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Assembly: 28th session, 26 November to 4 December 2013 (Opening address)

November 25, 2013

OPENING ADDRESS BY MR. KOJI SEKIMIZU
SECRETARY-GENERAL
TO THE TWENTY-EIGHTH REGULAR SESSION OF THE ASSEMBLY
OF THE INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION
IMO Headquarters, 25 November 2013

Mr. President, Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers, ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to IMO Headquarters, for the 28th session of the Organization’s biennial Assembly. Over the next week and a half you will, once again, receive detailed and extensive reports on the Organization’s work over the past two years. In this biennium, we have been active and engaged in a large number of diverse areas. We have faced serious challenges and we have responded to meet them successfully.
 
In this Assembly, you will also be asked to make some important decisions that will determine the way the Organization operates over the next two years. You will, for example, be asked to approve the work programme and budget for the next biennium and to elect a new Council to run the administrative affairs of IMO until the next Assembly.
 
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It was two years ago at this Assembly that you, Member Governments, appointed me as the Secretary-General. I declared my vision and stated what I intended to do. I pledged to closely work with you, the membership. I am a partner of Member Governments and the Secretariat staff.
 
First of all, I wanted to explore new ways of handling management. I wanted to enhance direct communication with the membership and ensure that the membership is fully aware of what I am thinking about, what I think is important for the Organization and what is my plan in dealing with important issues such as review and reform and the budget. That is why I began the regular Informal Briefing by the Secretary-General to Member Governments, talking about important issues on my agenda and explaining how I intended to proceed.
 
I appreciated Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Permanent Representatives and maritime attachés for their participation in the briefing sessions. This is an important avenue of communication, interaction and consultation for me and I will continue regular briefing sessions in the next biennium. The main mechanism of oversight, management and decision-taking for the sound and efficient operation of this Organization is the Council. I appreciate very much the cooperation and support of the membership and, in particular, Council Members and its Chairman for their hard and efficient work and cooperative handling of all aspects of management of this Organization and guidance and advice provided to me over the two years.
 
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At the beginning of last year, I stated that I would aim at an open, fair, efficient, creative and forward looking Organization. I also stated that this is a United Nations office. My job is not to do all the work myself. My job is to set targets and a system and mechanisms in the Secretariat and let people do the work. This is my management.
If I take examples, I established a Steering Group and Subgroups for Review and Reform. I also established a Performance Review Board to control staff awards and promotions. I ensured an open recruitment system; and applied it extensively, even to D.2 posts. I established an internal mechanism for Rio plus 20 follow up actions.
 
The outcome was:
 
• A long-term financial sustainability study;
 
• New budget formation process with full transparency;
 
• Sub-committees’ restructuring;
 
• Country profile for technical cooperation needs;
 
• Audio files; and
 
• An IMO outreach programme using social media.
 
All those achievements could not have been made without the hard working staff. I appreciate the enthusiastic support and significant contributions from staff in dealing with the review and reform process over the previous two years. I particularly appreciate the understanding, cooperation and harmony in this house. Strategy is important. Tactics are important.  Capacity and competence are important. But nothing can be achieved without understanding, cooperation and harmony among staff members. I will continue to work with people in the Secretariat.
 
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The Assembly is the highest body to review major achievements in the past biennium in the fields of safety, security, environmental protection and facilitation. I must leave details to discussion under relevant agenda items, but this biennium was another productive period. In the fields of safety and security: Costa Concordia and IMO's response should be placed at the top of the list of important issues. In the centenary year of Titanic and only two weeks after I took up my new responsibility, the accident happened. I stated that IMO must not take this accident lightly; we should seriously consider the lessons to be learnt and examine the regulations in the light of casualty investigation. The Maritime Safety Committee has already taken action and I am looking forward to further action at MSC next year to improve our regulatory system.
 
The III Code and preparation for the mandatory scheme of IMO Audit are major developments to move forward towards the mandatory system.
 
The Cape Town Agreement to implement fishing vessel safety regulations; security and anti-piracy measures; progress in preparation of the Polar Code; they are all major achievements in the biennium.
 
Turning to the environmental fields: EEDI implementation; promotion of technical cooperation and transfer of technology relating to improvement of energy efficiency of ships; designation of Saba Bank as a new PSSA; the Ballast Water Management Convention implementation plan; six guidelines for the Hong Kong Convention; they are all important achievements in the respective fields.
 
The Legal Committee, Technical Cooperation Committee and Facilitation Committee have also made significant progress in their respective fields and we will review their achievements this week under respective agenda items.
 
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Next biennium will see further actions in a number of important issues. If I provide my view on what issues would be placed high on our agenda: first of all, obviously, the Polar Code is the priority issue. Secondly, preparation for the Mandatory Audit Scheme must be completed.  Thirdly, the review and reform process must be continued. Fourthly, the sustainability of WMU must be addressed. In addition, our global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must continue; implementation of EEDI must be progressed; development in the UNFCCC must be closely monitored; and further efforts should be made to highlight IMO’s achievements and the real, substantial contribution from the shipping industry in the wider public.
 
Furthermore, we must ensure IMO conventions dealing with protection of the marine environment, such as the Ballast Water Management Convention, will come into force.

They belong to my priority lists on top of all important issues on safety, security, environmental protection, facilitation, legal and technical cooperation fields.
 
In the beginning of this year, I stated that we should eradicate piracy and reduce maritime casualties by half. On piracy, while we saw good results of our concerted efforts in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, we are concerned about the situation in the Gulf of Guinea. We should make further efforts in this field.
 
