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Diplomacy in Action

80. U.S. intervention on Long-Range Identification and Tracking of Ships (May 2006), MSC81/25/Add.2 Annex 42





Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I would like to confirm that our proposal MSC 80/3/3 submitted at the 80th session of the Maritime Safety Committee remains in effect. We acknowledge that most of the provisions of our proposal are now contained in the United Kingdom submission MSC 81/3/5, or they are contained in the draft Performance Standards developed by the COMSAR Sub-Committee.

However, the element of coastal State access to LRIT is also contained in the United States proposal and if, or when, it is necessary, the United States delegation will remind the Committee and the Maritime Security Working Group of the salient elements of our proposal.

If I might, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a few short words about the important work the Committee has done to advance the proposal for long-range identification and tracking of Ships.

We have now arrived at the threshold of agreeing to a LRIT amendment that will

positively impact legitimate maritime trade. The draft SOLAS amendments, under consideration at this session will bring the maritime industry into a new era of transparency and maritime domain awareness. It will benefit all maritime nations and legitimate maritime interests by providing information that is, not only relevant to security, but is also relevant to safety.

The increased transparency that it will provide will also benefit the free flow of

commerce as it will help avoid delays associated with increased enforcement efforts of the port States that seek to counter the effects of the community’s long-standing tradition of maintaining anonymity. Simply stated, by making legitimate trade transparent, we can focus more of our efforts on those vessels that present anomalies.

Mr. Chairman, we have all worked very hard to find agreeable text for this important amendment over the course of the last four years and I commend all of those who have helped shape this amendment. Clearly, the most difficult of all of the provisions to agree upon has been the issue of a coastal State’s access to LRIT information. The United States originally proposed a distance of 2,000 nautical miles for this purpose. That figure was contained in our submission

MSC 80/3/3 which remains under consideration at this session. We now have before us two additional proposals for coastal State access to LRIT information -- one for a much smaller distance of 200 nm, submitted by the distinguished delegation of Brazil, and a second -- compromise text -- agreed to by most delegations at the LRIT Intersessional Working Group. That compromise proposal is for a distance of 1,200 nm and is submitted by the distinguished delegation of Norway. We support that proposal although 2,000 nm remains our preference.

Mr. Chairman no delegation has submitted a paper suggesting that the coastal State should not have access to LRIT information; it appears that it is only a matter of the appropriate distance and the basis for granting such access that remains under discussion.

I would like to also point out that although the United States originally proposed the LRIT amendment at MSC 78 for the sole purposes of security, we are now convinced of the potential benefits that LRIT could provide for the safety of life at sea. Let me reference the Communiqué of the Ninth Asia Pacific Heads of Maritime Security Agencies Forum that strongly supported the use of LRIT by Search and Rescue services. And I quote: “The Forum urges the IMO to have the Maritime Safety Committee consider as large a distance as possible for LRIT information in order to give the SAR Regional Centers the most comprehensive data possible.”

Mr. Chairman, without a coastal State LRIT element there would be no need for

comprehensive mid-ocean tracking of vessels and lives could needless be lost in our search and rescue efforts. An LRIT system with a coastal State element, as suggested by APHMSA Forum would have the greatest benefit for not only security, but also for safety.

Mr. Chairman, the United States delegation supports the addition of the coastal State element to the LRIT System -- but only at a distance that provides meaningful security and safety benefits. We respectfully request that all draft SOLAS amendments be referred to the Maritime Security Working Group, one final time, to determine if it is possible to gain consensus on this very important issue.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We appreciate the support of this Committee for establishing an orderly and expeditious procedure to incorporate additional mobile satellite systems into the GMDSS. However, we do not believe that such a procedure has yet been established. The present draft amendment to resolution A.888(21) has shortcomings that we believe would actually discourage, rather than encourage new providers from offering their services. The most serious shortcoming is that it excludes IMO and Contracting Governments from the approval process of new providers. Instead, it would put IMSO in the role of both approving new satellite providers, as well as providing continuing oversight thus creating a fundamental conflict of interest.

Mr. Chairman, we note that the IMSO Secretariat has insisted that there must exist a “clean break” from IMO to address issues of legal liability and immunity of Member States from costly litigation. This argument is being made in support of the IMSO taking on the additional responsibility of approving new entrants to the GMDSS. The United States very respectfully, disagrees with this legal analysis, and believes that IMSO and IMO stand in virtually identical legal positions with respect to immunity from liability for approval of new system provider decisions. The IMO.s and its Member States. immunity from legal liability for exercise of approval and oversight responsibilities has stood the test of time. We are unaware of any instance where either IMO or a Member State has been held legally liable for actions of the Organization or this Committee in its approval or oversight role.

Mr. Chairman, the draft resolution is also unacceptable because the associated draft public service agreement would require each approved satellite provider to share equally in the costs of oversight without any guarantee that they will obtain a sufficient share of the market to make a rational business case. As such, the proposed public service agreement has not received support from the potential new providers.

Further, we also note that there are no accompanying SOLAS amendments with this draft resolution that would actually implement the expansion of GMDSS to other satellite providers. Currently, chapter IV of SOLAS refers exclusively to Inmarsat and, if we are going to allow other satellite providers to compete in GMDSS services, chapter IV will certainly need to be amended.

For these reasons the United States firmly believes that this Committee should not

endorse and forward a draft resolution that is not ready in critical respects for the consideration of the Assembly.

At the conclusion of COMSAR 10, its distinguished Chairman offered a way ahead that we believe deserves further consideration. Mr. Hallberg suggested that the Sub-Committee might consider the idea of the establishment of a panel of experts to review and make an objective recommendation concerning the approval of new satellite providers on behalf of the Organization. We believe this idea should be explored, as it would most expeditiously move us in a direction and encourage the entry of new GMDSS service providers. It would also facilitate an effective and efficient oversight mechanisms; and, minimize costs that would adversely affect incentives to improve safety. We, therefore, urge the Committee to remit this draft resolution back to the COMSAR Sub-Committee so that its serious shortcomings can be addressed, and appropriate SOLAS amendments can be drafted.

Mr. Chairman, we can see no reason to rush the approval of this updated guidance. This is a very important issue for all Contracting Governments because, if properly implemented, it will promote competition and, most importantly, enhance the availability and reliability of GMDSS.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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