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Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 66th session, 31 March to 4 April 2014 (opening address)

March 31, 2014

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AT THE OPENING OF THE SIXTY-SIXTH SESSION OF
THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION COMMITTEE
(31 to 4 April 2014)
 
Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the sixty-sixth session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee. 
 
Once again, I am addressing a packed meeting that will see intense activity over the next five days.  A total of 146 documents have been submitted under the 21 items on the agenda for this session.  This is a very different picture from the one portrayed on the screens in front of you, displaying the agenda of the very first meeting of this Committee held 40 years ago, from 4 to 8 March 1974, in the Piccadilly building, which today is the home of the Japanese embassy.  40 years ago, the agenda of that Committee – one page listing 11 items – mainly focused on follow-up work to the International Conference on Marine Pollution, which took place the previous year, in 1973, and which adopted the MARPOL Convention.  Two years after the first MEPC meeting, in May 1976, the first session of the Bulk Chemicals Sub-Committee was held.  The work of the BCH Sub-Committee was later passed on to the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases.  As you know, the BLG Sub-Committee held its seventeenth and last meeting in February of last year and we now have the new Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response, the PPR Sub-Committee.
 
I would encourage all of you to explore new ways of collaboration with the new PPR Sub-Committee, in particular with regard to issues that require detailed technical work and are therefore better suited to be addressed at sub-committee level. 
 
***
Distinguished delegates,
 
Before I address some of the most important items on your agenda this week, I wish to update you on some general matters of importance to the work of the Organization.
 
This year, our World Maritime Day theme is “IMO conventions: effective implementation”.
 
What is the point, we should ask ourselves, of spending so much time and effort on technical work and negotiations to develop and adopt an international convention if that convention does not enter into force in a reasonable time period?  There is very little point at all.
 
I believe that this year’s theme offers a strong incentive for the Organization, Member States, shipping industry and other civil society stakeholders to make every effort to achieve better results in ensuring effective implementation of IMO conventions.
 
***
 
One area in which improved implementation of existing instruments is urgently called for is accident prevention.  My top priority target for IMO is that we should aim to work for a reduction of marine casualties by half, with the primary aim of saving the lives of passengers, as well as protecting those of seafarers.
 
Other important activities in which I wish to see significant progress in implementation to be made this year include:
 
- the verification of the mandatory goal-based ship construction standards for tankers and bulk carriers; 
- the accelerated implementation of the Energy Efficiency Design Index, for which we are planning another, multi-million dollar GEF project this year; and
- the timely conduct of the required study on availability of Annex VI-compliant low sulphur fuels in the target year of 2020; I shall return to this particular matter later in my address.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
The disappointingly slow pace of ratifications of several adopted conventions directly related to the work of your Committee also continues to concern me deeply.
 
Since MEPC 65, held in May 2013, the Ballast Water Management Convention only gained two additional ratifications.  To date, 38 States with an aggregate of slightly over 30% (30.38%) of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage have embraced the Convention.  But, it is still not enough to bring it into force.  We need 35% of world tonnage for the Convention to become the desired, powerful legal instrument, which will be truly global once the pace of ratifications accelerates following entry into force, as is widely anticipated.  I would urge all IMO Members to take swift action to move things forward to bring the Convention into force without further delay. 
 
As I have said many times before, we cannot escape from the need for prevention of the global spread of harmful invasive species via transfers of unmanaged ballast waters and sediments, because these harmful transfers are inherently linked to the expansion of shipping.  This is, in my view, a risk management measure. Unless we take action now, you never know what problem would happen when, where and in what magnitude in the future. Shipping cannot escape from this issue and we must implement the best technology available now. In this context and as I have said also many times, any work on the unwanted transfer of invasive species through ships’ ballast water and sediments must be done under the Ballast Water Management  Convention in force.
 
