International Convention on Shipwreck Removal Taking Effect in 2015

Denmark confirmed it has ratified it. The convention will "enter into force" April 14, 2015, the International Maritime Organization announced.

The Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks will enter into force on April 14, 2015, eight years after its adoption in May 2007, following the confirmation that Denmark has ratified it. The International Maritime Organization received Denmark's ratification document April 14, 2014.

The convention will place financial responsibility for removing certain hazardous wrecks on the shipowners -- making insurance or some other form of financial security compulsory, according to IMO. When Denmark became the tenth country to ratify the convention, its entry into force was triggered to be exactly a year later.

"The Convention will fill a gap in the existing international legal framework by providing the first set of uniform international rules aimed at ensuring the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located beyond a country's territorial sea. The Convention also contains a clause that enables States Parties to 'opt in' to apply certain provisions to their territory, including their territorial sea," IMO reported. "The Convention will provide a sound legal basis for States to remove, or have removed, shipwrecks that may have the potential to affect adversely the safety of lives, goods and property at sea, as well as the marine and coastal environment. It will make shipowners financially liable and require them to take out insurance or provide other financial security to cover the costs of wreck removal. It will also provide States with a right of direct action against insurers."

Articles in the convention cover:

  • reporting and locating ships and wrecks, including the reporting of casualties to the nearest coastal state; warnings to mariners and coastal states about the wreck; and action by the coastal state to locate the ship or wreck
  • criteria for determining the hazard posed by wrecks, including the depth of water above the wreck, proximity to shipping routes, traffic density and frequency, type of traffic, vulnerability of port facilities, and environmental criteria, such as damage likely to result from the release into the marine environment of cargo or oil
  • measures to facilitate the removal of wrecks, including rights and obligations to remove hazardous ships and wrecks

The incidence of marine casualties has declined in recent years, but IMO also noted the number of abandoned wrecks "has reportedly increased and, as a result, the problems they cause to coastal States and shipping in general have become more acute."

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