As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt business meetings, the thirty-first extraordinary session of the IMO Council was held by correspondence last week. This was the first IMO meeting not held live in the history of the Organization.
All 40 Members of the Council were deemed "present" via correspondence. The following observer delegations also participated in the session by correspondence: Colombia, Cook Islands, Finland, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Marshall Islands, Saudi Arabia and Vanuatu.
In a release on 17 April, the IMO said the Council joined IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim in expressing its solidarity with all Member States and other stakeholders during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and commended them for their concerted efforts to contain the spread of the virus. The Council also expressed its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his swift action in response to the pandemic, while ensuring the continuation of the work of the Organization.
The Council also expressed its appreciation to the crew, seafarers, shore-based workers, and personnel of the maritime and aviation communities for enabling international trade to continue in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and called on flag and port states to ensure the smooth operation of maritime traffic and availability of shipping services for world commerce, for the benefit of humanity. It also endorsed some of the recent measures announced by different bodies on conducting, surveys, issuing and extending certificates and licensing of seafarers.
The Council also requested Member States to submit proposals to the thirty-second extraordinary session of the Council on measures to ensure that shipping services were not unnecessarily disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This meeting is also planned to be held by correspondence.
This year has so far seen cancellation of meetings of both the MEPC and MSC and several sub-committee meetings. The Council requested the Secretary-General to submit reports to a future session of the Council on: the establishment of a system that enables IMO staff to work remotely without affecting their productivity; and the possibility of holding meetings by teleconference, including the development of relevant procedures for such meetings, by the Council, and related budgetary implications, in view of the uncertainty of the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.