IMO’s FAL Convention – Vision, Impact, Benefits and Future

IMO’s FAL Convention – Vision, Impact, Benefits and Future

The International Maritime Organization has come up with FAL Convention and has asked all nations across the globe to comply with the convention on or before March 31, 2020. While we are all wondering what this convention is all about, here are some insights into it and why it is important to comply with FAL Convention.

What is IMO?

International Maritime Organization is a designated organization under the United Nations’ lineage that oversees the international shipping norms and unify it under a global approach to maintain uniformity. Established on 17th March 1948, this 71-year-old organization was primarily set to avoid delays in the maritime traffic, improve coordination between the industry stakeholders and affirm streamlined procedures and formalities.

What is the Facilitation (FAL) Convention by IMO?

The FAL Convention is a collection of all the standard practices and regulations for the Government and the authorities to regulate their shipping process and logistic requirements as per the international law. This is essential in smoothing the laws and policies that is spread across international frontiers.

The idea behind its conceptualization was to outline the concerns about environmental factors, safety, maritime security and the shipping efficiency. Since 2016, the FAL has made it imperative for ports and ships to invest in the electronic exchange of the FAL data and invest time, as well as efforts in deploying a single-window concept that makes it easier to access all the information at one single platform.

The General Structure of FAL

The FAL Convention comprises of 16 articles and one annex where the articles contain the scope of the convention, the general regulations, and requirements. On the other hand, the annex contains the Standards and Recommended Practices on the procedures, the documentation and formalities that need to be applied on the functioning of the ships, their cargo as well as the crew. It regulates the entry as well as the exit of the ships.

The structure of the annex is as follows

    1. Definitions and General Provisions
    2. Arrival, stay and departure of the ship
    3. Arrival and departure of the persons
    4. Stowaways
    5. Arrival, stay, and departure of cargo and other articles
    6. Public health and quarantine, including sanitary measures for plants and animals
    7. Miscellaneous provisions

What are these standard practices?

The FAL Convention outlines the standards as globally set regulations that are ‘necessary and practicable in order to facilitate the international maritime traffic’. As per this standard, the contracting government can choose to step away from the written clauses in the case of any domestic policies or find it necessary to adopt a different path mandated to inform the Secretary-General of the IMO.

These changes can be applied to existing practices as well as new practices. In the case of new/existing regulations, the Governments are advised to tweak their practices and adhere to the policies. However, if they bring in their own formalities and documentation to abide by the IMO policies, they must contact the Secretary-General.

The Vision Behind FAL

Today, FAL is 171 members’ strong convention where these members are working towards detangling maritime transport by minimizing the procedures, data needs and the formalities that the ships are subject to upon arrival as well as departure. Thanks to the FAL Convention, the IMO has been able to slash down the plethora of regulations down to a concise figure of 9. These 9 regulation declarations can be accessed by the public authorities. These declarations are the Crew and Passenger Lists, inter alia, the Cargo Declaration, the IMO General Declaration, and the Dangerous Goods Declaration.

FAL Amendments so far

  • The 2016 Revisions: These revisions present new definitions for Cargo Transport Unit (CTU), freedom, cargo holder, the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, ace, dispatch operator, shipper and a single window.
  • The 2009 Revisions: The revisions are identified with segments concerning substance and reason for reports; appearance and flight prerequisites and methodology; measures to encourage freedom of travelers, team and things; and assistance for ships connected on travels and for travelers. The alterations presented the content of “journey number”, and new IMO FAL Forms were endorsed.
  • The 2005 Revisions: The revisions are proposed to uplift the convention to improve the help of global sea traffic, including a Recommended Practice for authorities to build up the fundamental systems to utilize pre-arrival and pre-departure data to facilitate the procedure and thus, streamline the cargo and person clearance process.
  • The 2002 Revisions: Another revision identifies with the Dangerous Goods Manifest, which turns into the essential report giving open specialists the data in regard to perilous merchandise onboard delivers.

Whom does it impact?

The FAL Convention is mainly designed keeping in mind the following stakeholders:

    1. International governments/National authorities- Fulfilling the requirement of electronic data exchange. Through this the concerned authorities will be entitled tocrucial details and information as per their need.
    2. Public authorities- responsible for shipping and transportation- Duplication of data is one of the major problems for the public authorities. The FAL convention will bring systemized flow of information, documentation of arrival, stay and departure of ships.
    3. Shipping and logistics organizations- With the implementation of FAL convention, a uniformity in the transportation of cargo is expected to be achieved. It will make the cross-border trade simpler and secure. Building a chance of maintaining a logistical chain for single portal data exchange and reduction in the administrative burden.

Achievements so far

Some of the recent achievements by the convention so far include regulations with respect to SOLAS, that has paved way to improved fire safety clauses over passenger ships. Additionally, it also initiated the International Convention on Standards of Training and Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers which outlines some basic and mandatory requirements on certification, training and watchkeeping for seafarers. Another development was the drafting of the Convention on the Prevention of Maritime Pollution that mandated the installation of the double hulls on all tankers.


The aforementioned ‘Single Window’ development enables FAL to be regulated on the lines of the electronic exchange and Governments will be encouraged to exchange data at a single data repository. It also guarantees efficient transportation of international maritime logistics. Suitable for stakeholders, administrative authorities for logistics and shipment and public establishments. This creates a single window for exchange of data and makes a viable display of information.

In addition to this regulation, there are new regulations in line that will strengthen the seafarer’s security, bring about social equality where there will be no discrimination based on gender, colour, race, sex and creed and many other developments for the ships on the seas. This is a first step to digitize the process of transportation and shipment, this is expected to be a breakthrough solution for the industry and there are various other parameters, policies that are required to streamline the entire process that are about to arrive soon.