ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AT THE OPENING OF THE FIFTEENTH SESSION OF
THE SUB-COMMITTEE ON DANGEROUS GOODS, SOLID CARGOES AND CONTAINERS
(13 to 17 September 2010)
Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers,
It is also a pleasure for me to welcome you to the fifteenth session of the Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers. I extend a particular welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
Before I address some of the most important items on your agenda, I wish to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime Day theme, which, as most of you will know by now, is “2010: Year of the Seafarer”. By choosing this theme, the Council aimed at giving the Organization, throughout the year, the opportunity, together with the maritime community at large, to pay tribute to the more than 1.5 million seafarers from all over the world for their unique contribution to society and in recognition of the risks they shoulder in the execution of their daily tasks and duties in an often hostile environment.
Among the many and various components of a regulatory nature included in the action plan we set to celebrate the Year of the Seafarer, the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code stands out as the most important one. The review was successfully concluded by a Diplomatic Conference, which, last June, adopted by consensus the 2010 Manila Amendments, named after the Philippine Capital City, where the Conference took place.
An important milestone of the Conference was its decision to declare the day on which it adopted the STCW amendments, the 25th of June, as the “Day of the Seafarer”, for celebration each year from now on. This was a fitting decision during the Year of the Seafarer, made in the country that supplies more than a quarter of the entire population of seafarers worldwide. I would, therefore, encourage Member Governments, shipping organizations, companies, ship owners, operators and managers and all other parties concerned, together with seafarer representative organizations, to duly and appropriately promote and celebrate the Day as from next year. This would be the least we could do for those on whom we depend and to whom we owe so much.
Since you last met, twelve months ago, the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee have each held one session – and, under agenda item 2, you will be informed of decisions taken by the two Committees, which are relevant to your work.
Of the many important items on your agenda this week, I would single out:
• The preparation of amendments to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, scheduled to be adopted in 2012;
• amendments to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code, envisaged to be developed at this session; and
• the consideration of dangers associated with entering enclosed spaces aboard ships.
As you commence preparation of the 2012 amendments to the IMDG Code, you will be given, once again, the opportunity to apply the very special expertise this Sub-Committee has accumulated over the years while contemplating and developing carriage requirements for the maritime transportation of dangerous goods. While doing so and in the interests of efficient intermodal transport, you should, as you always do, seek harmonization, to the extent possible, of the IMDG Code with the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. I am confident that you will be able to make considerable progress on this topic this week and thus pave the way for the finalization of the draft text of the amendments at the Sub-Committee’s next session, so that they may be adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee in 2012. Although such a schedule will put a heavy workload on you this week in spite of the good progress made intersessionally by the correspondence group you established at your last session, we should recognize that, should we succeed in this, the Sub-Committee will be able to forward an advanced set of amendments to the Editorial & Technical Group for its review, prior to DSC 16.
As you know, the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code will enter into force on 1 January 2011, under SOLAS chapters VI and VII. This development should be a source of great satisfaction to all parties concerned given the significant beneficial impact the Code will have on the safe handling and shipment of solid cargoes carried by sea in bulk. The first set of amendments to the Code should be prepared during this session in time for them to be circulated for consideration by the MSC for adoption in May of next year. In this context, detailed consideration should be given to proposals for classification criteria for ‘materials hazardous only in bulk’; to proposed editorial amendments to individual schedules; and to the issue of precautions on fire safety for fumigants. At the end of the day, a clean text of amendments should emerge, which, I am confident, you will be able to prepare in your usual expert and efficient manner.
The dangers of entering enclosed spaces aboard ships are well known and yet, regrettably, they remain a common cause of seafarer deaths. It, therefore, goes without saying that they should be kept under close and continuous review and action to minimize them should be taken in earnest by the Sub-Committee and any other co-competent body of the Organization. To this effect, you will consider the report of the correspondence group established one session ago, together with relevant proposals submitted to this session with the aim of identifying areas of the IMO Recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships needing amendments to enhance their effectiveness. In this, the Year of the Seafarer, I look forward to significant progress being made by the Sub-Committee on an issue as important as this, if we are serious about enhancing the protection of seafarers against accidents on board ships. At the same time, you will be invited to consider proposed amendments to the SOLAS Convention aimed at making enclosed space entry and rescue drills mandatory so as to ensure that seafarers are familiar with the precautions they need to take prior to entering such spaces and also with the most appropriate action they should take in the event of an accident.