In the beginning of this year, I also stated that we should put further efforts to reduce accidents. In response to this, IALA is making progress on the Accident Zero Campaign.   I appreciate this very much.
 
But, while we are putting lots of effort to reduce maritime casualties, I cannot neglect the issue of maritime migrants.  Hundreds of people on board small boats and ships with no safety measures are my concern. On the rescue side, IMO has done a lot. But this field needs further work to improve the system to handle persons rescued at sea. The matter of migrants and asylum seekers are well beyond the remit of this Organization.
 
But, when it comes to hundreds of people on board small unseaworthy vessels crossing over oceans and losing their lives, we should seriously consider what we can do in the field of prevention.  IMO is dealing with capacity building for proper implementation of safety regulations and maritime security, and I would like to further consider what we can do in this field in the coming biennium.
 
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Distinguished delegates, during this biennium we have taken the opportunity to move ahead with the times and do things a little differently. We have, for example, held two special symposia, focusing on key issues facing the Organization.
 
The first of these was the IMO Symposium on the Future of Ship Safety, held on 10 and 11 June this year.
Following two days of intense discussions on a wide range of issues impacting the future of ship safety, the Symposium recommended that the Maritime Safety Committee should carry out a long-term, comprehensive review of the existing safety regulatory framework in SOLAS Convention.
 
And, in conjunction with World Maritime Day in September, we held a symposium looking at sustainability in the maritime context. As the theme adopted for this year’s World Maritime Day, sustainability has been an important focus for IMO. At the symposium we introduced a new concept for a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System, something we have been working on, with industry partners, since the theme was adopted.
 
I believe that both these events have been useful and a chance to consider key issues in a broader context.
 
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I think this would be the right time to say a few words about the well-oiled machinery that enables IMO meetings to run so smoothly. IMO’s Technical and Conference Divisions successfully provided logistical, professional and technical support during the 2012–2013 biennium.
 
Within the framework of the Organization's efforts for reducing costs and improving the conduct of international meetings, an online meeting registration system has been put in place.
 
Meeting proceedings can now be digitally recorded and stored. The Conference Division keeps abreast of the latest technological advances: IMODOCS has been strengthened under the PaperSmart policy.
 
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Looking ahead, the restructuring of IMO's sub-committees will provide fresh challenges not just for the IMO Secretariat but for the entire membership.
 
This restructuring is part of a broad review and reform process I initiated in order to ensure the Organization is properly able to meet current and future challenges as a forward looking, efficient and cost-conscious Organization, and I look forward to further cooperation between the membership and the Secretariat.
 
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Distinguished delegates, two years ago, when you were kind enough to appoint me as Secretary-General of this excellent Organization, I said “The biggest challenge I see in the coming years, in terms of management of the Organization, is how to improve the ‘delivery mechanism’ in the Secretariat to address the demanding issues we face, such as anti-piracy measures, the introduction of the mandatory Member State Audit Scheme and our ever-increasing workload. To address this will require effective human resource deployment and redeployment, the creation of new ways of handling our work and improvements to our working methods. It will also require close cooperation between the Secretariat and Member Governments.”
 
I am confident that we are building a stronger foundation.  But review and reform efforts should continue in order to respond to future challenges and maintain the Organization’s relevance in the years ahead.
 
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Distinguished delegates, it is customary in these opening remarks to offer a few words of thanks. First, to Mr. Stephen Hammond, the United Kingdom Minister responsible for shipping, for his deep interest in our work and his unstinting support for the Organization. And, through him, I thank most sincerely, Her Majesty’s Government for providing first-class host country facilities, which enable us not only to conduct our business comfortably and without any hindrance, but also to enjoy our life in these magnificent surroundings.
 
This Headquarters Office was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 17 May 1983, thirty years ago. As a way of highlighting remarkable achievements of the Organization over the last three decades made in this building, we have prepared a leaflet providing all important actions taken by this Organization and circulated among participants to mark the 30th anniversary year of the Headquarters at Albert Embankment.
 
I should also like to thank the outgoing President of the Assembly, His Excellency Mr. Eduardo Medina-Mora, Ambassador of Mexico, for providing me with a number of opportunities of consultation on important issues of management in particular in the early days of my tenure last year and I pass my best wishes to his successor.
 
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Distinguished delegates, I should like to conclude these opening remarks with a special tribute to one of the truly great figures of IMO, who we lost earlier this year. It was with great sadness that, in July, we learned of the passing of Dr. C.P. Srivastava, the longest serving Secretary-General of the Organization. Dr. C.P. Srivastava will be remembered for so many things.
 
But perhaps above all, he will be remembered for his visionary and pioneering role and his ceaseless efforts in the establishment of IMO’s global educational institutions, including the World Maritime University (WMU), in Malmö, Sweden, and the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), in Malta. Mr. C.P. Srivastava was, indeed, a truly great Secretary-General and leader of this Organization.
 
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Before I conclude my opening address, I would like to express my and the Organization’s deepest condolences and sympathy to the Government and people of the Philippines for the loss of a large number of people and devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
 
I have established a special mechanism to collect goodwill donations at IMO and keep it open during the period of the Assembly so that delegates to the Assembly and industry organizations would be able to contribute. Collected donations will be channelled to relevant UN relief funds and be used for recovery and rehabilitation activities for the Philippines. I would seek your kind contributions.
 
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Distinguished delegates, I think I have now said enough. I think the best thing now would be to let you get on with the busy agenda. It now remains only for me to wish you all the fortitude that always seems to be required for the IMO Assembly, when the days are long and, so it seems, the evenings even longer!
 
Thank you.