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Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE) - 55th session, 21-25 March 2011

March 21, 2011

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AT THE OPENING OF THE FIFTY-FIFTH SESSION OF THE
SUB COMMITTEE ON SHIP DESIGN AND EQUIPMENT
(21 to 25 March 2011)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the fifty-fifth session of the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment.  I extend a particular warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
 
As it has become customary for some time now, before I address the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which the Council chooses for each particular year.  This year’s theme is "Piracy: orchestrating the response" and aims at complementing and coming as a sequel to last year’s theme, which was dedicated to seafarers. 
 
However, before doing so this time, I wish to pause for a moment and ask you to direct your thoughts to the disaster that hit northeast Japan ten days ago and your prayers to the victims of this new demonstration of the sometimes destructive force of nature – an incident that rendered the omnipotent human race impotent in the face of its power.
It is painful, especially for us, servants of shipping, that the element that caused much of the destruction in Japan is the same element that gives us life, sustains the planet and provides the means that enables us to serve the needs of mankind.  And while we have good reason to look at the overall achievements we have made over the years in enhancing safety at the sea with justifiable pride, we should also look upon the catastrophic tsunami that followed the 11 March earthquake as a grim reminder of the power of the forces that can occasionally be unleashed by nature – especially those that can make the sea more dangerous than it usually is.
 
The disaster will put many of the virtues and achievements of the Japanese people to the test.  But a nation cannot become as great as Japan without having the fortitude, determination and means to rise from the ashes and rebuild itself – to make the rising sun shine again!  Japan will do so and so will the noble Japanese people; their economy and infrastructure will, over time, become again a point of reference for excellence in anything that bears the hallmarks of a modern, vibrant, dynamic and energetic nation that Japan is, with her unparalleled know-how, technology, skills and economic and financial muscle.  If there is one country able to bounce back from this unprecedented calamity in a disciplined manner, it is Japan, a country that quite rightly has won the admiration of the whole world for its stoicism and sense of harmony in the face of disaster. 
 
Upon hearing of the magnitude of the earthquake and the enormity of the destruction the ensuing tsunami caused, we mobilized the system we have put in place to respond, from IMO’s perspective, to emergencies.  This meant communicating with, and involving, as the circumstances dictated, the NAV/MET area coordinators in the Pacific, WMO, IHO, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, IALA and Inmarsat, while, at the same time, seeking information, about the situation at sea and its impact on shipping, from the Japan Coast Guard, Member Governments in Japan’s region and shipping companies.
 
From the reports available, it seems that the combined destructive force of the earthquake and tsunami did not, apart from a number of fishing vessels and small ships that were swept away, capsized and sunk, cause serious casualties to shipping.  While this may bring some relief, the valiant work of the Japan Coast Guard in rescuing almost 250 persons in distress at sea or along the coastline of the affected region should not go unnoticed.
On behalf of the entire membership, the staff and myself, I wrote to the Japanese Ambassador in London to convey our sentiments of sadness, compassion, sympathy and solidarity to him, the Government of Japan and the Japanese people; and assure him that our thoughts and prayers were with them and the families and friends of the victims of the disaster; and that we stood ready to offer any assistance that might be required of us in the circumstances.
 
Together with IHO and IALA, we monitor the situation closely and, once we are able to assess the damage to, or removal from their position of, aids to navigation in the area affected by the earthquake and tsunami, we will provide any assistance and support Japan and neighbouring countries may require.
 
In the meantime, we observe with profound admiration the selfless efforts of brave workers to avert a nuclear crisis and wish them every success and good luck in what must be a mission without precedent.
 
While these events were happening in Japan, we had also to think of the safety of navigation of ships transiting the Mediterranean Sea since the UN Security Council decided to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians, being implemented as from last Friday.  To this effect, we have established contact with IHO and the NAVAREA Coordinator for the Mediterranean Sea and follow developments closely.
 
And now back to piracy and the session’s agenda. 
 