“Containers” being one of the objectives of your Sub-Committee, it should come as no surprise that their safety is one of the high-priority items on your agenda this week. Under this, you are expected to give further consideration to the safe stowage and securing of containers on board, with particular reference to issues relating to the stowing and racking features of containers with limited stacking capacity. While you go about this task, you should consider whether the issues concerned warrant the development of related amendments to the International Convention for Safe Containers, 1972 – in which case you should advise the MSC accordingly.
As regards the 1993 CSC amendments, the continued delay in their entry into force, owed to their having to be explicitly accepted by another fifty-two Contracting Parties, remains a cause for concern. With only nine acceptances having been received so far, I would reiterate my plea to CSC Contracting Parties that have not yet accepted the amendments to consider doing so as and when they are ready and at the earliest possible time. Meanwhile and at the request of the MSC, the Secretariat issued Circular letter No.3075 seeking the views of Contracting Parties, through completion of a questionnaire, on whether a Conference of Parties to the CSC Convention should be convened to introduce the tacit acceptance procedure for the expeditious entry into force of those and any other future amendments. I would, therefore, encourage all Contracting Parties to complete the questionnaire and return it to the Secretariat at the earliest time and, if possible, not later than the first day of next month, so that the Secretariat can report the outcome of the survey to the MSC’s session in December for it to make well-informed decisions. I will personally press the point when, on Wednesday, I address the International Council of Containership Operators (the “Box Club”) in Seattle, where I will proceed this afternoon and where I will also address the World Shipping Council tomorrow.
Since its adoption in 1973, the Code of Safe Practice for Ships Carrying Timber Deck Cargoes has complemented the SOLAS chapter VI requirements concerning the Cargo Securing Manual thus contributing significantly towards the safe loading, stowage and securing of such cargoes carried on deck. However, over the years, concerns have been raised about certain safety aspects of this particular practice, as has been highlighted in reports on relevant serious accidents. Common factors identified in such reports concern, in the main, methods of stowing and securing timber cargoes on deck to withstand heavy weather – a matter the Sub-Committee should seek to make progress on while revising the Code this week, taking into consideration the substantive work carried out intersessionally by the ad hoc correspondence group you established last time.
Several other important items on your agenda will also demand your careful attention. Among those, I would highlight:
• the stowage of water-reactive materials;
• the efficacy of the container inspection programme;
• the detection of radioactive sources and radioactive-contaminated objects in ports;
• the guidance on protective clothing; and
• the development of revised IMO/ILO/UNECE Guidelines for packing of cargo transport units.
As always, in all your work addressing these and other topics, you should keep in mind the human element, as specifically called for in the Guidelines on the organization and method of work of the MSC and the MEPC and that of their subsidiary bodies. This aspect of your work is all the more relevant and important in this, the Year of the Seafarer.
Before I conclude, I shall briefly invite your attention, once again, to two issues of a more general nature.
The first concerns security during meetings – on which I would appreciate your continued co operation at any given instance.
The second concerns the need to seek further progress in the implementation of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme so that its benefits may be enjoyed by all Member States. The Assembly, at its session in November of last year, decided that the Scheme should move to a more substantive phase of development engaging all Members party to a list of specified IMO conventions. Your support and contribution to the success of the process leading to the new phase will be highly appreciated.
I have highlighted a few of the issues you are expected to tackle as part of your agenda this week and, once again, you will have a busy session. Your extensive and deep expertise will serve you well as you finalize a number of important and substantive items on your agenda and progress others. The progress that has been made intersessionally by correspondence groups will be of great help and I wish to take this opportunity to thank all Governments and organizations that participated in the groups for making their expertise, time and other resources available to facilitate your work in the pursuit of the Organization’s goals; and, particularly, to thank the coordinator of each.
With your usual commitment to the Organization’s objectives and with the customary IMO spirit of co-operation, you will, I am sure, make this another fruitful and successful session while reaching sound, balanced and timely decisions on which to base your advice to the MSC and the MEPC, as appropriate. The experience and leadership skills of your seasoned Chairman, Mrs. Olga Pestel Lefèvre of France, will guarantee that and I am confident that both you and the Secretariat will assist her to lead the Sub-Committee successfully throughout the session. I wish you every success in your deliberations and good luck.