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Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 90th session, 16 to 25 May 2012

Opening address

May 16, 2012

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL KOJI SEKIMIZU
AT THE OPENING OF THE NINETIETH SESSION OF THE
MARITIME SAFETY COMMITTEE
(16 to 25 May 2012)
 
Good morning, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers. 
 
Welcome to the ninetieth session of the Maritime Safety Committee.  It is a pleasure for me to address the Committee for the first time in my capacity as Secretary-General.
 
The Organization faces many challenges in the coming years and one in particular for me as Secretary-General is how to ‘achieve more with less’.  An ever-increasing workload and the emergence of new priorities – such as our counter-piracy campaign and the transition to the mandatory Member State Audit Scheme, to name just a few  – require a thorough review of the current delivery mechanism in the Secretariat so that the necessary reforms to improve it may be identified and implemented.   In order to achieve our objective to continue delivering excellent outputs, I shall also be focusing firmly on close co-operation between the Secretariat and Member Governments, and I know that I can count on your support in this endeavour.
 
This session of the Maritime Safety Committee is unique in many ways.  We are holding today, a first-ever High-level segment of the Committee to discuss armed security guards on board ships and we will discuss the safety of cruise passenger ships in the wake of the accident of the Costa Concordia under the special agenda item on Passenger ship safety.
 
Breaking with the tradition of the Secretary-General's opening remarks covering all the important issues to be discussed at the Committee, today, I will only provide my comments on two major issues – piracy and passenger ship safety, so that, sparing my comments on other important issues to be provided at relevant agenda items during the session of the Committee, the Committee would be allowed to swiftly resume its business after my rather short opening remarks this morning.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Piracy remains a menace that we need to continue to address.  Although the rate of success in attacks by pirates appears to be decreasing in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia, the overall number of attacks by pirates continues to increase.  We must, therefore, persist with our anti-piracy campaign, in particular, impressing upon the industry the vital importance of ships being pro-active in their own protection by adhering to Best Management Practices.  We know, from the reports of the naval forces, that this is absolutely critical to the efficacy of their own surveillance and protection efforts.
 
Without diminishing in any way the effectiveness of immediate, preventative measures, I believe that an ever-greater emphasis must now also be placed on tackling the problem across much broader fronts, if piracy is to be eradicated, and IMO should be a key player in this broader approach. 
 
I feel encouraged by my continuing dialogue with the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, with whom I have met on several occasions since I took office as IMO Secretary-General – in January, at UN Headquarters in New York, again in February, in London, on the occasion of the Somalia Conference and most recently at the UN System Chief Executive Board in April.   Capacity building in Somalia and neighbouring countries should be enhanced through co-operation between IMO and the UN, UN specialized agencies and other relevant international organizations, building on IMO’s existing capacity-building activities under the Djibouti Code of Conduct. 
 
I pledge that I shall do everything I can to ensure that IMO, with the resources available from the Djibouti Code Trust Fund, will provide further support to signatory States of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, including Somalia, in order to accelerate the process of the implementation of the Code.  This is also why I called a Ministerial Meeting of the Djibouti Code signatory States, which also took place here at IMO, on Monday of this week, to review the status and future direction of the Djibouti Code project with a view to ensuring its continued relevance. 
 
Further in this context, we have successfully organized an IMO Conference on Capacity Building to Counter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which took place at our Headquarters yesterday, and to which all relevant UN agencies and the European Commission were invited.  A range of tangible outcomes on the way forward have emerged from this Conference and Letters of Commitment on Strategic Partnerships were signed between the Organization and FAO, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), WFP and the EU, respectively.
 
***
Distinguished delegates,
 
The complex issue of the carriage of arms on board merchant ships, and of the use of privately contracted armed security personnel in particular, calls for further careful debate within IMO, and it is for this reason that I have called for a high-level policy debate on the subject in advance of the Committee’s detailed consideration of the issues.
You will be aware that the Committee has previously issued Circulars providing guidance on the deployment of privately contracted armed security personnel (MSC.1/Circulars 1405, 1406 and 1408).  But, I believe that we all are also aware that policies are not uniform among Member Governments or across the international shipping industry.
 
