Report | May 10, 2024

Enhancing vessel identification in GFCM

Since 2013, when fishing vessels became eligible to apply for International Maritime Organisation (IMO) numbers, these seven-digit identifiers have gained global recognition as an invaluable tool for vessel identification. Unlike call signs, names, flags, or other registration numbers, IMO numbers remain consistent and permanent throughout a vessel’s lifecycle, from construction to dismantling. They need to be displayed clearly on the vessel’s hull or superstructure. Managed by S&P Global Market Intelligence at no cost, IMO numbers play a crucial role in monitoring and controlling efforts by the authorities of flag, coastal and port States, and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs).

It is unacceptable that despite IMO numbers being accessible at no cost, the current IMO number requirement remains non-binding for the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). Therefore, we urge the GFCM to extend the IMO number requirement to vessels operating in the Convention Area with a length of 12 metres and above of length overall, and to make this requirement legally binding through the adoption of a Recommendation.

This policy briefing provides an overview of the vessels with IMO numbers on the GFCM Authorized Vessel List per country, explores IMO number requirements in other RFMOs, and provides recommendations for the GFCM to strengthen its standards in line with best practice.