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Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 92nd session, 12 to 21 June 2013 (opening address)

June 12, 2013

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AT THE OPENING OF THE NINETY-SECOND SESSION OF THE
MARITIME SAFETY COMMITTEE
(12 to 21 June 2013)
 
Good morning, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers. 
 
Welcome to the ninety-second session of the Maritime Safety Committee.
 
Many of you were already here at the beginning of this week to attend the first-ever Symposium on the Future of Ship Safety.  This was a most appropriate precursor to the meeting of your Committee.  As always, MSC has a full agenda and many issues to discuss within a very short time.  This can sometimes make it difficult to take the longer-term view.  This was precisely the aim of the Symposium.  I will return to the outcome of the Symposium later.
 
Two major issues at your last meeting continue to be of considerable public interest as well as of great concern to the industry: the on-going problem of piracy, particularly the developments off the coasts of west and central Africa; and the safety of passenger ships.
 
I am grateful to the Government of Italy for responding to the calls for release of the report of the casualty investigation into the loss of the Costa Concordia.   I am also grateful for Italy having provided the preliminary recommendations stemming from the technical safety investigation into the casualty conducted by the Italian authorities.  I believe that the extensive range of preliminary recommendations provides the desired, sound basis for taking swift action to learn the lessons from the accident with a view to enhancing international safety standards for passenger vessels and, in particular, cruise ships.  But, there is a lot of work to be done in view of the sheer number of issues identified by the recommendations, ranging from ship stability issues to electronic equipment, emergency power generation, evacuation analysis and search and rescue, in addition to operational and management issues. 
 
I welcome the progress made by the cruise industry in thoroughly reviewing its operations and safety practices and implementing the resulting recommendations.  Notwithstanding this progress, I believe more needs to be done to ensure that operational and management measures are robust enough to prevent a recurrence of the type of navigation that led to the fatal grounding of the Costa Concordia.  In my view, the issues surrounding the authority of the Master with regard to the planning and execution of the voyage of a large cruise ship and the critical responsibility of the management of the operating company to ensure the safety of the ship must be seriously addressed.  Leadership on these issues by the industry itself is most important and, in this context, I welcome the most recent submission by CLIA.
 
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Turning now to the issue of piracy, the Organization has continued to work to suppress piracy and armed robbery against ships, wherever it occurs, and our efforts are very much in conjunction with IMO’s many partner organizations in the United Nations and elsewhere.  I am encouraged by the reduction in the number of ships and crew now being held off the coast of Somalia – currently 1 ship and 28 seafarers – but we cannot afford to be complacent.  I urge Governments to continue to provide effective support to counter-piracy operations and industry not to drop its guard in respect of ships operating in the risk areas.  The full application of IMO guidance and the Best Management Practices will prevent the resurgence of piracy to the previous, alarming levels.
 
Regrettably, there has been no improvement in the piracy situation off the coasts of west and central Africa, where the number of incidents remains unacceptably high.  Although the nature of the criminal activity in the Gulf of Guinea differs from that in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean – IMO is taking positive steps to assist countries in the region to address the problem, which poses a growing threat to shipping.
 
Thus, IMO has been assisting individual Member States in the region to develop their national maritime security capabilities.  In addition, we have been actively working with African Nations and organizations to develop a new ‘Code of Conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa’, which was adopted recently, at a Ministerial meeting in Benin, pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions 2018 and 2039 adopted in 2011 and 2012, respectively.  The Code, which is expected to be opened for signature at the forthcoming meeting of Heads of State in Cameroon, incorporates many elements of the successful Djibouti Code of Conduct and the existing MoU on the integrated coastguard function network in west and central Africa. 
 
I have already stated my undiminished determination to work more towards the eradication of piracy as soon as is practicable.  I am therefore fully committed to assisting western and central African countries to establishing a workable, regional mechanism of co-operation for enhanced maritime security.  At TICAD in Yokohama last week, I stated in the session chaired by the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki moon, on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, that maritime development should find a proper position in African development and maritime zone security is fundamentally important.  As we have established a multi-donor Trust Fund for the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, today, I ask donor countries to provide contributions for a new Trust Fund I plan to establish for the implementation of IMO Projects for maritime security for western and central Africa.
 
***
 
Mr. Chairman,
 
The Committee is well aware of my on-going Review and Reform initiative.  I first reported to the Council in June of last year (C 108) aimed at improving IMO's delivery mechanism to handle the ever-increasing workload as the Organization seeks to address newly emerging priorities.  My concern is regarding the Organization’s long-term financial sustainability, and I submitted my report of an in-house study on review of the sub-committee structure to the Council in November last year (C 109).  Since then, the Marine Environment Protection Committee, last month (MEPC 65), gave consideration to a framework document on the restructuring of the sub-committees.   Your Committee will be advised of the views of the MEPC when it considers the proposals itself under agenda item 22.  You have already made provision for a working group at this session to consider the proposals in detail and I therefore look forward to meaningful development on this important matter.  Receiving this Committee’s views and comments on the implications and practicability of the proposals will assist the compilation of my draft budget proposal for the upcoming biennium and support my aim to reach a rational and well-balanced decision at next month’s meeting of the Council, with a view to endorsement by the Assembly.
 