There are at present no agreed minimum performance standards for privately contracted armed security personnel and ships using such personnel are subject to many, diverse legal regimes. I am hopeful that the high-level policy debate today will provide the necessary focus on the issue and how the international community might best meet the need for practical solutions.  I encourage Member Governments to use the opportunity to express their views and concerns and look forward to a fruitful debate.  I am sure that it will provide a very positive input into the Committee’s ongoing work on the issue of privately contracted armed security personnel and, most importantly, that it will help to generate international consensus and understanding based on which the issue of armed security guards would be properly handled. I particularly welcome the attendance here today of representatives of governments and organizations who have agreed to join the debate.
 
***

Distinguished delegates,
 
Passenger ship safety has traditionally been a high priority concern of IMO.  In this centenary year of the Titanic, the grounding and subsequent fatal capsize of Costa Concordia, off the coast of Italy, in January has raised new challenges for the Organization’s execution of its standard-setting mandate which need to be addressed urgently.
In a submission to this session (document MSC 90/27), I have reported on the steps the Organization has so far taken to deal with the aftermath of this serious accident. I have pledged that the Organization will consider seriously the lessons to be learned.  I have pledged that the Organization will take prompt action, as appropriate, in the light of any findings from the casualty investigation.  I am grateful to the Italian authorities for giving the Organization observer status on the relevant body overseeing the casualty investigation in order to keep abreast of developments on behalf of the wider international community.  I have opened a channel of communication with the passenger ship operators – through the Cruise Lines International Association – and welcome CLIA’s response and the findings and recommendations from the industry’s own internal review of current practices and safety procedures related to the operation of passenger ships.
 
Meanwhile, I have included an additional item on passenger ship safety on the agenda of this week’s meeting to provide the opportunity to consider any issues arising from the accident and I welcome the various substantive contributions put forward at this session.  I hope, therefore, that the Committee can take some concrete steps at this session directed at safety improvements of an operational and management nature, for early approval and adoption of any necessary measures to address these issues and a clear framework and timeline for a longer term action plan for any other work to be undertaken on passenger ship safety improvements. 
 
By establishing this two-pronged strategy at this session, you will send a clear message to the outside world and general public that IMO is serious in providing continued, global leadership and that, true to our words, we will continue to deliver enhanced passenger ship safety. 
 
One undeniable fact of the passenger ship and cruise industry is that their cargo is special – hundreds and thousands of people.  The lives of thousands of people are in the hands of the ship's management, the captain and crew and the operating staff.  Safe passage is the main product of this industry – not comfort, entertainment and leisure.  Without safety, the industry will not sustain its growth and survive.
 
How many times have we, at this Committee, debated the human element and safety culture?  We adopted the ISM Code some 20 years ago and I think we must debate again how we could generate another step change and the necessary momentum towards what I would call the establishment of a "secure safety envelope".  This could not be achieved only through legislative changes.  We must generate a new impetus in the industry to go beyond compliance with regulations and explore the industry-wide mechanism to ensure a safety culture is embedded throughout all operations.  The cruise industry should take this opportunity and lead the way forward to rigorous application of the safety culture, because "safety" is their main product and not something resulting as a by-product of the regulation compliance culture.
 
I am looking forward to serious and meaningful debate on how we could improve the safety of passenger ships at this session.
 
***

Distinguished delegates,
 
As I stated in the beginning, I will not make any substantial remarks on other important issues at this moment, such as:
Goal-based standards;
Formal safety assessment;
Safety of general cargo ships;
Safety of fishing vessels ;
GMDSS and e-navigation;
IMO Instruments Implementation Code;
Member States Audit Scheme;
and so on.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Once again, the Committee faces a heavy and complex workload that will pose a challenge to accommodate in the time available.  Piracy issues are, obviously, a high priority at this session, but passenger ship safety, goal-based standards and other agenda items are also important and setting clear priorities for the conduct of the work will be vital.   I therefore encourage you to work together, and to support your Chairman, Mr. Christian Breinholt of Denmark, in finding the right balance so that you may reach the best and most widely acceptable conclusions.  For our part, we, as the Secretariat, will discharge our duties and responsibilities in supporting both the Chairman and the meeting to the best of our abilities.
 
This is the first time that the preparation for, and running of, an MSC session are coordinated by Mr. Andy Winbow, whom I appointed as Director of the Maritime Safety Division on my taking office as Secretary-General.  And this is also the first time that Christian Breinholt will chair the Committee.  I am sure you will give them both the same support and co-operation I myself and their predecessors enjoyed so that they may succeed in their demanding tasks.  I thank you, in advance, for that and wish them both the best of luck.
 
With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations. 
 
Thank you.
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