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What happens when the wreck removal convention comes into force?

What happens when the wreck removal convention comes into force?
Some eight years after its adoption The Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention [WRC] will come into force on 14 April this year, the latest piece in the ever growing regulatory jigsaw faced by the shipping industry.

The relatively little-known convention requires all ships over 300gt (including fishing vessels and commercials yachts) to have in place insurance to cover the location, marking and removal of a wreck, deemed to be a hazard in the convention area of states that are party to the convention.  It is also required, under the principal of no more favourable treatment, that all ships carry insurance and Wreck Removal certificates on board starting on 14 April.

Although coming into force in April only 15 states have ratified the convention to date including Antigua & Barbuda,  Bugaria, Congo, Cook Islands, Denmark, Germany, India, Iran, Liberia, Malaysia, Marshall islands, Morocco, Nigeria, Palau and the UK.

‘”While the WRC is an important convention in its own right, the process for a government to ratify any treaty is a time consuming and often complicated and bureaucratic process. Many other more significant treaties and convention, such as MLC and Ballast Water have also taken a long time to achieve broad ratification,” says Liberia Ship Registry (LISCR) ceo Scott Bergeron.

That could explain why so few states are on the list of those that ratified the convention, however, the question is whether the Nairobi convention is a useful tool?

“I do believe that the WRC is a useful convention because it provides for uniform certainty on the handling of vessel wrecks and other defined hazards along coastlines and waterways. In addition to defining the necessary obligations of responsible parties, the WRC mandates compulsory insurance provisions and provides signatory coastal states with this clear source of financial security and responsibility for removal of the wrecks and hazards,” says Bergeron.

Then, what the countries and ship registries that have not ratified it do? Until all the flag states have ratified the convention, some flag states will issue the necessary certificates for the states that have not ratified the convention. 

Panama, the world’s largest open registry “is finalising the process of ratifying the International Nairobi Convention which could be, hopefully, before the end of this year,” says Panama Maritime Authority’s director of merchant marine and head for the ship registry Fernando Solorzano.

“Meanwhile we have issued a circular (MMC-XXX) urging all ship owners/managers or representatives of Panama-flagged vessels to follow the procedures set up by the Panama Maritime Authority,” he says.  The circular establishes that Panama “will only recognise those certificates that are issued by the maritime administrations of UK, Palau and the Cook Islands. Any of these administrations will issue a certificate of Insurance or other Financial Security in Respect of Civil Liability for the Nairobi International Convention the Removal of Wrecks to vessels flying the Panamanian flag.”

The circular stipulates that “the Panama Maritime Authority cannot give support to owners/operators facing problems trying to get certification through the authority of a State Party different than the above mentioned administrations,” meaning the UK, Palau and the Cook islands.

However, “Panama is also consulting with other States on the possibility [once an agreement is reached] to have them issue the certificates requires by our Panamanian-flagged vessels”, said Solorzano.

The Convention will fill a gap existing in the international legal framework by providing the first set of uniformed international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond the territorial sea. 

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