***
 
It is in the context of IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea that we have set, as the overall aim of the theme chosen for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it.  The main aims of the campaign we will pursue throughout the year (and beyond, if necessary) are:
 
• one, to increase awareness about the severity of the piracy situation off the coast of Somalia and its implications on seafarers, the transport of humanitarian aid and the disruption and resulting consequences piracy causes to shipping, international shipborne trade and the world economy;
• two, to motivate Governments, the shipping industry, merchant ships and naval vessels to do more than they are doing at present to stem the unacceptable incidence of piracy in the areas around the Horn of Africa and beyond; and
• three, to send to seafarers a clear message that their plight, while sailing off Somalia and, worst, when their ship is captured by pirates and they are held hostage for ransom, is central in our thoughts and work; that we do care about them; and that we do all we can to stem the scourge.
 
To give substance to the campaign and make a difference, we have, in co-operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, compiled an action plan, with six main objectives, which was launched, here at IMO, by the UN Secretary-General last month.  It is my sincere hope, and strong wish, that the action plan will generate the widest possible interest and that it will inspire and galvanize Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to act in the most appropriate and effective manner to eradicate the now all too frequent incidence of armed kidnap and ransom that characterizes modern day piracy, in particular off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.  I hope you will also support the campaign and assist in the delivery of its components as best as you can.  
 
In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates.  May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Since your last session, five months ago, the Maritime Safety Committee has met once and, under agenda item 2, you will be informed of decisions it took relevant to your work. 
 
From the many and important items on your agenda this week, I would single out the long outstanding matter of lifeboat on-load release hooks, which you will consider under the evaluation of lifeboat release and retrieval systems item.  The MSC having, in principle, agreed to set 1 July 2014 as the date for the implementation of the proposed new SOLAS regulation III/1.5 concerning evaluation and replacement of existing release mechanisms, it is now up to you to complete the remaining work this week.  This includes finalizing, as a package, the draft Guidelines for evaluation and replacement of lifeboat release and retrieval systems, together with the associated new SOLAS regulation III/1.5 and amendments to the LSA Code.  Proposed amendments to the Revised recommendation on testing of life-saving appliances and the use of fall preventer devices should also be considered under this agenda item.  In your decisions, you will be assisted by the outcome of the ad hoc Intersessional Working Group, which met last week so that you may finalize this item now, before you submit your proposed draft text to the May session of the MSC for approval and adoption. 
 
I fully recognize that your task on the lifeboat release hooks is far from easy.  The fact that we have not, as yet, been able to close the matter, after 4 years of elaboration, may have been disappointing; however, we can claim some satisfaction from the progress made in the search for a definitive solution to a complex issue.  On a further positive note, it is always wise not to rush to make decisions that time and practice might later prove wrong, thus negating all the good work done.  I, therefore, call on the goodwill of all parties – Administrations, the industry and seafarers alike – to honour, as always, the tried and tested IMO spirit of co-operation in our continued efforts to achieve the desired outcome.  I am sure that this – and staying focused on the overall objective of the task at hand, which, I hardly need to remind you, is to ensure enhanced safety in the use of lifeboats – will lead to a successful outcome of your deliberations this week.  This will enable the Committee to bring the matter to an end at its forthcoming May session, so that the guidelines and the associated SOLAS amendments can be implemented worldwide as soon as possible thereafter.  By achieving this result, IMO will not only send a strong signal  that the safety of seafarers is always uppermost in our minds but also strengthen confidence among seafarers when engaging in lifeboat drills and, more importantly, when faced with an emergency, that the life-saving appliances and equipment placed at their disposal function faultlessly. 
 
Another matter that has, over the years, proved difficult to conclude is the development of performance standards for recovery systems for all types of ship.  The spectacular growth, over the past decade, in both the size of passenger ships and the number of persons they carry, has created new challenges calling for an optimal recovery system that is suitably adapted to the rescue of persons from the water and from survival craft.  At your last session, you agreed to allow sufficient flexibility with regard to the actual equipment used – provided it meets the testing requirements to demonstrate its effectiveness in any envisaged recovery operations.  Based on new proposals submitted to this session, I hope you will be able to arrive at solutions globally acceptable and thus bring the matter to conclusion by the 2012 deadline set by the MSC. 
 
Various other matters concerning life-saving appliances constitute a substantial part of your agenda.  They include the development of a new framework of requirements for such appliances, with a view to revising SOLAS chapter III using the goal-based standards concept; the development of Guidelines for the standardization of lifeboat control arrangements; and the revision of testing requirements for lifejacket reference test devices. 
 
Your progress in finalizing these matters will contribute considerably to enhanced safety and will be appreciated by all concerned.
 
