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The Strait of Bonifacio enhances its international dimension Part two: The specific characteristics of the strait recognised at the International Maritime Organisation

Published the 18 November 2014

The culmination of a long process of lobbying, the designation of the strait as a Particularly Sea Sensitive Area (PSSA) is now in effect. The recommendation that vessels transporting hazardous materials take on-board pilots who are familiar with the strait is the first measure associated with PSSA status, which was implemented jointly by the Corsican (French) and Sardinian (Italian) sides of the strait in the summer of this year.

The international organisation with particular responsibility for maritime safety (IMO) is ready to recognise the specific characteristics of the Strait of Bonifacio in terms of navigation. As with the experience of creating the International Marine Park of the Strait of Bonifacio (EGTC-PMIBB, see the corresponding article), the International Maritime Organisation procedure helps to illustrate the constant and operational involvement of local actors federated by the Environmental Office of Corsica (OEC) working for international recognition of the distinctive ecological nature of the Strait of Bonifacio.

The most significant result of this initiative concerns changes - in compliance with the international law of the sea - to the navigation system in an international strait subject to the right of unhindered passage in transit of merchant vessels. Thus, on the basis of the Franco-Italian protocol of 1993 which stipulated, as a preliminary to the creation of the EGTC-PMIBB, the adoption of appropriate measures liable to settle the question of the protection of the Strait of Bonifacio with regard to the control of the maritime traffic of vessels transporting dangerous and polluting goods, in 1995 the OEC initiated a study of navigation conditions in the Strait of Bonifacio and the modalities that would allow improved control. It was the conclusions of this study that provided the basis for France and Italy jointly to approach the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for the purposes of implementing the existing Franco-Italian system of navigational assistance and surveillance in the Strait of Bonifacio.

This fundamental approach of lobbying the IMO has continued since then, under the impetus of the OEC and with the support of the Assembly of Corsica, in order to obtain the classification of the Strait of Bonifacio as a Particularly Sea Sensitive Area (PSSA) and to introduce the associated protection measures necessary for its conservation, including the implementation of mandatory deep-sea piloting.

The joint application file for the designation of the Strait of Bonifacio as a PSSA was filed with the IMO in 2010 by the French and Italian authorities. It was then referred to a number of the organisation's committees (see text box) for examination and validation. An initial success came in July 2011 with the adoption of a resolution relating to the classification of the Strait of Bonifacio as a PSSA, a measure that became definitive with the establishment of a recommended piloting service on-board vessels transiting the strait and carrying dangerous goods.

Because of the opposition in principle expressed by States with a particular commitment to the principle of the freedom of navigation in international straits (United Kingdom, United States), it was not possible to maintain a proposal for mandatory piloting, as had initially been planned.

Since the summer of 2014, a deep-sea piloting service has been introduced on a trial basis by Sardinian and Corsican pilots, opening the way to the definitive designation of the Strait as a sensitive area by the International Maritime Organisation. Other provisions are likely to be adopted in the future with respect to the associated protection measures. These should be worked on within the framework of the EGTC-PMIBB.

The conditions are now in place for the full designation of the strait as a PSSA by the IMO. The OEC, a European Straits Initiative partner since its inception, has thus made an active contribution to wider recognition of the specific characteristics of the European straits on the international stage, which is one of the two objectives set for the Initiative at its renewal in October 2014.

Key stages in the designation of the Strait of Bonifacio as a PSSA

  • 1995: The OEC initiated a study of navigation conditions in the Strait of Bonifacio and the modalities that would allow improved control.
  • 2010: Filing of the joint Franco-Italian application for the designation of the Strait of Bonifacio as a PSSA, with the Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO.
  • 27 September to 1st October 2010: Examination of the application at the 61st session of the MEPC.
  • 6 to 10 June 2011: Validation of the Franco-Italian submission relating to deep-sea piloting recommended by the Navigation Subcommittee (NAV) of the IMO at its 57th session.
  • 11 to 17 July 2011: Adoption of the resolution (15 July 2011) on the classification of the Strait of Bonifacio as a PSSA (Resolution MEPC.204(62)), a measure that will become definitive with the establishment of a recommended piloting service
  • 31 May 2012: Acceptance of the deep-sea piloting measure by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the IMO at its 90th session, stipulating that it must take effect on 1st July 2014.
  • Summer 2014: The measure is implemented on a trial basis by Sardinian and Corsican pilots (Ordinance No. 73/2014 of 30/06/14 for the Sardinian side, and Order 2014220-0003 of 8 August 2014 for the Corsican side).

Related contents

Links

imo.org

pssa.imo.org (educational site on PSSAs including Bonifacio)

oec.fr (in French)

4 out of 8 ESI straits partners in PSSAs

With 3 straits from the Baltic Sea (Kvarken, Fehmarnbelt and Gulf of Finland) and the strait of Bonifacio, half of the ESI partner straits are concerned by a PSSA.

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