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Sub-Committee on Fire Protection (FP), 55th session: 25 to 29 July 2011

July 25, 2011

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AT THE OPENING OF THE FIFTY-FIFTH SESSION OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON FIRE PROTECTION (25 to 29 July 2011)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the fifty-fifth session of the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection.  I extend a particularly warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
 
Last week’s shocking events in Norway, which so tragically affected the noble, peaceful and peace-loving Norwegian people, have filled us all with anguish, grief and sadness.
 
On behalf of the entire IMO membership, staff and myself, I wrote to the Ambassador of Norway in London asking him to convey to Their Majesties, the Prime Minister, Government and people of Norway – in particular, to the families and friends of the victims of the atrocious events and those wounded in their context – our deep feelings of sorrow and the expression of profound condolences and sympathy.  We stand by them and mourn with them.  They are in our thoughts and prayers.  May God give them courage and solace in these trying times of utter pain.
I would ask the Norwegian delegation to pass home these thoughts and sentiments.
 
As has become customary for some time now, before addressing 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, as you may know, is “Piracy: orchestrating the response”.  It aims at complementing that of last year, which was dedicated to seafarers.  Our strong wish is 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 important amendments to the STCW Convention and Code.
 
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 as it presents itself off the coast of Somalia and in the western Indian Ocean and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it. 
 
And it is in the same context of concern that the Council has decided that the World Maritime Day theme for next year should be “IMO: One hundred years after the ‘Titanic’”, to give us the opportunity:
 
- to take stock of improvements in maritime safety during the 100 years since the sinking, on her maiden voyage, of that much-advertised transatlantic liner;
 
- to pay tribute to the memory of those who lost their lives in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic on that fatal night of 14 April 1912;
 
- to highlight that the sacrifice of the many passengers and crew of the 'Titanic' has not gone in vain;
 
- to examine whether the lessons drawn from amongst the most costly (in human lives lost) accidents of the last 100 years have been learnt to the full;
 
- to analyze the safety record of shipping and identify those areas that have contributed the most to its improvement over the years;
 
- to identify the most contributory factors (systems, concepts, mechanisms, etc.) in the quest for ever-enhanced safety in shipping;
 
- to examine which areas, within the overall spectrum of maritime safety (constructional, operational, cargo, human element, etc.), should be given priority consideration in the years to come;  and
 
- to pay tribute to all those who, in the course of the 100 years since the sinking of the ‘Titanic’, have contributed to improvements in maritime safety.
 
In enhancing safety at sea, your Sub-Committee – occasionally challenged with heavy loss of life due to several, and some very serious, fire-generated accidents – has played a protagonistic role and next year’s theme will provide an excellent opportunity to identify its major achievements in tackling one of the most serious risks facing any ship venturing out at sea.  One has only to reminisce the loss of life in, and the public outcry as a result of, the disasters involving the passenger liners “Yarmouth Castle”, “Viking Princess”, “Moro Castle”, “Lakonia”, “Scandinavian Star” and, more recently, “Al-Salam Boccaccio 98”, to be able to appreciate the sea change that SOLAS chapter II-2 has brought into shipping – and thus appreciate the work of this Sub-Committee. 
 
Returning to this year’s theme, while we remain focused on preventing 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 – 464 in total from 22 ships – who, at present, are held captive somewhere along Somalia’s coastline.  May they be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Since your last meeting, 15 months ago, the Maritime Safety Committee has met three times and its decisions of relevance to your work will be brought to your attention under agenda item 2.
 
Among those, I would single out the adoption of the International Code for the Application of Fire Test Procedures, together with corresponding SOLAS amendments to make it mandatory – a work that had painstakingly been prepared by your Sub-Committee over a five-year period of intensive consultations.  We should, therefore, look forward to the 2010 FTP Code entering into force next year under the tacit amendment procedure and to the beneficial impact on safety it will have once implemented. 
 
