IMO Diplomatic Conference commencesWhat IMO Secretary General William A, ONeil terms "an historic" Diplomatic Conference begins at IMO Headquarters in London today. It has been convened to adopt a package of security measures for the international maritime and port industries developed by IMO's Maritime Safety Committee in response to the events of 9/11. The Conference will be invited to adopt amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention . Among the most far-reaching of these is a new SOLAS chapter that would implement the proposed International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. The ISPS Code takes the approach that ensuring the security of ships and port facilities is a risk management activity. To determine what security measures are appropriate, an assessment of the risks must be made in each particular case. The code is designed to provide a standardized, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling governments to determine the appropriate response to the level of threat and vulnerability which exists. As the threat level increases, the Code provides several ways of reducing vulnerability. For ships and shipping companies, the requirements are likely to include ship security plans, ship and company security officers and certain items of equipment. Security plans and security officers for port facilities are also to be covered by the Code. Ships would be subject to a system of survey, verification, certification and control to ensure that their security measures are implemented, while port facilities would also be required to report certain security-related information to the Government concerned, which in turn would submit a list of approved port facility security plans to IMO. The draft Code has two parts, one mandatory and one recommendatory. The mandatory part will be due to enter into force eighteen months after adoption, that is expected to be on July 1,2004. Conference procedures The Conference will open today at 11 a.m. The morning of the opening day will be devoted to consideration of organizational arrangements. This will take place informally at the meeting of Heads of Delegations and, subsequently, at the inaugural session of the Plenary, to adopt the agenda of the Conference, elect officers, adopt the Rules of Procedure, and establish the various Committees. The Committee of the Whole will commence work this afternoon, following conclusion of the Plenary and will continue to work until 4 p.m. on Wednesday. There will be brief interruptions to allow for meetings of other Committees, as may be necessary. A Drafting Committee will hold meetings in the afternoon of Tuesday, 10 and Wednesday, 11 December 2002. The Plenary will reconvene on Thursday to consider the reports of the Committees and adopt the proposed amendments to SOLAS, the ISPS Code and the associated Conference resolutions. The Plenary will also adopt the Final Act of the Conference for signature by SOLAS Contracting Governments. The SOLAS Contracting Governments present at the Conference will be invited to sign the Final Act of the Conference at the Conferences final session on Friday. The results of the Diplomatic Conference will be fully reported, analyzed and discussed at our January Maritime Security conference in Washington, DC..