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Red Sea/Gulf of Aden attacks and piracy and armed robbery information – IMO – MSC 108

The 108th session of IMO’s (International Maritime Organization) MSC (Maritime Safety Committee) recently concluded in London after adopting some key resolutions and codes.

The MSC deals with maritime safety and security matters covering passenger ships and all kinds of cargo ships.

The highlights of this 108th meeting included the adoption of a key resolution that impacts the current movement of container and other cargo ships and by extension container freight rates and port congestion.

This is a resolution relating to maritime security in the Red Sea resulting from Houthi attacks on commercial ships and seafarers in which IMO member states have called for an immediate end to ongoing attacks on ships and seafarers transiting through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The resolution deplores and condemns in the strongest possible terms the illegal and unjustifiable attacks, which threatens the safety and welfare of seafarers and the marine environment.

The resolution termed these attacks as posing a direct threat to the freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical waterways while causing major disruptions to regional and global trade.

Houthi attacks

Since the hijacking of the MV Galaxy Leader in November 2023, which remains detained along with its crew, around 50 dangerous and destabilizing maritime attacks have been carried out in the area resulting in the loss of lives of several seafarers while others have suffered life-changing injuries.

The resolution demands that the Houthis immediately cease attacking commercial ships and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the Galaxy Leader and its crew.. It stated that “The Houthis’ reckless actions are putting innocent lives at risk, disrupting the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid to those who need it most, increasing the cost of this humanitarian assistance, and destabilizing the region.

Resolution details

Echoing the resolution, IMO Secretary-General Mr. Arsenio Dominguez stated:

IMO Member States are unequivocal in their condemnation of these reckless attacks. The maritime industry sustains the supply chains that are the lifeline of nations and populations around the world – innocent seafarers and commercial ships trading essential supplies should be free to navigate, unhindered by geopolitical tensions. 

“I call on all governments and relevant organizations to provide maximum assistance to seafarers affected, and to spare no effort in finding a resolution to this crisis.

The resolution further emphasized that all Member States must adhere to their obligations under the targeted UN arms embargo and take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply of arms and related material of all types to the Houthis, as called for in the United Nations Security Council resolution 2216.

It urges Member States and observer organizations to provide maximum assistance to seafarers affected by attacks and calls for peaceful dialogue and diplomacy urging any party that may have influence with the Houthis to use that influence to seek an end to these attacks.

The resolution further encouraged ship operators and vessels to carefully assess the nature and unpredictability of recent events and the potential for continued attacks in the area, when considering transit plans, based on vessel profile, business need, and risk tolerance.

Piracy and Armed Robbery

Another important resolution is related to the recently reactivated issue of Piracy and armed robbery.

As per an update from the Secretariat on piracy reports for 2023, received and made available in IMO’s GISIS module, 150 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to IMO as having occurred or been attempted in 2023.

In 2022 this number was 131, indicating a 15% increase from 2022 to 2023 with attacks spread out across the world’s important shipping channels.

  1. Straits of Malacca and Singapore – 85
  2. West Africa – 22
  3. South China Sea – 14
  4. South America (Pacific) – 14
  5. Indian Ocean – 5
  6. South America (Caribbean) – 4
  7. Arabian Sea – 2
  8. East Africa – 2
  9. South America (Atlantic) – 1 and
  10. Mediterranean Sea – 1

The Committee noted IMO’s work including initiatives such as the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP-ISC), the Djibouti Code of Conduct (with Jeddah Amendment), covering the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, and the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, covering the Gulf of Guinea.

The MSC108 highlights also include:

  1. Roadmap revised for the development of a code to regulate autonomous ships (Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships – MASS)
  2. Revised Guidelines on maritime cyber risk management adopted
  3. Development of a safety regulatory framework to support the reduction of GHG emissions from ships using new technologies and alternative fuels
  4. New training requirements on prevention and responding to violence and harassment in the maritime sector, including sexual harassment, bullying, and sexual assault – amendments to the STCW Code adopted
  5. Training and certification of fishing vessel personnel – revised treaty and new STCW-F Code adopted
  6. New guidelines on the medical examination of fishing vessel personnel approved
  7. Amendments to the 1974 SOLAS Convention and associated instruments adopted
  8. Reports from the Sub-Committees – various sets of provisions approved

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