Facilitation Committee (FAL 45), 1 to 4 June 2021 (remote session)

The Facilitation Committee met over four days in remote session.

Review and update of the Annex of the FAL Convention

The Committee approved draft amendments to the annex of the FAL Convention. The amendments update the provisions of the Convention on mandatory electronic data exchange in ports for ship clearance, include lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic and add new and amended Recommended Practices to prevent corruption and illicit activities in the maritime sector. The amendments will now be circulated with a view to adoption at FAL 46 (to be held next year).

The amendments will also bring in updated definitions and general provisions for various terms used in the Convention, establishing agreed terminology. This means that all stakeholders, whether at a port, onboard a ship or a third party (such as a public authority etc) will now have a clear consensus on the meaning of terms such as ‘actual time of arrival’, ‘estimated time of arrival’, ‘authenticate’, etc.

Making the Single Window mandatory

The newly approved amendments will make it mandatory for public authorities to establish, maintain and use single window systems for the electronic exchange of information required on the arrival, stay and departure of ships in ports. In addition, public authorities will have to combine or coordinate the electronic transmission of the data so as to ensure that information is submitted or provided only once and re-used to the maximum extent possible.

During the session, the Committee approved revised guidelines for setting up an MSW, updating the previous provisions, and agreed to create a new GISIS module to share information on maritime single windows implemented by Member States.

Accelerating digitalization of shipping and ports through capacity building

Member States were updated on the progress of a number of MSW projects, including two IMO MSW technical cooperation initiatives launched during 2021: the “Single Window for Facilitation of Trade” (SWiFT) project implemented in cooperation with Singapore and the “World Bank Group/IMO maritime single window for SIDS”. The latter project is funded by the China-World Bank Partnership Facility (CWPF) and will see IMO provide the authorities in Fiji with technical support to adopt and implement an MSW.

They were also briefed on Singapore’s MSW platform called [email protected] (Phase 1), operational since October 2019, and Colombia’s Integrated Maritime Traffic and Transport System (SITMAR), operational since 2009. The Committee also noted the efforts underway in China and Chile to implement digital platforms under the FAL Convention. The IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 project on decarbonisation was mentioned as a good model that could inspire a similar capacity-building project to accelerate digitalization of the ship-port interface.

Revised compendium approved

Further on digitalization, the Committee approved a new version of the IMO Compendium on Facilitation and Electronic Business (the IMO Compendium). The new version includes a new IMO data set on reporting of stowaways, additional data elements linked to port services timestamps to support the JIT approach and an IMO data set on acknowledgement receipts. The revised Compendium is now available in Excel and HTML formats from the IMO website.

By harmonizing the definitions and formats of the data elements required during a port call and by standardizing electronic messages, the IMO Compendium facilitates the exchange of information ship to shore and the interoperability of single windows, reducing the administrative burden for ships linked to formalities in ports.

Developing further guidance for the digitalization of shipping and ports

The Committee approved the terms of reference of the Correspondence Group on Developing Guidelines on Electronic Signature Systems and Operational Port Data for the Purpose of Digital Information Exchange. The group has been tasked with developing the following two sets of guidelines that will support further digitalization of shipping and ports, for consideration by FAL 46:

• Guidance for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window

• Guidelines for harmonized communication and electronic exchange of operational data for port calls

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

The updated annex to the FAL Convention includes provisions derived from lessons learned during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a new section addressing a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the revised Facilitation Convention will require Contracting Governments and their relevant public authorities to allow ships and ports to remain fully operational during a PHEIC, in order to maintain complete functionality of global supply chains to the greatest extent possible. The public authorities are also required to designate port workers and ships’ crew as key workers (or equivalent), regardless of their nationality or the flag of their ship, when in their territory.

The update contains a number of recommendations for Contracting Governments about best practice to support unhindered transport of maritime cargo and support for global supply chains. In addition to advising national authorities against introducing obstacles to crew movement for repatriation, crew changes and travel, the updated annex also encourages dissemination of information about public health matters and expected protection measures by ship operators.

The updated text for arrival and departure of persons requires public authorities to inform passengers about vaccination requirements sufficiently in advance of departure and vaccinators to use the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis in order to assure uniform acceptance.

The Committee also agreed that the FAL Convention should be consistent with other instruments such as the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations (IHR), particularly regarding terminology used in any public health emergencies.

Addressing corruption related to ships’ calls in ports

The updated text of the Convention takes a systemic approach to addressing the issue of corruption associated with the ship-shore interface in ports. Contracting Governments are now required to encourage public authorities to assess the risks of corruption and address them by developing and implementing preventive measures to strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability.

Public authorities are also required to coordinate efforts to detect, investigate and sanction corruption related to ships’ calls in the port, including through national and international cooperation.

The Committee also discussed setting up a new GISIS module to report cases of alleged maritime corruption. A Correspondence Group was established to consider the matter, taking into account issues like legal and financial implications.

Combatting wildlife trafficking by ship

The revised Convention annex includes a reference to trafficking wildlife aimed at enhancing arrangements and cooperation between ship owners and public authorities with a view to combat illicit activities in international maritime traffic.

Detailed guidelines on the prevention and suppression of the smuggling of wildlife on ships engaged in international maritime traffic will be discussed at FAL 46. The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth between USD 7–23 billion making it an extremely lucrative global crime.

Guidelines for creating a tool to measure domestic implementation of the FAL Convention

The Committee approved Guidelines to create a tool for contracting governments to measure domestic implementation of the FAL Convention. Member Governments are invited to inform the Committee as soon as possible of the results, experience gained and difficulties encountered in the use of the guidelines, to enable the Committee to decide on any action to be taken.

The guidelines propose measurement in two ways, both of which are voluntary:

• Through anonymous surveys aimed at public authorities, ports/terminals, ship owners and ship agents involved in the reception and clearance of ships to verify if the administrative procedures are met. This aims to find out the extent to which the FAL Convention is being applied in ports and how the concept of establishing a maritime single window is perceived.

• Through an evaluation matrix (of strengths and weaknesses) to analyse each of the Standards and Recommended Practices in the FAL Convention such that any identified weaknesses can then be addressed by the responsible public authority.

Intersessional Working Group on MASS established

In May of this year, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 103), approved the outcome of a regulatory scoping exercise (RSE) that analyzed relevant ship safety treaties, in order to assess how maritime autonomous surface ships (MASS) could be regulated.

As there was limited time to discuss a similar process for the FAL Convention, the Committee established an Intersessional Working Group to consider the matter and report on the outcome to FAL 46.

Cargo declaration

The Committee discussed the matter of cargo declaration and explored combining FAL Form 2 (which carries a maximum defined data set) with the ship’s manifest, which is more widely relied upon than FAL Form 2 and includes more data. The Committee instructed a Correspondence Group to consider the options and report back to FAL 46.

Definition of passenger

With regard to the definition of the term ‘passenger’ for the purposes of facilitation, Member States and international organizations have been invited to submit proposals for a new output on this topic. During the session it was highlighted that certain definitions under the FAL Convention differ from those set out in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

New output on Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR)

The Committee added a new output on the introduction of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) concepts in maritime transport in its work programme.. This new output relates to developing measures for passenger facilitation and control in the maritime environment in general, and for cruise ships and ferries in particular, in collaboration with WCO. It was included in the 2022-2023 biennial agenda of the Committee and the provisional agenda for FAL 46, with a target completion year of 2023.
Source: International Maritime Organization (IMO)

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