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Sub-Committee on Fire Protection, 56th session, 7 to 11 January 2013 (opening speech)

January 7, 2013

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AT THE OPENING OF THE FIFTY-SIXTH SESSION OF THE
SUB COMMITTEE ON FIRE PROTECTION
(7 to 11 January 2012)
 
Good morning distinguished delegates,
 
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to the 56th session of the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection. I particularly welcome those participating in the Sub-Committee meetings for the first time.
 
Since this is the first meeting at IMO in 2013, I wish you all a Happy New Year. I wish everybody a happy, healthy, productive and successful year; a year in which we aim to make further significant progress in all fields of activity of the International Maritime Organization. It is a time to think about the important issues which we will address in the coming New Year.
 
In November, we will hold the Assembly, at which we will discuss and adopt the budget, and approve the Strategic and High Level Action Plans. I intend to provide a report on my initiative for Review and Reform, which will cover the proposed new structure of the sub-committees, new work methods, new Secretariat structure, new Human Resource management policies and, also, of particular importance for Member Governments, the election of Council Members.  The Assembly will also take action to adopt resolutions and, in this context, I expect further progress on our debate on how to implement the Ballast Water Management Convention.
 
Before the summer this year, we will be holding the Council, in July. At that meeting, the outline of budgetary implications for 2014-2015 and progress of the Review and Reform, including the potential new sub-committees’ structure will be debated.
 
The situation of the world economy is well known; it has been 5 years since the 2008 banking and credit crisis, and the situation of the shipping industry is reflected in a slowed-down economy, with a reduced amount of seaborne trade and huge over-tonnage – the very difficult time for the shipping industry continues.
 
The fiscal situation of Member Governments will not allow a relaxed approach which leads to the need for tight budgetary control at IMO and a need for an approach towards the Mixed Zero Growth scenario which I suggested to the Council.  We need more efficient ways of doing our business. We need to adapt ourselves to a changing society and changing needs. We should apply a holistic approach, including the sub-committees’ restructuring, which is an important part of the whole process of Review and Reform.
 
The sub-committees’ restructuring is, I am sure, a subject you are interested in.  I do not need to repeat the Council's in-principle endorsement of the initial proposal for modifications to the sub-committees’ structure. The Council requested the Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Protection Committees to consider the implications and practicability of the proposal. Based on the discussions at the MSC, the Secretariat is now preparing a framework document for the MEPC and MSC and is also in the process of informal consultations; we have started consulting with Chairmen, seeking their views. I want to involve as many delegates as possible. There is no formal agenda item but it is important that you express your views, so that they can be taken into account by the Secretariat and reflected in our framework for further discussion at Committee level. I suggest that the Sub-Committee finds some time to discuss this under “Any Other Business”.
 
Sustainable Development is the issue we will highlight throughout this year.  IMO’s World Maritime Day theme for this year is: “Sustainable Development: IMO's contribution beyond Rio +20”. The UN has already started the process, on an inter-Governmental level, and we may expect a UN Assembly resolution to be established to highlight this initiative, to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. I think we should ensure IMO's contribution to the whole process at the United Nations, aiming at sustainable development goals. I will speak more about this issue at this evening’s reception, including my vision for possible targets for the maritime community, IMO, and the Secretariat.
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Since this is my first speech of the year, before I touch upon technical issues on your agenda, I would like to express my thoughts on targets for two specific issues: Safety and Security, which we should attempt to reach through collective efforts. They are significant targets. They cannot be achieved easily but, in my view, they are worth being set as clear targets.
 
The first one is on the issue of safety.  I think we should aim to halve the annual number of lives lost. If you take a look at IMO statistics last year, 2012, we counted1,051 lives lost in the year.  In previous years the numbers were:

2011  1,095;
2010  1,501;
2009  2,395; and
2008  1,942.
 
The figures have persistently been above 1,000. These figures are from statistics generated by the Secretariat based on reported casualties collected from various sources, including non-official reporting. They are neither accurate, nor comprehensive, but indicative enough and not very far from reality, in my view. This raises a question as to the need for an official global statistical basis. This cannot be easily developed but, I think, we should consider establishing an official IMO system for the collection of casualty information. This could be an issue to be discussed at the Future Ship Safety Symposium to be held in June.
 
