The 29th Session of the IMO Assembly is being held at IMO Headquarters London from 23 November to 02 December, 2015. The Assembly session is attended by a high level Indian delegation led by Shri Rajive Kumar, Secretary (Shipping), Dr. Alok Srivastava, Additional Secretary (Shipping), Shri Deepak Shetty, Director General of Shipping and Mr. Anil Devli, CEO of the Indian National Shipowners Association and representative of the Indian Register of Shipping.
India’s overseas seaborne EXIM trade, which is presently about 600 million tonnes per annum, is expected to be quadrupled to about 2,200 million tons by the year 2020. In value terms, the commensurate figures thereof are in the region of US$ 900 billion and US$ 2100 billion respectively. India ranks amongst the top twenty ship owning countries of the world in terms of Gross Tonnage as well as Deadweight. Indian Shipping tonnage has been growing steadily and it is about 10.38 Million GT now, with 1,210 ships under its flag for both the international voyages and coastal voyages. This supports India’s status as one of the countries with the largest interest in international seaborne trade.
India has been one of the earliest members of the IMO, having ratified its Convention and joined it as a member-state in the year 1959. India has had the privilege of being elected to and serving the Council of the IMO, ever since it started functioning, and till date, except for two years for the period 1983-1984.
IMO Council plays a crucial role to play in deciding various important matters within the mandate of the IMO, in relation to the global shipping industry, including its work programme strategy and budget. The IMO Council consists of 40 member countries who are elected by the IMO Assembly.
India has acceded to/ratified about 32 of the Conventions/Protocols adopted by the IMO and 6 of them are under consideration for the purpose, during the year 2015. India is firmly committed to the enduring cause of safety of life at sea, and protection of the marine environment. She is among the first few countries, which had ratified the SOLAS Convention, 1974. India has taken concrete steps to upgrade the global safety standards applicable to both cargo and passenger ships. India has always been very active in associating with various initiatives of IMO and have made significant contribution for its implementation.
India has also been playing a leading role in actively participating in and taking pro-active measures to counter threats from sea-borne piracy. It may also be recalled that vulnerable areas were defined as High Risk Area (HRA), characterized by piracy attacks and / or hijackings and in 2008, the HRA line in the Indian Ocean region was designated at 65 degrees East longitude which was quite far away from India’s West Coast. However, since then India has been consistently taking up in several global fora, such as the International Maritime Organization and the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), the issue of the restoration of the said HRA geographical coordinate from its existing position of 78 degrees East longitude to 65 degrees East longitude. Efforts were intensified since June 2011. Special permission had to be sought by the Indian delegation in the IMO Council meeting held in June, 2015 to make an intervention on the issue. India was allowed to present its view. Based on the interventions in the Council, the information was sent to the Indian delegation attending the meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy on the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) in New York for presenting all the related facts before the CGPCS and the Special Group considering the revision of the HRA. These efforts have now borne fruit.
In view of India’s efforts, international bodies (International Chamber of Shipping and others) have now agreed to push back the HRA from 78 degrees East longitude to the 65 degrees East longitude. This shift will come into effect from December 1, 2015. The said Round Table proposes to issue fresh advisories to the international shipping community.
This is one of the most significant triumphs for India in the maritime sector on the global stage, in the past several years now, vindicating India’s reasoned stance and persistently persuasive soft skills in the matter. This will result in huge savings for India’s EXIM trade and consumers on account of reduced insurance premium and consequently freight costs. It will improve safety of fishermen and fishing boats, and will also improve the security along India’s coastline.
With India’s re-election in IMO, India will continue to engage with the international maritime community to further India’s maritime interests and promote the welfare of its citizens.