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Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction (SDC), 1st session (opening address)

This text is an ad verbatim transcript.

January 20, 2014

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AT THE OPENING OF THE FIRST SESSION OF
THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON SHIP DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION 
(20 to 24 January 2014)

Good morning distinguished delegates,
 
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all to the first session of the Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction, as the first sub-committee meeting held under the revised sub-committee structure.
Since this is the first meeting at IMO in 2014, I wish you all a Happy New Year. I wish everyone a happy, productive and successful year, in which we aim at making further significant progress in all fields of activities of the International Maritime Organization.
 
At this important time of the beginning of the year when we start our work, I would like to provide a general overview and my vision for the activities of IMO this year and the biennium, 2014-2015.
 
The world economy is still in the process of recovery and in some parts of the world we have seen some positive developments but, generally speaking, the pace of recovery and growth is still weak. The financial situation surrounding Member Governments has not significantly improved and we must continue our tight control over expenditure at IMO. The shipping industry is still in the long process of adjustment, searching for exits from the sluggish market following the 2009 contraction which created the huge over capacity. It will take more time before a profitable period is reached. But one piece of good news is we have maintained the welcome state of reduced piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean, while we have to seriously consider and maintain our concern over the situation in the Gulf of Guinea.
 
The world is still changing and we must adapt ourselves to the changing needs. And I must say that IMO is in a state of transition: transition into the new sub-committee structure, transition into the mandatory Member State Audit Scheme, transition into a reformed Secretariat and human resource development under the necessary process of succession and evolution. This is due to changing needs such as the Mandatory Audit Scheme and the need to support new major programmes such as the implementation of energy efficiency measures, regional cooperation for anti-piracy measures in the Gulf of Guinea, country maritime profiles for technical cooperation and the need to ensure proper and seamless succession to retiring senior staff members in the Secretariat.
 
The last biennium 2012 and 2013 was a very successful one. The Assembly highlighted achievements in the last biennium such as: the long-term financial sustainability report, the transparent new budget formation process, the sub committee restructuring, a new direction for technical cooperation activities with country maritime profiles for technical cooperation needs. We have adopted the Cape Town agreement and an MEPC resolution on technology transfer for the implementation of energy efficiency measures. We have agreed on the fundamental elements of the Mandatory Audit Scheme which will be implemented from January 2016.
 
Those achievements could not have been secured without cooperation, support and contributions provided by Member Governments and an enthusiastic Secretariat and I would take this opportunity to express my sincere and heartfelt appreciation to everybody and, in particular, those who contributed to the process of review and reform.
 
In this new biennium of 2014 and 2015, I will continue my effort to push the review and reform process forward aiming at further progress in our attempt to pursue a more efficient Organization flexibly adapting our resources to the changing needs and I seek further cooperation from the membership and the Secretariat in this biennium.
 
Furthermore, as I have stated at the opening statement of the first meeting last year, I have my targets to eliminate piracy and reduce maritime casualty by half and I will maintain these targets this year as well. I am looking forward to further progress in the Accident Zero Campaign with IALA and making further efforts to implement the Djibouti Code of Conduct with our partner organizations such as UN, UNODC, FAO and the European Commission. In addition, I will explore new ways to help prevent the unsafe maritime transfer of large numbers of people in small vessels which cannot comply with the international safety regulations established at this Organization, in cooperation with relevant UN organizations such as UNHCR.
 
In this first opening address of the year, I cannot provide any details of the hundreds of important issues at IMO but at least I would like to highlight priority issues in this biennium.
 
First of all, as I have indicated at the last Assembly, the smooth introduction of the new sub-committee structure is at the top of my priority list.
 
Secondly, preparation for the Mandatory Audit Scheme is an absolute requirement we must ensure in this biennium.
 
Thirdly, the implementation of GBS for construction rules for tankers and bunkers is another "must" under the SOLAS amendments.
 
Fourthly, we should seriously aim at adoption of a mandatory polar code this year.
 
Fifthly, the Djibouti Code of Conduct and implementation system should be handed over to littoral States in the Indian Ocean region and a new project for the Gulf of Guinea should be established.
 
As the sixth element, implementation of the EEDI should be accelerated and we are planning another multi-million GEF project this year.
 
I would also like to see the conditions for entry into force of Ballast Water Convention being met this year so that the Convention will be implemented before the end of this biennium.
 
As an eighth element, I have proposed with United Kingdom Shipping Minister Hammond to carry out as soon as possible the planned study on availability of low sulphur fuel at our target year of 2020 for global reduction of sulphur emission from ship's exhaust. We have attempted this since 1989, some quarter of a century ago, and we must accomplish this effort for the environment and health of millions of people in the world.
 
This biennium will be no doubt another challenging period for the history of IMO.
 
Now, before I move into the subjects of the SDC Sub-Committee, I would like to mention three additional issues.
 
