Prominent speakers reflected on some of the complex legal issues that have been addressed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), at a special event to mark the 100th session of the IMO Legal Committee, held on Thursday 18 April 2013.
The Legal Committee was also presented with the “Award for Meritorious Contribution towards the Progressive Development and Codification of International Maritime Law”, by Professor David Attard, Director of the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI).
The origins of the Legal Committee go back to the Torrey Canyon disaster of 1967, which led to an intensification of IMO's technical work in preventing pollution and was also the catalyst for work on liability and compensation.
An ad hoc Legal Committee was established to deal with the legal issues raised by the world's first major tanker disaster and the Committee soon became a permanent subsidiary organ of the IMO Council, meeting twice a year to deal with any legal issues raised at IMO.
Treaties covering liability and compensation for pollution damage resulting from oil spills were the first to be developed and adopted by the Legal Committee.
Subsequently, as well as expanding the liability and compensation regimes to cover a range of other eventualities, including pollution from a number of other substances, the removal of wrecks and liability in accidents involving passengers and their luggage, the Legal Committee has dealt with issues as diverse as the protection and fair treatment of seafarers, the suppression of unlawful acts against international shipping, the carriage of arms aboard ships and the legal infrastructure to allow the prosecution of suspected pirates.
Speakers at the 100th session event included: Dr. Thomas A. Mensah, former Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Legal Affairs and External Relations Division, IMO; Mr. Alfred Popp QC, former Chairman of the IMO Legal Committee (from 1993 to 2005); Mr. Måns Jacobsson, former Director and Chief Executive Officer of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (from 1985 to 2006); Dr. P.J.S. Griggs CBE, former President of the Comité Maritime International (from 1997 to 2004); Judge Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS); Dr. Kofi Mbiah, current Chairman of the IMO Legal Committee (from 2011).
A paper by Professor Frank L. Wiswall, former Chairman of the IMO Legal Committee (from 1980 to 1984) was read out by Dr. Rosalie Balkin, IMO Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Legal Affairs and external Relations Division, as he was unable to attend the event.
Presentations can be found on the IMO website, along with an interactive timeline highlighting the achievements of the Legal Committee.