We have spent more than 10 years at MEPC in formulating a new legal instrument dealing with ballast water management. We have spent another decade since the adoption of the Ballast Water Management Convention in 2004. We have an ever-growing number of type-approved ballast water management systems now available, including for ships with high capacity and high flow rate, and these are being fitted in increasing numbers. I have personally observed all these developments over more than two decades at IMO. We have come a long way. We have done many good things such as the implementation of a multi-million dollar GEF project for GloBallast. We have witnessed the clear understanding and persistent goodwill, cooperation and collaboration of the shipping industry and R&D industry for new technologies and facility manufacturers. And still the Convention has not yet entered into force. I am posing a question to myself – why? I welcome the resolution unanimously adopted by the last Assembly and which presents a realistic application schedule, in particular for existing ships. In addition, I welcome the Guidance on sampling and analysis approved by MEPC 65, together with a number of important recommendations such as the agreement to refrain from applying criminal sanctions based on the results of sampling and analysis during the initial period of implementation of the Convention. I believe that all these measures taken by this Organization significantly reduce the size of the burden on the industry and their concerns and also facilitate the ratification process for Governments.
 
Therefore, I am still hopeful and optimistic that the threshold tonnage value of 35% for condition for entry into force could be fulfilled before the end of this year, 2014, and the Convention would be implemented before the beginning of 2016.
 
Therefore my message to all Member Governments of more than 130 States which have not yet ratified the BWM Convention is: “Please accelerate your ratification process as soon as possible and be prepared for the global implementation under the Ballast Water Management Convention from the beginning of 2016”.
 
***
 
As regards the prospect of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships entering into force soon, since its unanimous adoption five years ago, the Convention has only attracted one ratification, by Norway.  Legislative initiatives of individual countries, or of regional groups of countries, are of course to be welcomed; however, they must be in line with the Convention’s framework and not seek to impose different or additional requirements.
 
I believe we are entitled to derive a sense of optimism from the growing number of ships being provided, on a voluntary basis, with an Inventory of Hazardous Materials, which is a core element of the Convention.  In this context, it is important that the Committee finalizes, as soon as possible, the technically complex review of the threshold values and exemptions for hazardous materials to be listed in the inventory, together with the amendments to the related Guidelines.
 
***
 
I now wish to turn briefly to the important work on the draft international code for ships operating in polar waters (polar code). 
 
Last week, I addressed the Senior Arctic Officials Meeting held in Yellowknife, Canada, upon the invitation by The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and the current Chair of the Arctic Council.
 
This was the first time for the Secretary-General of IMO to have participated in a formal meeting of the Arctic Council.
 
I explained the latest status of the development of the mandatory polar code, requested cooperation and collaboration of the Arctic Council in finalization of the polar code and further collaborative work for implementation of the code in the fields of infrastructure development, search and rescue, pollution preparedness and operational measures.
 
On the way back to London, I visited Ottawa to meet Minister Leona Aglukkaq. We exchanged views on possible cooperation between IMO and the Arctic Council in the field of Arctic navigation. The response from the members of the Senior Arctic Officials was very positive and I think we have effectively opened the new era of cooperation between IMO and the Arctic Council.
 
Turning to the issue of finalization of the polar code, thanks to the tremendous efforts made by the new Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction, during its first session held in January (SDC 1), the draft text of the code, together with the proposed draft amendments to SOLAS and MARPOL to make the code mandatory, was agreed, in principle.
 
However, a number of outstanding issues could not be resolved with regard to the environment chapter as well as the draft MARPOL amendments.  Therefore, some 15 submissions commenting on the outcome of SDC 1 are awaiting your consideration. 
 
I very much look forward to you reaching consensus on the outstanding issues at this session so that clear instructions can be sent to the correspondence group established to finalize the draft code and associated draft MARPOL amendments.  This will make it possible to submit the finalized draft code and amendments to the two Committees later this year, with a view to adoption at MSC 94 in November and at MEPC 68 next year.
 
Meanwhile, I am sure you will be pleased to know that the new Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping, at its first session held in February (HTW 1), finalized the draft text of chapter 13 of the polar code concerning manning and training provisions, for consideration by MSC 93 in May.  In addition, it made significant progress with the development of the associated training requirements for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters, for inclusion in chapter V of the STCW Convention and Code.
 
