UKRAINE NEWS: IMO calls for urgent ‘safe maritime corridors’ to evacuate ships and seafarers

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An extraordinary session of the IMO Council held remotely on 10 and 11 March deplored attacks made by the Russian Federation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov aimed at commercial vessels. It demanded that the Russian Federation cease its unlawful activities to ensure the safety and welfare of seafarers and the security of international shipping and the marine environment in all affected areas.

The executive body of the International Maritime Organization went on to ask Russia to respect its obligations under relevant international treaties and conventions; and called upon all parties to seek to resolve the crisis through peaceful dialogue and diplomatic channels. Member states were asked to provide whatever safeguards possible for seafarers affected by the conflict.

The Council also agreed to encourage the establishment, “as a provisional and urgent measure, of a blue safe maritime corridor to allow the safe evacuation of seafarers and ships from the high-risk and affected areas in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to a safe place in order to protect the life of seafarers, ensure the mobilisation and commercial navigation of vessels intending to use this corridor by avoiding military attacks and protecting and securing the maritime domain.”

The IMO Secretary-General has indicated his commitment to take immediate action to realise the blue safe maritime corridor with the cooperation and collaboration of the relevant parties including littoral states.

The Council further welcomed the proposal that a number of steps should be taken to reduce the suffering of seafarers and their families, as follows:
– allowing ships to sail from Ukrainian ports without fear of attack, and for those ships that cannot leave immediately humanitarian corridors be established for the safe evacuation of seafarers;
– condemnation of any form of harassment of seafarers due to their nationality;
– affording seafarers affected by the conflict free access to communications with their families;
– ensuring that seafarers are able to access their wages;
– acknowledging the key worker status of seafarers and allow their unrestricted movement;
– States involved in the conflict exempting their seafarers from mandatory military service considering their key worker status; and
– where port State control officers are presented with expired documentation, adopting a pragmatic approach to the inspection, considering the exceptional nature of the situation.

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