In recognition of the difficult economic situation affecting governments and industry alike, a number of other initiatives are under consideration in the Secretariat, addressing issues such as staffing, outsourcing, automation and forward planning.  All this is aimed at delivering the same – or more – with less.  Inevitably, some sacrifices will have to be made by both the Secretariat and the membership as we seek economies and new ways of working in the future.  I hope that Member Governments will see this as an opportunity to refine our ways of working and improve efficiency of activities of IMO.  The world is changing and we need to adapt ourselves to the changing world.  We are at a tipping point.  We need to go through this modernization process by maximizing our efficiency in order to continue to deliver to service the community within limited resources.  We should also explore new ways of employing modern technology of the 21st century in our work.  We should not miss this opportunity.
It is my sincere hope that the Committee can reach agreement on the proposed restructuring of the Sub-Committees at this session so that the outcome of your deliberations can be considered by the Council in July (C 110) and by the Assembly in November (A 28), with a view to implementation at the start of 2014.  I count on your support.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
You will recall that the Council at its 108th session endorsed as our World Maritime Day theme for this year “Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20”.  I have commenced informal consultations with industry and other stakeholders and organizations on sustainable maritime development.
 
My vision of sustainable maritime development covers the whole maritime transportation system, and includes everything from the design and building of ships, through shore-side infrastructure to maritime education and training, port facilities, and maritime security systems.  Maritime transport is the backbone of world trade and globalization.  It makes a significant contribution to global prosperity in both developing and developed countries, and it will be indispensible in a sustainable future as shipping is the most energy efficient mode of mass transport.  I will go into more details when discussing this matter under “Any other business” later during the session.
 
***
 
Turning now to other important agenda items, you will be aware that the FSI Sub-Committee hosted a working group on amendments to mandatory instruments aiming at establishing the way forward for future amendments to SOLAS.  I am hopeful that this issue will be concluded by your Committee at this session. 
 
At this session, you are expected to:
 
• adopt the RO Code;
• make progress with the development of the concept of goal-based standards; and,
in considering the reports of your Sub-Committees, you will also address:
• approval of the revised International Gas Carrier Code (IGC Code);
• approval of amendments to SOLAS mandating the fitting of inert gas systems on board new tankers of 8,000 dwt and above transporting low-flashpoint cargoes;
• mandatory requirements for periodic servicing and maintenance of lifeboats; and
• the procedure for calculating the number of fishing vessels of each Contracting State in respect of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012.
 
As regards the safety of fishing vessels, as you are aware, those Contracting States of the Torremolinos Protocol should not have any practical, administrative, legal or procedural difficulties in accepting the Cape Town Agreement and should, therefore, be able to sign it without delay.  Their collective signatures would significantly bring closer to reality the internationally harmonized and global implementation of the safety regime for fishing vessels.  Regrettably, to date, no States have signed the Agreement.  I urge Member Governments to ratify it as soon as possible, so that its early entry into force can be secured.  As always, the IMO Secretariat stands ready to respond, through our Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, to requests from Members for advice and technical assistance.
 
***
 
Substantial progress has been made with the development of the draft Code for ships operating in polar waters by the DE Sub-Committee, at its session in March.  DE has prepared draft provisions concerning environmental protection for review by the MEPC at its sixty-fifth session last month.  I am now more confident that it will be possible to complete the work on the Polar Code by next year, 2014 being the target year we set ourselves. 
 
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Before I conclude my opening address, I wish to update you briefly on the outcome of the IMO Symposium on the Future of Ship Safety, which you will be invited to consider later next week under Any Other Business (agenda item 25).  A relevant document will be issued in due course.  The Symposium adopted a statement containing a number of recommendations for consideration by the Committee.  I have no doubt that you will give these recommendations serious consideration, with a view to ensuring that the Organization and the maritime industry will meet the increasing expectations on safety and environmental protection as we move into the future.
 
Allow me also to briefly mention the ongoing efforts to reduce administrative burdens.  Global standards for safety, security and protection of the environment are vital for the shipping industry.  Industry stakeholders dedicate significant resources and costs to achieve and maintain these standards, and IMO has a responsibility in keeping such costs as moderate as possible, and that is why IMO has launched a public consultation on the reduction of administrative burdens.
 
The maritime industry itself is part of the solution to reduce administrative burdens. It is therefore important that the many stakeholders have their say in the exercise and take the opportunity of responding to the consultation for us to know how the requirements influence the daily operations of shipping.
 
We hope for a large amount of responses, generating many ideas how we can do things better and smarter.
 
***
 
It remains for me now to give my best wishes to your Committee’s Chairman, Mr. Christian Breinholt of Denmark, for the heavy task ahead in getting through the agenda of this session in the time available.  It is important to find the appropriate balance between competing demands so that you may reach the best and most widely acceptable outcomes, in the usual IMO spirit of co operation.  However, it is of paramount importance that you take the right decisions as the safety authority.  The outside world is expecting this Organization to take the right decision to ensure the safety at sea.  This need a high level of professional judgement and wisdom based on experience in safety management and co operation, understanding and leadership.  I am sure the Committee has all necessary qualifications.
 
We have a good story to tell indeed, and we also have cause for celebration, because this year marks a number of significant anniversaries – 40 years since the adoption of MARPOL, 30 years since the establishment of the World Maritime University in Malmö, and it is also 30 years since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II officially opened our IMO Headquarters building, on 17 May 1983.  We have gratefully taken receipt of a commemorative plaque, in the form of the IMO emblem, made of Chilean copper – a generous gift of the Government of Chile which you can see on the wall in front of you. 
 
Also, last month, on the occasion of MEPC 65, a new, interactive display on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas was inaugurated on the second floor, just outside the Committee rooms.  Thanks to the generous financial and other support of a number of Member Governments, we are now able to showcase the important and successful work IMO has already achieved in protecting ocean health. 
 
I shall therefore be especially pleased to welcome you all to the opening day drinks reception in the Delegates’ Lounge after close of business this evening.
 
With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations.  The Secretariat will, as always, support both your Chairman and your work during this eight-day meeting to the best of its abilities. 
 
Thank you.
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