrument has noted that a new agreement should recognize and not undermine existing relevant legal instruments and frameworks, and relevant global and sectorial bodies.

The IMO said the comprehensive regulatory framework it developed for international shipping was highlighted during the conference, which started September 4 and ends September 17.

IMO’s Fredrik Haag outlined IMO’s experience in developing universal binding regulations for international shipping to ensure shipping’s sustainable use of the oceans, through more than 50 globally binding treaties.

Haag also presented IMO’s regulatory regime and its relevance to BBNJ during a side event on shipping, held at UN Headquarters on September 5.

The series of conferences to develop the new BBNJ legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is expected to conclude in 2020.

There will be four sessions, with the first session convened this month. The second and third sessions will take place in 2019, and the fourth session in the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which is representing shipowners at the conference, told government negotiators September 5 that there is a need to ensure that this UN initiative will not “unwittingly” impact on the effective future governance of global shipping, potentially interfering with principles such as freedom of navigation, or otherwise cutting across the work of IMO, shipping’s global regulator.

“As a result of the global rules already provided by IMO, ships are not operating in a regulatory vacuum,” stressed Esben Poulsson. “A shipowner’s activities are never beyond national jurisdiction, even on the high seas.”

In a statement, ICS said it fully supports the objectives of the UN negotiations and the critical need to provide environmental protection for the ocean from activities such as fishing and seabed mining.

However, ICS said these are activities which, unlike commercial shipping, do not enjoy a comprehensive framework of global regulation such as that which has been developed, over a period of 50 years, by the UN IMO and its 174 member states.

ICS said this IMO framework already governs virtually every aspect of maritime environmental protection and is genuinely implemented on a worldwide basis.

“IMO should always be the lead organization for developing environmental rules that may affect international shipping,” said Poulsson. “IMO’s jurisdiction is broad and extends already to shipping activity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.”

Photo: Rman 348

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