The development of a Code for ships operating in polar waters, as a mandatory IMO instrument, continues to attract keen interest among our members and observers, as demonstrated by the high number of submissions to this session – a total of twenty-five – and by the many different aspects of the draft Code they address. 
 
 I should hardly remind you that, in developing the Code, our aim is to cover the full range of shipping-related matters relevant to navigation in waters surrounding the two poles – ship design, construction and equipment; operational and training concerns; search and rescue; and, equally important, the protection of the unique environment and eco-systems of the polar regions.  No wonder, therefore, that any safety-related incident on ships operating in those areas, and any incident with environmental repercussions, will, bearing in mind their geographical remoteness and the often hostile environment prevailing therein, most likely draw immediate widespread attention, which might turn to criticism if we do not approach the new challenge with all due diligence.  It is becoming ever more urgent, therefore, that we spare no effort to put in place an adequate regulatory regime to cater for all the eventualities that shipping, operating in the polar regions, may come across – from both the safety and environmental perspectives.  In this context, I must add that it gave me great pleasure to join many of you, on the 7th March, to celebrate the expansion of the World-Wide Navigational Warning Service into Arctic Waters by means of establishing five new Arctic NAVAREAs/METAREAs, which are expected to reach “Full Operational Capability” on 1 June this year.
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
In addition to the extensive work assigned to you by the MSC, there are also a few items referred to your Sub-Committee by the MEPC.  They include:
 
• the development of measures to promote integrated bilge water treatment systems; and
• the revision of resolution MEPC.159(55), with the aim of updating, in view of the new requirements of MARPOL Annex IV,  the Revised guidelines on implementation of effluent standards and performance tests for sewage treatment plants.
The outcome of your work on these items will assist the shipping industry to implement relevant environmental policies and comply with corresponding international requirements.
Other items on your agenda are equally important and call for your careful consideration.  I would highlight, in particular:
• the safety of tenders operating from passenger ships; 
• measures relevant to noise on board ships – with a view to revising the existing ad hoc Code, including from the perspective of the adverse effects of noise on marine life, and making the revised Code mandatory;
• amendments to resolution A.744 – with a view to finalizing the draft Assembly resolution on the adoption of the new Code on Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers, for submission to MSC 89 for approval, and for subsequent adoption by the twenty-seventh Assembly (together with a draft MSC resolution for the adoption, at MSC 90 in May 2012, of the associated draft amendments to SOLAS regulation XI-1/2 concerning enhanced surveys of bulk carriers and oil tankers);
• guidelines for a visible element to general alarm systems on passenger ships – with a view to finalization and referral to the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection for further input; and
• classification of offshore industry vessels and consideration of the need for a code for offshore construction support vessels  – with a view to developing relevant guidelines and/or interpretations.
 
These and all the items on your agenda deserve careful consideration and, in dealing with them, you should keep uppermost in your mind the role of the human element, as emphasized by the MSC and the MEPC and specifically called for in their Guidelines on the organization and method of work. 
 
As you go about your work this week, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the considerable progress made on several items on your agenda by the various correspondence groups you established at your last session.  All the members of these groups, especially their coordinators, deserve our thanks for, and recognition of, their important input.
 
Before I conclude, I will say, as I always do, a few words about security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be much appreciated.  These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed.
 
At the same time and while going about our usual business, we should afford ourselves some time to mark the occasion of the second United Nations International Day of Nowruz.  The rich history of the holiday of Nowruz – which, in the Farsi language, means ‘New Day’ – provides, in these turbulent times, a good opportunity to promote ‘renewal’ of our efforts for peace and goodwill.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that this session will, once again, demand a lot of hard work from all of you as you are expected to finalize several of the items on your agenda while achieving progress on others.  I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully, drawing on your extensive and deep expertise and guided by the constant commitment of all of us to this Organization’s twin causes of enhanced maritime safety and environmental protection and inspired by the customary IMO spirit of co-operation.  This, in turn, will ensure that you make sound, balanced and timely decisions on which to base your advice to the parent Committees.  I am confident that under the leadership of your Chairman, Mrs. Anneliese Jost of Germany, you will pursue your objectives vigorously and successfully.  As always, the Secretariat will give you all the support required.  I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.
 
Thank you.
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