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Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV), 57th session: 6-10 June 2011

Opening address

June 6, 2011

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL MR. EFTHIMIOS MITROPOULOS AT THE OPENING OF THE FIFTY-SEVENTH SESSION OF THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON SAFETY OF NAVIGATION
(6 to 10 June 2011)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the fifty-seventh session of the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation.  I extend a particularly warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
 
As has become customary for some time now, before addressing the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which the Council chooses for each particular year.  This year’s theme is “Piracy: orchestrating the response”.  It aims to complement and come as a sequel to last year’s theme, which was dedicated to seafarers.
 
It is in the context of IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea that we have set, as the overall aim of the theme chosen for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it. 
 
The main aims of the campaign we are pursuing, and will continue to pursue throughout the   year (and beyond, if necessary), are:
 
• one, to increase awareness about the severity of the piracy situation off the coast of Somalia and its implications for seafarers, the transport of humanitarian aid to the country and the disruption and resulting consequences piracy causes to shipping, international shipborne trade and the world economy;
• two, to motivate Governments, the shipping industry, merchant ships and naval vessels to do more than they are doing at present to stem the unacceptable incidence of piracy in the areas around the Horn of Africa and beyond; and
• three, to send to seafarers a clear message that their plight, while sailing off Somalia and, worst, when their ships are captured by pirates and they are held hostage for ransom, is central in our thoughts and work; that we do care about them; and that we do all we can to stem the scourge.
 
To give substance to the campaign, and make a difference, we have, in co operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, compiled an action plan, with six main objectives, which we hope will inspire and galvanize Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to act in the most appropriate and effective manner to eradicate the now all too frequent incidence of armed kidnap and ransom that characterizes piracy off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean.  I hope you will also support the campaign and assist in the delivery of its components as best as you can.
 
In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers (554 in total from 26 ships), who, at present, are in the hands of pirates.  May they be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
 
***
Distinguished delegates,
 
Since your last session, eleven months ago, the Maritime Safety Committee has met twice and the Marine Environment Protection Committee once.  Under agenda item 2, you will be informed of their decisions, which are relevant to your work.
 
Of the many important items before you this week, I would single out the e-navigation strategy implementation plan.  Since the development of such a strategy three years ago, significant progress has been made in designing a coordinated approach to its implementation, covering not only safety of navigation, but also radiocommunications, including spectrum issues; search and rescue; and human element and training-related aspects.  The comprehensive report of the correspondence group you re-established at your last session to advance work on the implementation plan to give effect to the strategy will help you to advance its key aspects at this session.
 
Notwithstanding the excellent progress already made and while the architecture of the concept might reasonably be expected to be finalized next year, the associated gap and cost-benefit risk analyses may not be completed before 2013 – which might lead to the Strategy Implementation Plan being finalized in 2014.  As intensive work continues on the development and implementation of a global strategy on e-navigation, it is important not to lose sight of the aim being pursued, which is to contribute to meeting the needs for safe and efficient maritime navigation and shipping traffic in the 21st century. 
 
***
 
In the meantime, the experience gained in the use of Voyage Data Recorders has demonstrated their great value in providing authentic and real-time data for the efficient conduct of marine casualty investigations and the enhancement of maritime training that draws on lessons learned from such investigations.  The satisfactory performance of VDRs is, therefore, of utmost importance and, from this perspective, your work on the development of amendments to the performance standards for Voyage Data Recorders and Simplified VDRs is particularly essential.  Having discussed such amendments at your last two sessions, you should be able to finalize them this time. 
 
Another matter that has been on your agenda for several sessions concerns navigation bridge visibility – a subject currently covered by the provisions of SOLAS regulation V/22.  Your extensive discussions so far have centred on vague expressions related to such issues as blind sectors with respect to the "designated" conning position; minimum lower height of bridge front windows; clarification of the term "clear view" with regard to the calculation of angles of visibility under the dynamic conditions of pitch and roll; high cargo and container stacks creating erratic blind sectors as a regular feature; and applicability of the provisions to existing ships.  At this session, you will be able to draw on the report of the correspondence group you established at NAV 56 to review these issues and agree on a revised consolidated regulation.  I am confident you will succeed in bringing the matter to completion to the satisfaction of all concerned.
 
***
 
Ships’ routeing, ship reporting and other relevant systems and measures have, for a long time, been the mainstay of this Sub-Committee.  It is not, therefore, surprising that you have a substantial task to deal with relevant issues once again. To this effect, you are invited to consider eleven proposals, ranging from new, and amendments to existing, traffic separation schemes, to routeing measures other than traffic separation schemes and amendments to the mandatory ship reporting system in the Great Belt.  All of these proposals share the same aim of enhancing the safety and efficiency of navigation in areas around the world where the density of traffic and related navigational and environmental hazards warrant special attention through the introduction of routeing and other relevant measures and systems.  I am confident that, drawing on the unique expertise of your ad hoc working group, you will deal with the proposals before you with meticulous care and the required competence, in the knowledge that mariners around the world rely on the experience you have acquired while dealing with ships’ routeing matters over several decades in your quest to create safe conditions of passage through areas of known navigational risks.
 