But my vision is not only to develop such a firm statistical basis but to reduce the actual number of annual fatalities significantly. My target, an ambitious one, is to halve the number in the near future. I am setting a target to reduce the annual number of lives lost at sea by half by 2015. The current level is over 1,000. We should aim at below 500. You may say “One life lost is too many”. I would say, “If one is too many, then 1,000 is astronomical and 500 is still too many.”  But I agree that it is very difficult to reduce the number of casualties leading to loss of life to reach that target. It cannot be done easily. That requires collective efforts to cover all sectors of maritime activities covering fishing vessels, domestic and river ferries and international shipping.
 
Roughly speaking, among 1,000 total annual lives lost in 2012, 100 were in the fishing sector, 400 in domestic operations and 500 in other categories, including international shipping. These proportions are roughly the same annually.
 
Promotion of the implementation of Torremolinos Protocol through the Cape Town Agreement will make a positive impact. Surely our technical co-operation for domestic ferry safety will also have a positive impact. My initiative for an Accident Zero Campaign with IALA also aims to provide a positive contribution. IMO’s activities at the MSC and all sub-committees will have a significant impact. We should employ all available forces and make every effort to reduce casualties and I will take every available step to promote safety in order to achieve this ambitious but achievable target.
 
Another target is related to security and piracy. The first target is already ambitious enough but the second one is probably far more ambitious, that is, to achieve a further significant reduction in the number of successful piracy incidents and ensure the release of all hostages kept by Somali pirates as soon as possible; and, in addition, to secure positive developments in western Africa to enhance security and piracy-free waters.
 
2012 was an encouraging year in terms of the number of piracy incidents and hostage takings. We have seen a sharp reduction of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean but currently 12 ships and 159 people are being held in the hands of Somali pirates. We should aim at complete eradication of piracy off the Coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean which will require the continuous protection by navies in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, the consistent application of the Best Management Practices, and proper handling of Armed Security, under national policies, taking into account the discussions at IMO and ISO.
 
Furthermore, we should aim at releasing all of the hostages in the hands of Somali pirates as soon as possible. I welcome the action taken by the Somali authority in Puntland to release the crew members of Iceberg kept as hostages in inhumane conditions. But we should do more with a clear target that all hostages be released as soon as possible.
 
I do not hesitate to declare these as my targets. I know that IMO alone cannot achieve these goals. But we should keep these targets in mind and do whatever we can in this direction. I will certainly urge Member Governments which have been active in providing navy vessels to maintain naval protection forces until the risk of piracy attacks have been sufficiently eliminated from the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.  I will certainly urge leaders of shipping industries to ensure continuous implementation of the Best Management Practices. I will seriously consider what IMO can do to contribute towards the complete release of hostages as soon as possible. I will support the initiatives of the UN to help Somalia re establish law and order and revive its own livelihood and economy in the international community. I will accelerate capacity building under the Djibouti Code of Conduct and I will also support countries in western Africa to enhance maritime security and piracy free waters. We must continue our efforts and in this context, we should maintain ambitious goals. That is, enhanced maritime security and complete eradication of piracy.
 
Now, I would like to turn to the important items on the agenda of your Sub-Committee.
 
I have four issues to mention.
 
Firstly, I want to urge the Sub-Committee to finalize its work on the development of amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 and the FSS Code concerning the installation of inert gas systems on board new oil and chemical tankers carrying low-flashpoint (below 60°C) cargoes, especially since fires and explosions on board chemical tankers have occurred since the last session of the Sub-Committee.
 
Second, I encourage the Sub-Committee to complete the development of SOLAS amendments on fire resistance of ventilation ducts, fire protection of on-deck container cargoes, additional means of escape from machinery spaces and fire safety measures for ships carrying vehicles using hydrogen and compressed natural gas as fuel.
 
Third, I would like to stress the significance of the Sub-Committee’s work on updating the evacuation analysis for new and existing passenger ships, taking into account that the attention of the world’s maritime community and the public is focused on additional safety measures for passenger ships after the Costa Concordia accident; bearing in mind that matters related to evacuation analyses as an effective measure of ensuring passengers’ safety have been included in the Committee’s long-term work programme on passenger ship safety, as agreed by MSC 90.
 
I also want to encourage the Sub-Committee to render its expert assistance to the DE and BLG Sub-Committees in their work on the development and/or revision of the Polar, IGC and IGF Codes, so that these instruments may be completed according to the planned target dates.
 
Finally, I wish you all productive and successful deliberations for this meeting. With this, I conclude my New Year message at the opening of the 56th session of the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection.
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