23 June 2008


23 June 2008
Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Background Release





NEW YORK, 23 June (Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea) -- Countries will discuss how to enhance maritime security and safety at the ninth meeting of the United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, which will take place at United Nations Headquarters from 23 to 27 June.

The international community is facing significant challenges in ensuring security and safety in the oceans.  For example, acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships can result in the loss of life, physical harm or hostage-taking of seafarers, significant disruptions to commerce and navigation, financial losses to shipowners, increased insurance premiums and security costs, increased costs to consumers and producers, and damage to the marine environment.  Transnational organized crime can also threaten maritime security.  For example, it has been reported that approximately 70 per cent of the total quantity of illicit narcotic drugs seized is confiscated either during or after transportation by sea.  Another security challenge is illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which constitutes a major impediment to achieving sustainable fisheries and thus contributes to food insecurity around the world.

A secure maritime space is certainly a safer one.  But maritime safety, in particular life at sea, and the marine environment can also be threatened if there is a failure to observe applicable safety standards governing, for example, ship construction, carriage of goods, navigation, training of crew and applicable labour standards.

In his annual report on oceans and the law of the sea to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General notes that “Many of the challenges and threats to maritime security and safety recognize no national boundaries, are interconnected, and can only be effectively addressed through the concerted efforts of all States.  Equally important is the need to ensure that any measures taken to meet these challenges and threats are consistent with international law and that concerns relating to the potential impact of those measures, in particular on individuals, are effectively addressed.”

During the upcoming meeting, experts will examine threats to maritime security, their impacts and responses thereto, with a focus on piracy and armed robbery against ships; and also discuss the prevention and suppression of transnational organized crime.  Participants will address experiences and challenges in all aspects of maritime safety; and will also focus on people at sea, in particular on safety and security issues confronting seafarers and fishers and the treatment of persons rescued at sea.  Possible ways to enhance cooperation, coordination and integration in maritime security and safety, and increase capacity-building will be explored.


In 1999, the General Assembly established the United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea in order to facilitate its annual review of developments in ocean affairs and the law of the sea (resolution 54/33).  The mandate of the Consultative Process was extended by the General Assembly for three years in resolution 57/141 and for an additional three-year period in resolution 60/30.  The General Assembly will review the effectiveness and utility of the Consultative Process at its sixty-third session.

Each year the General Assembly decides what topic(s) the Consultative Process should address in order to formulate some agreed consensual elements to be suggested to the Assembly for consideration in its annual resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea and sustainable fisheries.

The format and annotated provisional agenda for the ninth meeting (document A/AC.259/L.9) is proposed by the Co-Chairpersons of the Consultative Process, Ambassador Paul Badji (Senegal) and Lori Ridgeway (Canada) following consultations with delegations and an informal preparatory meeting held at United Nations Headquarters on 18 March.

There will be an opportunity to discuss the topic of focus “Maritime security and safety” in the discussion panel and in the plenary sessions.  During the plenary session, the meeting will also have an opportunity to have a general exchange of views on areas of concern and actions needed on issues other than those relating to the topic of focus, including on issues discussed at previous meetings.  Participants will also receive information on the activities of UN-Oceans and an update on the “assessment of assessments”, the preparatory phase towards the establishment of a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.

The ninth meeting of the Consultative Process will base its discussions on the report of the Secretary-General on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/63/63).  The chapter in the report devoted to maritime security and safety provides an overview of the relevant international legal framework, describes recent activities and highlights current challenges, such as enhancing the effectiveness of the international legal framework; strengthening implementation of applicable measures; and strengthening capacity-building, cooperation and coordination.  Another document that will be before the ninth meeting is a submission by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the conclusions and recommendations from recent meetings and expert round tables convened by that Office on the treatment of persons rescued at sea.  An informal side event on Tuesday, 24 June, will feature presentations by some of the members of the United Nations Inter-Agency group relating to the treatment of persons rescued at sea.  The ninth meeting will also feature a number of other informal side events.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.