The International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks, adopted in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007, entered into force on 14 April 2015. The Convention is an important addition to the existing maritime conventions: It places strict liability on operators for ship wrecks that cause damage or threat to safety of navigation, the marine environment, and the coastline or related interests of one or more States. It makes financial security compulsory for ships of 300 gross tonnage and above, and obliges State parties to certify the presence of appropriate insurance on ships flying their flag. The Convention also provides State Parties with a right of direct action against insurers. The Convention fills a gap in the existing international legal framework by providing a set of uniform international rules for the prompt and effective removal of wrecks located in a country’s exclusive economic zone or equivalent 200 nautical miles zone. Notably, the Convention enables States Parties to "opt in" to apply certain provisions to their territory, including the territorial sea. A 'wreck' under the Convention includes sunken or stranded ships and any parts of such ships or objects that were lost at sea from such ships, as well as ships in distress facing a danger of sinking or stranding.
The European Commission welcomes entry into force of the Convention as it is pertinent to the ongoing work of the Commission and Member States on the accommodation of ships in need of assistance in places of refuge. In this context, a place of refuge can be a port or any other sheltered area identified by a Member State for accommodating ships in distress. The work carried out within the EU Cooperation Group on Places of Refuge, including Member States, the Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), in consultation with industry associations, aims at the development of a set of Operational Guidelines for competent authorities dealing with a ship requesting a place of refuge. In addition, the Cooperation Group is set to look into any further challenges faced by administrations and industry, such as the growing size of ships and the capacity required for handling a place of refuge request from a new-type mega-ship.