ADDRESS OF THE IMO SECRETARY-GENERALAT THE OPENING OF THE THIRTY-FIFTH CONSULTATIVE MEETING OF CONTRACTING PARTIES TO THE LONDON CONVENTION AND THE EIGHTH MEETING OF CONTRACTING PARTIESTO THE LONDON PROTOCOL
London, 14 to 18 October 2013
Thank you Madam Chairman, Mrs. Milburn-Hopwood. Good morning, everybody. It is a pleasure for me to welcome you all to this joint session of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and London Protocol.
You may recall that last year we celebrated forty years of the achievements of the London Convention. These forty years are also very significant for the Organization in the context of its achievements for environmental protection. In 1973, the MARPOL Convention was adopted which was followed by the adoption of the MARPOL Protocol in 1978. These instruments came into force in 1983.
Since then, we have continued to apply stringent operational requirements for ships, an example of which are those for tankers and chemical tankers, thereby reducing significantly the input of oil into the ocean from ships. Whilst the Torrey Canyon and Amoco Cadiz disasters are all well know to us, following the entry into force of the MARPOL Convention we had other accidents - Exxon Valdez, Erika, Prestige. Because of these, stringent technical requirements have been further introduced for the construction of tankers.
We are continuously making significant progress - ships routeing measures are being continuously reviewed as well as traffic separation schemes (TSS). All these measures contribute to reducing the pollution from ships and protect the marine environment.
1990 was a remarkable year! We started a novel approach to protecting the marine environment from vessel-source pollution through the designation of particular sensitive sea areas (PSSAs). The first one to be designated and well known to us all, is the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
In 1990, we also embarked on a new avenue – that was to establish a new international legal instrument to handle air-pollution from ships which took us seven years to develop, eventually leading to the adoption of a new Annex VI of MARPOL in 1997.
Just five years ago, in 2008, we decided to apply stringent air control measures to reduce the level of sulphur emissions. These are but some examples of the achievements of this Organization. Shipping is distant from the public eye, so there is a tendency not to appreciate the major achievements of this Organization in the field of protecting the environment.
Within the context of the London Convention and its Protocol, significant work has been carried out and much achieved in the area of environmental protection. I therefore look forward to the outcome of your deliberations this week with great anticipation and interest. And, I also urge all Member Governments that have not yet ratified the London Convention or London Protocol to do so at the earliest time.
Madam Chairman, distinguished delegates and observers,
As always, you have a full agenda and I shall therefore focus on some of the most important items. I understand that one item in particular is of high importance, which testifies to the Convention and the Protocol being among the most advanced international regulatory instruments addressing both present and emerging human impacts on the marine environment.
I am of course referring to the proposal to amend the Protocol to regulate the placement of matter for ocean fertilization and other marine geoengineering activities.
As you are all aware, both the number and types of schemes proposed as geoengineering solutions in relation to climate change are ever increasing. Yet their potential to cause environmental harm is little understood while there is no regulatory regime in place to prevent such activities from damaging the marine environment. Providing a global regulatory framework for those activities under the London Protocol would be a good opportunity for the international community to protect the marine environment from unpredictable damage related to such unregulated activities, including ocean fertilization.
So therefore, I would encourage you to resolve any outstanding issues at this session and conclude the discussion. A number of international bodies are eagerly looking for leadership on those issues. Your deliberations this week are therefore of vital importance.
The London Protocol currently is also the only global framework to regulate carbon capture and sequestration in sub-seabed geological formations. At your last session, you adopted the 2012 CO2 Sequestration Guidelines in light of the 2009 amendment to article 6 of the London Protocol. At this session, you should aim to finalize the development of arrangements pertaining to agreements for the export of carbon dioxide streams for storage in sub-seabed geological formations that would address the remaining issues you identified as being associated with the export and import of CO2 waste streams.
However, it remains a serious concern that, to date, only two of the 43 London Protocol Parties have accepted the 2009 amendment, which is a long way from satisfying the entry-into-force requirements. The importance of securing its entry into force cannot be over-emphasized, if the threat of acidification of the oceans from climate change is to be minimized.
While your work to address important emerging issues is on-going, it is equally important that you continue to focus on the “bread and butter” issues of the Convention and Protocol. I understand that you plan to finalize, at this session, the revision of the Specific Guidance for Assessment of the Dredged Material. This will mark the completion of a comprehensive review process that started in 2010 and involved a thorough overhaul and update of the entire approach to assessing dredged material. The revised Guidelines will place a greater emphasis on re-using such material as a resource for other purposes and so avoid its disposal at sea. Dredged material is the main waste stream regulated under the Convention and Protocol, it is only right and indeed crucial that the assessment framework is both current and applicable to a wide range of users – so therefore, your work in this respect is very commendable.