The first one is related to the day today. Exactly 100 years ago, an important international treaty instrument was adopted in London. That instrument effectively created one of the most important fields of activities of this Organization. The title of that instrument is SOLAS. Less than two years after the Titanic casualty in 1912, SOLAS 1914 was adopted on 20 January 1914. So we came to the historic point of the 100 years’ anniversary of SOLAS, today.
 
You all recall Costa Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy two years ago. You cannot compare the scale of the loss of lives of Cost Concordia with Titanic but, as I mentioned at the very first sub-committee address as the Secretary-General in this room, on 16 January, two years ago, we must not take this accident lightly and we must take lessons to be learnt based on the formal casualty investigation report.
 
We all know the discussions at the MSC and development over the last two years and still we have not finalized this very important issue. In comparison with our great great grandfathers’ generation, 100 years ago, are we doing any better in our mission to enhance the safety of passenger ships? We must consider this question.
 
I do not want to spend any more time on this issue today, but I wish to simply state that I am eagerly looking forward to the debate at the coming Maritime Safety Committee on the issue of safety of large passenger ships covering all aspects including design, damage stability, operation and management aspects in the context of the Costa Concordia accident. If we, at the MSC, cannot take action, I can tell you with confidence that nobody on this planet can take action and therefore the stakes are high for the discussion at the MSC in May.
 
The second issue is again in the field of safety. Last year we encountered a serious accident. In this case, no life was lost. No major pollution became a problem.  But a relatively young vessel developed a serious crack which led to the progressive structural failure and the total loss of the vessel. Of course, I am talking about the loss of a container ship in the Indian Ocean.
 
Immediately after the accident I wrote to the Flag State Administration requesting the casualty investigation report and also contacted the classification society involved and the Japanese Government to seek information on the vessel and requested a serious investigation on this accident. I also discussed this issue with IACS and I was informed that they are also handling container ship safety.
 
At that time, a part of the split vessel was still floating, which provided my hope that meaningful technical evaluation on the crack formation and progression would be possible. Unfortunately, all the parts of the vessel have sunk and this would hamper detailed analysis which could have been done based on the actual ship.
 
But nevertheless, today, I would like to request once again all relevant authorities to accelerate investigation into the casualty and provide necessary information to IMO as soon as possible. The Maritime Safety Committee is again the most appropriate body in this world in dealing with this important issue. Again, stakes are very high indeed.
 
The third issue is also in the field of safety. Last year, we organized a Future Ship Safety Symposium. The outcome was encouraging and the output was submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee. The MSC noted the information and agreed to give any serious consideration to the outcome of the Symposium at the spring session of the Committee this year.  My plea is for Member Governments and also the shipping industry to put forward your contributions to the discussion on this matter at the next session of the MSC.
 
This year marks 100 years after the adoption of the first SOLAS and also marks forty years after the adoption of the 1974 SOLAS Convention. As I have already declared at the Future Ship Safety Symposium, my view is to make serious efforts now for a decade to come and develop a new SOLAS, SOLAS 2024 in the jubilee year of the 1974 SOLAS in the year 2024, a half century after the adoption of the 1974 SOLAS in 1974.
 
I hope that IMO Member Governments and all those who are seriously dealing with ship safety would be able to develop a new concept of ship safety which would secure safety of ships in this 21st century.
 
And now turning to the issue of the new sub-committee, and I have only two issues.
 
The first one is regarding the polar code. Over the holidays, we were once again reminded of the hazards associated with operating in polar waters when the Russian research ship Akademik Shokalskiy was trapped by ice in the Antarctic and the 52 scientists, journalists and tourists on board had to be rescued by helicopter and transferred to the Australian icebreaker, Aurora Australis.
 
We have also seen increasing navigation of the Arctic northern sea route, not only by ships seeking a shorter route between the Atlantic and the Pacific but also through oil and gas exploration activities and increasing numbers of cruise ships bringing passengers to witness the majestic scenery in both polar regions.
 
These developments reinforce the need for the Organization to finalize the code for ships operating in polar waters this year in order to protect these unique and sensitive sea areas.  Although substantial progress was made by the intersessional meeting of the Polar Code Working Group, there are 27 submissions before your Sub-Committee for consideration this time.  I very much look forward to you reaching consensus on the outstanding issues so that the draft code can be finalized at this session, together with the associated amendments to the SOLAS and MARPOL Conventions, for submission to the Committees with a view to adoption later this year. 
 
The second issue is regarding passenger ship safety. Your agenda this week includes items on damage stability and safe return to port reflecting the Organization’s on-going work on passenger ship safety.  But I am sure you will all remember that it was just over two years ago that the Costa Concordia came to our attention.  The Government of Italy, the cruise industry and the Maritime Safety Committee responded promptly to address a number of issues arising from the loss of the Costa Concordia but much work still remains to be done by the Organization to respond fully and effectively to the broad range of issues identified in the official casualty investigation report.  I anticipate that MSC 93 will commence action on these issues, taking into account your advice on subdivision and damage stability and evacuation analysis in conjunction with the long-term action plan on passenger ship safety.
 
Now, I conclude my New Year speech as the opening address of the newly-established Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Construction.
 
Thank you.
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