ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AT THE OPENING OF THE SIXTEENTH SESSION OF THE
SUB-COMMITTEE ON DANGEROUS GOODS, SOLID CARGOES AND CONTAINERS
(19 to 23 September 2011)
Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the sixteenth session of the Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers.
I extend a particularly warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
I will start by saying a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which we will be celebrating next week. The theme chosen for this year is “Piracy: orchestrating the response”. It aims at complementing that of last year, which was dedicated to seafarers. Our strong wish and set aim is to coordinate a global campaign to stem the unacceptable incidence of piracy – in particular, off the coast of Somalia – and, at the same time, to ensure that the momentum gained by the 2010 Year of the Seafarer will be sustained by future annual celebrations of the “Day of the Seafarer”, on the 25th of June, the date chosen to mark the adoption, by the 2010 Manila Conference, of a comprehensive set of amendments to the STCW Convention and Code.
It is in the context of IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea that, further to pursuing the anti-piracy campaign this year, the Council has decided that the World Maritime Day theme for next year should be “IMO: One hundred years after the ‘Titanic’”. The theme was particularly chosen in order to give us the opportunity, throughout 2012, to take, in the main, stock of improvements in maritime safety during the 100 years since the sinking, on her maiden voyage, of that much-publicised transatlantic liner; and to examine which areas of safety should be given priority consideration in the years to come. Your Sub Committee’s contribution to the continuing process of ensuring maximum safety in the carriage by sea of dangerous goods, solid cargoes and containers is of the highest standard and, as such, globally recognized.
More particularly, it has been your Sub-Committee, which, when challenged by marine accidents (both at sea and in port areas) involving dangerous goods or by other cargo-related incidents, played a catalytic role in enhancing safety through the SOLAS Convention, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code; and other codes and regulatory measures.
Returning to this year’s theme, while we remain focused on intensifying our efforts to prevent merchant ships from falling into the hands of pirates through a multi-faceted action plan we have devised in co-operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers – 339 in total from 16 ships – who, at present, are held captive somewhere along Somalia’s extensive coastline. May they be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
Since your last session, twelve months ago, the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee each have met twice and their decisions of relevance to your work will be brought to your attention under agenda item 2.
You will, I am sure, be pleased with the approval by the MSC, for submission to the November session of the Assembly for adoption, of the Revised Recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships and the new Code of Safe Practice for Ships Carrying Timber Deck Cargoes, which this Sub-Committee has so meticulously worked on. These outputs send, once again, the right signal to seafarers that we, at IMO, do care about them and do all we can to enhance their safety while they are at work in the service of world trade and to the benefit of the daily lives of all of us.
To optimize the text of the Timber Deck Cargoes Code, the Committee has requested your Sub-Committee to have another look at it, at this session, at the same time authorizing you to submit any modifications you may deem necessary directly to the Assembly for adoption. Along with seafarers, the industry will also welcome the comprehensively updated code, which, in its new form, promotes modern systems of safe and efficient handling and securing on board ships of timber cargoes, given their peculiarities and the impact they may have on safety if not properly stowed.
You will also be pleased to know that, at its last session, the MSC adopted the first set of amendments to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code, which you finalized at your last session, revising individual schedules for a number of cargoes.
As regards future updates of the IMSBC Code and supplements, the Committee decided to expand the terms of reference of the Editorial & Technical Group to include a biennial preparation and finalization of amendments, leaving matters of principle and policy to be decided by the Sub-Committee and itself. On the basis of this decision, the second set of amendments to the Code is scheduled to be completed by the Group meeting twice in 2012 – the first preceding and the second following on from DSC 17, with a view to adoption by MSC 92 in May 2013. Judging from the submissions to this session – well over 100 – containing proposals for further amendments to the Code and related matters, including evaluation of properties of solid bulk cargoes, the volume of work to be done cannot be underestimated. I am sure that the ad hoc working group you agreed to establish this week will be able to tackle the demanding task at hand satisfactorily building on the outcome of the relevant correspondence group.
The MSC has also instructed your Sub-Committee to consider proposals concerning measures for the safe transportation of solid bulk cargoes by ships. Of immediate concern to this Organization and its constituents in this respect is the serious loss of life (44 in total) that was reported last year involving three bulk carriers that sank while engaged in the transport of nickel ore, allegedly due to cargo liquefaction affecting the ship’s stability. Similar safety concerns were also expressed with respect to iron ore cargoes. Since the dangers of cargo liquefaction have long been known to the shipping industry, the question of why the phenomenon is resurfacing now would be a legitimate one. It is for us, therefore, to provide satisfactory answers before we witness more accidents of the same nature and I very much hope that you will look into this matter thoroughly and comprehensively and come up with proposals to strengthen safety in all relevant transportations of cargo irrespective of its properties and characteristics.