You will recall that the IMO Council has already chosen World Maritime Day theme for this year which was “Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20”. Last month, I convened a symposium on the theme here at our IMO Headquarters, which took place on the same day as our World Maritime Day celebrations, on 26 of September. Some 200 representatives of Member Governments, international organizations and our industry partners discussed the importance of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System to the environmental, social and economic dimensions or “pillars” of sustainable development, on which the sustainable future growth rests. IMO will continue to take the lead in supporting the sustainability of the international maritime transportation system with the appropriate global standards, including environmental standards for pollution prevention and control, to which your work also contributes greatly.
Madam Chairman, next year’s theme of World Maritime Day is: “IMO conventions – effective implementation”. This is the theme adopted by the IMO Council in July this year. Whilst knowing that what I am going to mention now is not within the scope of your activities, you will understand that what I am about to say on the next two items is significant in the context of the activities of this Organization.
Firstly, the week before last week, in the Mediterranean Sea, we experienced the tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa. Hundreds of migrants lost their lives. According to reports over the last weekend, the Maltese Maritime Forces rescued more than 221 migrants.
Against this background IMO, over the last decade, has improved the system for rescuing people in distress in their attempt to cross the open sea. We have improved the system and amended the SOLAS and SAR Conventions. We continue to work for a better coordination system for rescue activities for migrants at sea. We need to accelerate further our action, in order to establish a better system. Only last Monday, at the Maritime Cyprus Conference, in the presence of the President of Cyprus, I said that it is now high time to put further efforts to stop the current unregulated, unlawful and illegal maritime transfer of migrants. It is my strong view that putting 500 people on board small vessels, without any safety equipment and life-saving appliances, is clearly unlawful and illegal, and it is high time for the international community to stop such unlawful and illegal maritime transfer of hundreds of migrants onboard small vessels.
There are two issues involved. The first is that we need to respect that an individual is free, and has the right to leave a country: a principle that is embedded in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights. My other point is that any means of maritime transportation must meet minimum safety standards. Putting some 500 people on small boats is totally illegal and unlawful. We must prevent this and I would like to ask you to consider how to stop this.
I have asked my staff in the Maritime Safety Division and the other Divisions to strengthen cooperation with the relevant United Nations agencies, such as UNODC, and human rights bodies, such as UNHCR, to put further efforts to enforce the law - Italy alone, this year received more than 30,000 migrants who flocked to its shores – and that is only for this year alone.
An estimated number of 20,000 people have died over the last 20 years, which is an annual rate of some 1,000 dead bodies. Some of you may recall what I had said when you attended the first meeting here in London at the beginning of this year, that I aim to reduce maritime casualties from roughly 1,000 to 500 and we should make efforts to achieve this goal. I launched with IALA the Accident Zero Campaign and we have, as well, activated the project for safety of domestic ferries in developing countries.
These initiatives are all designed to reduce maritime casualties. While we carry out these initiatives, I cannot ignore the issue of 1,000 people dying every year on unseaworthy small vessels, attempting to cross the oceans. In this context, perhaps, capacity building for maritime law enforcement and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, such as coastguards, would be useful to address the problem. An IMO technical cooperation project could provide a contribution to preventive action. With next year’s World Maritime Day theme: “IMO conventions – effective implementation”, I believe we may have a number of opportunities to handle this matter and I will consider further what IMO can offer in this context.
And finally, allow me also to briefly update you on the public consultation initiated by the Council to reduce unnecessary, disproportionate or obsolete administrative burdens that may result from compliance with IMO instruments. The six-month consultation process was launched online at the start of May, and this period will be expiring soon. I hope Member Governments will contribute through this channel in order to reduce administrative burdens, in order to enhance safety, environmental protection and facilitation of the shipping.
With all those statements, I wish you all, and especially your new Chairman, Mrs. Milburn-Hopwood of Canada, every success in your endeavours to make your deliberations fruitful and effective.
Madam Chairman, as this is your first joint session at the helm of the meetings of the governing bodies, allow me to say that I have full confidence that the meeting is in very capable hands. I can assure you that the IMO Secretariat will support both you and the Parties to the best of its abilities.
With those words I conclude my opening address, but not before inviting you all to a drinks reception tonight, at 5.45 p.m. in the Delegates Lounge.
In addition, you are invited to visit our exciting new, interactive display on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, which is located on the second floor, just outside the Committee rooms. Thanks to the generous financial and other support of a number of Member Governments of IMO, we are now able to showcase IMO’s important and successful work in protecting the health and biodiversity of the oceans.
And, lastly, while you are here this week, you may have a closer look at the splendid IMO emblem adorning the podium wall in front of you. It is a beautiful piece of art made of Chilean copper and is a most generous gift of the Government of Chile to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the official opening of our IMO Headquarters building, on 17 May 1983, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.