July 2 - At a July meeting of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) sub-committee on safety of navigation the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) - which represents global shipowners and 80 percent of the world merchant fleet - will be opposin

The proposal has been made by Comoros, France, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, the Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania, having been given impetus by work conducted by the World Bank.

ICS director marine, John Murray said : "ICS is very concerned with this proposal for a new recommended route in international waters which will result in all vessels following the same proposed track. This will increase the risk of collision to the hundreds of ships that would be using the scheme at any one time, particularly given the current lack of vessel traffic services (VCSs) in the region. The concept could also set an unwelcome precedent for the management of deep sea navigation elsewhere, and will require very careful consideration by IMO .

"The compelling need for this proposed measure remains unclear, and no statistical evidence has been provided regarding shipping casualties or near misses in the Mozambique Channel. This omission makes it particularly difficult to quantify the anticipated benefit that the proposal would deliver."

The main aim of the proposal is advised to be a reduction to the risk of collision and grounding in the Mozambique Channel. However, despite vessels favouring certain routes, shipping currently is free to use the entire width of the Channel, which is in international waters. The proposed measure would seek to concentrate shipping into very restricted lanes and could potentially increase the risk of collision.

Even at its narrowest point the Mozambique Channel is over 250 km wide, and today many ships make use of this width and keep well away from the routes used by transiting tankers and similar vessels.

ICS is co-ordinating with its member national shipowners' associations to ensure that governments attending the IMO meeting will seriously question the proposal for the routing measure in Mozambique Channel.