A proposal that deserves particular attention in this regard is the one that calls for an Associated Protective Measure establishing recommended pilotage in the Strait of Bonifacio – an area, which the MEPC has already designated, in principle, as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area. I trust that the outcome of your deliberations on this proposal will be commensurate with the needs it aims to serve.
 
***
 
Other items on your agenda equally important to those I have already mentioned include:
 
• the development of policy and new symbols for AIS aids to navigation;
• ITU matters, including those within the purview of the Radiocommunications ITU-R Working Party 5B;
• casualty analysis;
• the development of performance standards for inclinometers;
• the development of an MSC circular on Boarding Arrangements for Pilots – Revised Poster; and
• the consideration of a polar vessel traffic monitoring and information system from the safety perspective, including voyage planning and ship operations.
 
These and all other items on your agenda deserve careful consideration and, in dealing with them, you should keep uppermost in your mind the role of the human element, as emphasized by both the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee and specifically called for in their guidelines on the organization and method of work.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
I am sure you share my sentiments of profound sadness at the sinking, last Tuesday, of a fishing vessel off the Kerkennah Islands in southern Tunisia with an estimated 700 migrants on board. While fortunately most of them were rescued, the loss of some 150 persons, who were fleeing a region in turmoil in search of a better life – so soon after another 200 migrants lost their lives, under similar circumstances, in the sea area between Malta and Italy two months ago – filled us with grief and compassion.  As you know, together with countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, we are seeking to establish a system aiming at strengthening the provision of search and rescue services to persons, such as those caught up in the incidents I just mentioned, to ensure that they are brought to a place of safety and then dealt with by the receiving country in the most appropriate manner.  I hope our efforts on this complex, complicated and sensitive issue bear fruit soon.
 
Another recent event I wish to say a few words about concerns the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck the north east coast of Japan on 11 March, causing untold loss of life and destruction – a situation that was exacerbated by the radiation released from the damage sustained by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  Upon hearing of the incident, we activated the IMO emergency response team, establishing and maintaining frequent contacts with NAVAREA coordinators in the Pacific and co-competent international organizations, including IAEA, WMO, IHO, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, IALA and Inmarsat. 
 
We then issued, and regularly updated Circular letter No.3175 providing masters of ships sailing off the eastern coast of Japan with suitable advice and referring them to the navigational warnings issued by the NAVAREA XI Coordinator (Japan).  We subsequently issued Circular letter No.3179 providing a detailed update of current maritime and port conditions in Japan in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. 
 
 We were relieved to learn that, apart from a number of fishing vessels and small craft that were swept away, sunk or otherwise damaged by the tsunami, no serious casualties to shipping were reported.  At the same time and in conjunction with the Japanese Hydrographic Service, IHO and IALA, we sought information on the status of the aids to navigation in the affected area.  The co-operation of all concerned, including the tireless efforts of the Japan Coast Guard, is greatly appreciated. 
 
On behalf of the membership, staff and myself, I conveyed profound sentiments of sadness, sympathy and solidarity to the Ambassador of Japan in London; and I did the same two weeks ago when we received the sad news of the passing of Mr. Yoshio Sasamura – a tireless and indefatigable servant of IMO and shipping.  Mr. Sasamura left behind a legacy of long and outstanding contribution to the attainment of the objectives of IMO both as Director of the Marine Environment and Maritime Safety Divisions and Secretary of both the MEPC and MSC.  He was a professional of the highest standard, innovative, bright and brilliant, with a unique sense of humour.  He will be sorely missed but, no doubt, his memory will live on – not least among seafarers whose lives at sea have become safer thanks to his work. 
 
Another tireless servant of shipping and the objectives of IMO, who, at a relatively young age, passed away last week, was Commodore John Contoyannis, the Director of the London-based Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee.  A man with an encyclopaedic knowledge of maritime affairs and a brilliant Hellenic Coast Guard officer for more than 25 years, he attended many IMO meetings, including conferences organized by the Organization, working closely with another legend of the IMO family, Captain Zenon Sdougos.  Cdre. Contoyannis will be remembered as a staunch supporter of IMO and all that the Organization stands for.  He is sorely missed by his family and many friends. 
 
***
 
Before concluding, I will say, as I always do, a few words about security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be much appreciated.  These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that you will have, once again, a busy session.
 
As you go about your work this week, you will appreciate the progress made on several items of your agenda by the various correspondence groups you established at your last session.  All the members of these groups, especially their coordinators, deserve our thanks for, and recognition of, their important input.
 
I am confident that, ably guided by your Chairman, Mr. Sollosi of the United States, you will tackle the tasks before you in your customary, expert manner and with the usual commitment to the IMO spirit of co-operation and to the Organization’s twin causes of enhanced maritime safety and marine environmental protection.  The Secretariat will, as always, support the meeting to the best of its abilities.  I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck. 
 
Thank you.
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