IMO pledges action after migrant sinking tragedy

IMO secretary-general Koji Sekimizu has called for the laws of the sea to be changed or re-interpreted to prevent overcrowding incidents such as occurred on the migrant boat that sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa last week.

Addressing the opening session of Maritime Cyprus today, Sekimizu expressed his deep shock at the incident and praise for the work of the Italian Coast Guard, who rescued 155 persons but also recovered 194 dead bodies with "hundreds still missing".

IMO has made various efforts over the last 10 years to address the issue of seaborne migrants, "mainly on the rescue side", he said, and is still working to improve the system. However, following this latest "really tragic" incident, the time has come to "put more effort into the prevention effort" and for the international community to address the issue, he said.

Branding the loading of 500 or more people onto a small boat as "unregulated, unlawful and criminal", Sekimiza said IMO would be checking with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to see if there was anything in the legislation that could be enforced at flag state level to prevent such overcrowding.

While acknowledging the right of the free movement of people, the IMO secretary-general said that the overcrowding conditions aboard the boat werestill  "clearly illegal" and promised that IMO would be raising the matter "at the highest level" at its Assembly later this year.  

Posted 07 October 2013

© Copyright 2019 Seatrade (UBM (UK) Ltd). Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Seatrade.

Bob Jaques

Editor of Seatrade Maritime Review

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