|22 March 2005 - the branch co-sponsored a maritime security symposium with the Queensland Branch of the Maritime Law Society of Australia and New Zealand and the Marine and Shipping Law Unit of the University of Queensland. The meeting, which proved to be highly successful, was held at the Riverside Auditorium in Brisbane and attracted some 50 participants drawn from various maritime groups.
Key speakers were Dr. Rosalie Balkin, the Australian Head of the IMO Legal Division, Dr. Rachel Bird, UQ Maritime Law Unit and Wayne Taratoa, Security Manager Port of Brisbane Corporation.
The Branch Chairman Professor Edgar Gold reported on the Symposium in the May edition of 'Seaways'.
The Symposium was entitled 'Sea of Change; the latest IMO initiatives, maritime security and implications for Australia'. The principal speaker was Dr. Rosalie Balkin, Director, Legal Affairs and External Relations for the IMO'. Dr. Balkin provided an excellent outline of the IMO's current activities in the area of maritime security, which is being given the highest priority at this time. She focused on the work currently underway in the IMO legal Committee on the revision of the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Navigation (SUA) and its Protocol. Updating these instruments was considered essential as they would provide the broader international legal framework within the ISPS code.
Dr. Balkin noted that the SUA had now been accepted by 115 states and its Offshore Platforms Protocol by 114 states. More than one third of these acceptances had occurred in the period since 11 September 2001. This showed that states were aware ships could not only be used for terrorist activities, but, like aircraft, could be used as the actual instrument to cause maximum damage. The SUA discussion which commenced after the Achille Lauro incident in 1985 has not foreseen the type of terrorism the world is facing today. As a result, SUA is unable to deal with today's problems.
Dr. Balkin explained that the present discussion on the SUA revision is taking the IMO into new territory as a number of aspects of the revision have become highly political. For an organisation that has traditionally focused on the technical aspects of 'safer ships and cleaner seas', this is definitely a new direction. Several areas under revision are quite controversial, for example the right of naval forces to board and inspect vessels on the high seas is considered by a number of states to be a departure from the traditional freedom of the sea.
There are also a number of 'transport offences' included in the SUA revision that relate to the carriage of dangerous substances that could be used for terrorist activities. Some substances that are usually benign when used normally, but which could be used to create dangerous materials, will be banned from carriage at sea. The revision also includes a number of safeguards, such as the requirement of flag state consent prior to boarding by foreign naval forces as well as the protection of the rights of seafarers. According to Dr. Balkin, quite a lot of negotiations will yet have to take place before the revisions are tabled at an IMO Diplomatic Conference in October 2005.