They are all good signs to indicate that we can adopt the polar code this year as scheduled.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
As you know, three working groups on air pollution and energy efficiency are planned for this session, under the guidance of three experienced chairmen.  I therefore expect this arrangement would ensure meaningful outcomes.  Allow me to comment briefly on the major challenges before you this week.
 
One, on the issue of amending the effective date of implementation beyond 1 January 2016 for the Tier III NOx emission standard for specially designated Emission Control Areas - it is recognized that there are arguments for and against retaining the effective date.  I would urge the Committee to arrive at a decision with a great deal of care as the decision will receive a significant degree of scrutiny by the industry and wider society. Stakes are high for the Committee to take the final decision on this issue at this session.
 
Two, on the issue of how soon and by what method to complete the mandatory review of global low sulphur fuel oil availability in 2020 with respect to fuels meeting the required sulphur content limit of 0.50% - I welcome that there are now several proposals on the table for the conduct and scope of this review by an expert group.
 
In my view, the availability study should be conducted as soon as possible. If the result of the study indicated potential shortage of the low sulphur fuel, and such a result would be presented at an earlier opportunity, we may be able to discuss possible measures to ensure a sufficient volume of low sulphur fuels to be provided in time for the intended implementation of the global cap in 2020.
 
If we delay the availability study, the results of the study may not be presented for us early enough to take action to ensure availability of the required amount of low sulphur fuels in 2020, hence we may be forced to reconsider the implementation date, which is, of course, not desirable at all.
 
How to ensure the required volume of low sulphur fuel would necessitate policy discussions with the oil and refinery industries and, in order to start such an important debate well before the target year of 2020, it is essential to carry out the availability study as soon as possible.
 
Three, on the establishment of an EEDI database, as first proposed by IACS at a previous session - the Committee is invited to consider a more detailed submission by IACS and others.  This is a welcome development, not least because the envisaged database could provide useful, factual data to facilitate informed decision-making with respect to the review of the status of EEDI-related technological developments – and also bearing in mind that phase one of such a review is due to start on 1 January 2015.
 
Four, on the proposed further measures to enhance the energy efficiency of ships - the number of submissions to this session from a broad range of delegations is a clear indication that interest in energy efficiency enhancement is not only widening but also increasingly focused on performance improvement by individual ships.  I have every confidence that the Committee will rise to the challenge of identifying common ground on the more complex technical and operational aspects of the various proposals.
 
I would encourage the Committee to progress the work on all of the above mentioned issues and on other issues that are equally important.  I would single out, in particular, the implementation and operational application of MEPC resolution 229(65) on technical cooperation and transfer of energy efficient technologies.  In this regard, it should be noted that the Secretariat has taken actions to successfully initiate and conduct technical assistance projects, such as the KOICA-funded project in East Asian countries, which was completed last year.  Funds so far totalling US$400,000 have been allocated from the TC Fund for the current biennium as well as additional funding in excess of two million USD mobilized from other donors.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
In the interest of time I would restrict my address to a selected number of items, but all items on your extensive agenda call for your careful consideration.  I would highlight, in particular:
 
- the finalization and adoption of the draft MARPOL amendments to make the use of the Instruments Implementation Code (III Code) mandatory, as part of the preparation for the mandatory Member State Audit Scheme;
- the adoption of draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to extend the application of the Energy Efficiency Design Index to LNG carriers, ro-ro cargo ships, ro-ro passenger ships and cruise ships having non-conventional propulsion – this, incidentally, goes to show that the chosen, non-prescriptive approach of our EEDI framework is the right approach for expanding the scope of the EEDI as a regulatory tool; and  
- the approval of a draft MEPC Circular on Guidelines for the reduction of underwater noise from commercial shipping. 
 
***
 
I am confident that you will work hard in the usual IMO spirit of cooperation and give your newly elected Chairman, Mr. Arsenio Dominguez of Panama, your full support in his demanding task to steer the Committee through its heavy agenda. 
 
I look forward to another successful MEPC session with the active and constructive participation of all of you and wish you every success and the best of luck.  The Secretariat will, as always, service the meeting with the required support to the best of its abilities.
 
With these words, I conclude my opening address – and ask for the pleasure of your company at the customary drinks reception after close of business this evening.
 
Thank you.