Mandatory electronic information exchange on horizon


FALThe Facilitation Committee (FAL) of the IMO, meeting for its 39th session, approved a revised annex to the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), 1965, as amended, following a comprehensive five-year review aimed at modernising the Convention.

To be circulated with a view to adoption at the Committee’s next session (FAL 40, scheduled for March/April 2016), the revised annex would introduce the mandatory electronic exchange of information on cargo, crew and passengers.

The FAL convention includes, in its annex, “Standards” and “Recommended Practices” on formalities, documentary requirements and procedures which should be applied on arrival, stay and departure to the ship itself, and to its crew, passengers, baggage and cargo.

Important proposed changes in the revised Annex include the introduction of a new standard relating to the obligation of public authorities to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information, within a period of three years after the adoption of the amendments. There would be a transitional period of not less than 12 months from the date of the introduction of such systems to make the use of electronic transmissions mandatory, during which period paper and electronic documents would be allowed.

A further recommended practice encourages the use of the “single window” concept to enable all the information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival, stay and departure of ships, persons and cargo, to be submitted without duplication.

Other revised standards cover shore leave and access to shore-side facilities for crew, including the addition of a paragraph in the standard to say that there should be no discrimination, in respect of shore leave, on grounds of nationality, race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, or social origin, and irrespective of the flag state of the ship on which seafarers are employed, engaged or work.

Standards and recommended practices relating to stowaways are also updated, to include references to relevant sections of the International Ship and Port Facilities’ Security (ISPS) Code. A new standard requires governments, where appropriate, to incorporate into their national legislation legal grounds to allow prosecution of stowaways, attempted stowaways and any individual or company aiding a stowaway or an attempted stowaway with the intention to facilitate access to the port area, any ship, cargo or freight containers.

The IMO Standardized Forms (FAL forms), which cover IMO General Declaration; Cargo Declaration; Ship’s Stores Declaration; Crew’s Effects Declaration; Crew List, Passenger List and Dangerous Goods will be updated.

Definitions will also be revised where needed and references to persons will be made gender neutral (“his/her” instead of “his”).

The new revised annex could enter into force 15 months after adoption, under the tacit acceptance procedure.