Another high-priority item on your agenda this week is the finalization of the draft text of Amendment 36-12 to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, which is meant to be a consolidated replacement text of the entire Code, superseding everything that was done before. In carrying out this work, you will be guided by the report of the Editorial & Technical Group at its fifteenth session in April of this year. The outcome of your work will be reviewed by the Group when it meets next week, for subsequent submission to MSC 90 for adoption. We should, therefore, look forward to the new IMDG Code entering into force in the foreseeable future and the enhanced beneficial impact on safety and environmental protection it will have once implemented – not to mention its greatly appreciated impact on the Trading Fund given its unchallenged position as IMO’s best selling publication.
By harmonizing the provisions of the IMDG Code with those of the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, we make a substantive contribution to efficient multimodal transport. In seeking, however, such harmonization, it is imperative that IMO ensures that maritime safety concerns associated with the unique characteristics of a sea voyage are never compromised. And, where safety of life is concerned, this should always take precedence over any other considerations.
Enhancing safety in the carriage by sea of containerized cargoes has been a long-standing objective of your Sub-Committee and, in this respect, it is encouraging that MSC 89 approved the draft amendments your Sub-Committee developed to update and revise the joint IMO/ILO/UNECE Guidelines for packing of cargo transport units. Acting at the Committee’s request, the Secretariat forwarded the Revised Guidelines to ILO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe for their concurrent endorsement. In the meantime, you should start developing the Revised Guidelines into a non-mandatory code of practice.
As we continue to co-operate closely with ILO and UNECE, we should also seek to promote a holistic approach to safety in multimodal transport settings – one that would embrace both the shipboard and the shore-side element of any cargo transportation in relation to its packing, stowing and securing inside containers, developing, at the same time, any relevant documentation required.
While still on the subject of safe containers, you are expected to further consider, at this session, how best to facilitate the entry into force of the 1993 Amendments to the International Convention for Safe Containers, 1972, possibly by means of the tacit acceptance procedure. A satisfactory outcome to your deliberations on this issue will enable these Amendments to enter into force without further delay.
Several other items on your agenda are equally important and call for careful consideration. Of these, I would highlight, in particular:
• the stowage of water-reactive materials;
• the mandatory drills for enclosed space entry and rescue;
• the efficacy of the container inspection programme; and
• casualty and incidents reports and analysis.
As you go about your work, you should keep uppermost in your mind the role of the human element, as repeatedly emphasized by both the MSC and the MEPC and specifically called for in the Committees' Guidelines on the organization and method of work.
Your Sub-committee is, and rightly so, credited with, and responsible for, a number of important treaty instruments, or parts thereof, and the updating of several codes – some of which are of great significance to safety and environmental protection. But successful as you, and the Organization as a whole, may be in the discharge of our regulatory duties, the good outcome of our labours here at the Albert Embankment will be of no use if the conventions and codes we so diligently draft are not widely and effectively implemented globally and accidents our treaty instruments aim at preventing do occur. Implementation is, therefore, a key part of the whole equation and this is a matter for Governments and industry to pursue as persistently and consistently as possible. I would hope that this message is carried loudly and clearly to all concerned and action is taken accordingly. And also that it forms an indispensably integral part when, next year, we return, within the chosen World Maritime Day theme, to the basics, i.e. safety at sea.
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.
You will have, once again, a very busy session, in the successful conclusion of which you will, no doubt, be assisted by the outcome of 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, the expertise, time and resources they have contributed.
I am confident that, with the usual IMO spirit of co-operation and ably guided by your Chairman, Mrs. Olga Pestel Lefevre of France (who has, over many years, provided an outstandingly high quality service to this Sub-Committee and the Organization), you will tackle the important and complex tasks before you in the usual expert and meticulous manner that all stakeholders – and seafarers, in particular – have come to expect from your Sub-Committee and IMO. The Secretariat will, as always, support the meeting to the best of its abilities.
This is going to be the last time your Sub-Committee will be serviced by Mr. Irfan Rahim, who, last month, accepted a high post in the Secretariat of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and is due to move to Bangkok soon. Mr. Rahim’s contribution to the work of the Sub-Committee has always been of a high standard and I am sure you would join me in thanking him for his services to it and IMO, in general and, in particular, in matters related with the carriage of dangerous goods both at the headquarters and at various fora abroad, especially at IAEA – and wishing him good luck and every success for the future. While we would think that his departure would be ESCAP’s gain and IMO’s loss, I am sure that, from his new post, he will continue to be a strong advocate of our Organization and its work.
I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.