***
 
The comprehensive review of the performance testing and approval standards for fire safety systems has been an ongoing task of the Sub-Committee for the best part of a decade.  During that time, the working and correspondence groups you have established to progress the item have produced an impressive volume of output, resulting in the meticulous preparation and approval of 28 MSC circulars and resolutions; the development and adoption of five new chapters incorporated in, and other amendments made to, the Fire Safety Systems Code; and work on numerous fire-related amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2.  Having closely followed all these dedicated efforts, along with the tremendous contribution made by experts and other interested parties from around the world, I can but congratulate and thank all concerned for their work to enhance safety in a crucial sector of a ship’s life – both at sea and in ports.  The unswerving commitment demonstrated in achieving this successful outcome – not only by the members of the working and correspondence groups, but also through the tireless efforts of Mr. Eberly of the United States, who chaired both the working and correspondence groups – deserves recognition and appreciation. Thank you all and Mr. Eberly, in particular, for a job well done!
 
The good results so far achieved should not, however, allow us to rest on our laurels as there is apparently more work to be done at this session.  It is, therefore, essential that we continue our efforts to ensure that the Organization’s fire safety standards, for both passenger and cargo ships, are kept up-to-date with evolving technologies and systems for fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction.  Good progress in this arena will, undoubtedly, reflect positively on our strong commitment to enhanced protection of life and property at sea as well as of the marine environment.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Measures to prevent explosions on oil and chemical tankers transporting low-flash point cargoes will, once again, demand strenuous efforts, engaging the best experts the membership and industry can provide if we are to achieve the satisfactory outcome the seriousness of the matter deserves.  The working group you have agreed to establish at this session should assist you in progressing the issue, including the preparation of draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 and other instruments, as appropriate.  One complex matter that still needs resolving concerns the determination of the lower tonnage limit for the fitting of inert gas systems on new oil and chemical tankers carrying low-flashpoint cargoes.  You also need to decide under which circumstances cargo tanks on the types of tankers I just mentioned should be inerted, taking into account their unique operating profiles and the hazardous nature of the cargoes they carry.   I am confident that, by working together and building on the extensive deliberations you have had on the matter at previous sessions, you will succeed in achieving an outcome in the best interests of both safety and environmental protection.
 
Another matter that will require considerable attention at this session is the development of recommendations on evacuation analysis for new and existing passenger ships.  In view of the continued growth of passenger shipping, employing cruise ships of an ever increasing size, your diligence in dealing with this task will demonstrate IMO’s commitment to ensuring that evacuation procedures are thoroughly scrutinized and designed in the safest possible manner.  On the same note, I look forward to the completion, at this session, of your work on means of escape from machinery spaces (including the finalization of draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 and related interpretations), for submission to the next session of the MSC for adoption. 
 
***
 
Several other items on your agenda are equally important and call for careful consideration. Of these, I would highlight, in particular:
 
• matters pertaining to fire resistance of ventilation ducts and the related finalization, at this session, of associated draft amendments to SOLAS chapter  II-2;
 
• the development of requirements for ships carrying hydrogen and compressed natural gas vehicles, including the preparation of draft amendments to SOLAS;
 
• the harmonization of requirements for the location of entrances, air inlets and openings in the superstructures of tankers;
 
• the review of fire protection requirements for on-deck cargo areas, with a view to finalizing, at this session, draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 and related guidelines;
 
• means for recharging air bottles for air breathing apparatuses and the related consideration of incorporating a mandatory requirement in SOLAS; and
 
• the development of unified interpretations for chapter 7 of the 2000 High-Speed Craft Code.
 
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 Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee and specifically called for in the Committees' Guidelines on the organization and method of work.
 
***
 
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.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,

Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that 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, therefore deserve our thanks for, and recognition of, their contribution.
Notwithstanding the important and complex nature of your agenda, I am confident that, ably guided by your seasoned Chairman, Mr. Juan Carlos Cubisino of Argentina, you will tackle the tasks before you in your customary expert manner and with the renowned IMO spirit of co-operation, keeping in mind the Organization’s twin causes of enhanced maritime safety and environmental protection.  The Secretariat will, as always, support the meeting to the best of its abilities, in particular, the Sub-Committee’s new secretary, Mr. Vladimir Semenov, who joined the Maritime Safety Division’s Marine Technology Section in April.  I am sure you will extend to him and his colleagues all the support and co-operation they may need to succeed in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities.
I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck and congratulations to Uruguay for winning the Copa America.  Thank you.
 
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