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Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) – 62nd session: 11 to 15 July 2011

Closing remarks

July 15, 2011

CLOSING REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL EFTIMIOS E. MITROPOULOS
AT THE END OF MEPC 62

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
 
We have reached the end of another exceptionally busy as well as momentous session of the Committee, which saw intense negotiations taking place throughout on matters not only of great importance and significance but also of great complexity and sensitivity.  Your hard work and, in particular, the decisions made over these past five days should, therefore, be recognized with immense appreciation.
 
However, before I go any further with my concluding remarks, I will use this opportunity to reiterate the expression of profound sadness, compassion and condolences to the delegations of Cyprus, India and the Russian Federation for the loss of life suffered in incidents that took place in their countries over the last few days.
 
***
 
Turning to your work this week and leaving aside, for a brief moment, your deliberations on energy efficiency measures for ships, I should like to highlight the significant achievements this session will be credited with on many other important items aimed at enhancing the protection of the environment, representing the culmination of intense work over recent sessions. Among those milestones, I would mention, in particular:
 
- the adoption of amendments to MARPOL Annex IV, introducing the concept of Special Areas related to the discharge of sewage from passenger ships, and the designation of the Baltic Sea as a Special Area;

- the adoption of a comprehensively revised MARPOL Annex V;

- the adoption, under the revised MARPOL Annex VI, of the United States Caribbean Emission Control Area;
 
- also with regard to the revised MARPOL Annex VI, the adoption of Guidelines for shore-based reception facilities;
 
and the approval of draft amendments to the 2008 NOx Technical Code, of a draft work plan for the reduction of black carbon emissions from ships in the Arctic, and of terms of reference for the review of the status of technological developments to implement the Tier III NOx emission standard;

- the adoption of Guidelines for the development of the Ship Recycling Plan as well as updated Guidelines for the development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials, both aiming at facilitating the voluntary implementation of the 2009 Hong Kong Convention;

- in relation to the Ballast Water Management Convention, the granting of final approval to a further two systems that make use of active substances, and basic approval to a further seven such systems, together with the approval of Guidance on scaling of ballast water management systems and the adoption of a Procedure for approving other methods of ballast water management in accordance with regulation B-3.7;

- the adoption of Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species; and

- the designation of the Strait of Bonifacio as a PSSA and the approval, in principle, of the Saba Bank in the Caribbean as such an Area.
 
***
I will now turn to the outcome of the Committee’s work on ship energy efficiency measures.
 
When I addressed you on Monday, I asked you all to work together to conclude your deliberations successfully by displaying:
 
• a firm determination to serve the best interests of the environment;
• a clear demonstration of willingness to preserve the unity of the membership;
• a preparedness to negotiate in good faith;
• a readiness to compromise; and
• a commitment to build consensus.
 
Although not by consensus – which would be the ideal outcome – the Committee has now adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex VI introducing mandatory technical and operational measures for the energy efficiency of ships.  Let us hope that the work to follow on these issues will enable all Members to build the consensus that evaded the Committee this time.
 
And now a few words within the context of the work of the UNFCCC.  On my return to London from Cancún in December of last year, commenting on the outcome of COP 16, I said that the Conference should, with good reason, be considered to be a success overall as it was able, under the exemplary leadership of the Mexican Presidency, to move forward several of the items on the agenda, building on the positive outcomes of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference. I hope I will be able to repeat, even in a more emphatic manner, the same favourable comments at the end of this year’s crucial Conference in Durban, which, I am confident, will receive favourably the outcome of the Committee’s work this week.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
It is not easy to do justice to the exceptionally heavy and critically important workload of this particular session in just a few summary remarks.  Let me, then, reiterate my thanks and congratulations to all of you for your contributions to the work of this session, the success of which should not be measured against the outcome of the consideration of GHG issues alone.
 
Special thanks are, of course, due to your Chairman, Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou of Cyprus, who, once again, steered the Committee through the week with unfailing efficiency and effectiveness.
 
Andreas, we have been extremely fortunate, one more time, to have you at the helm of the Committee to lead it expertly and safely through some of the most intense and sensitive negotiations the Organization has witnessed in recent years.  Your stamina and patience, your wisdom, your cheerful demeanour and, above all, your ability to both listen and act with unshakeable impartiality never cease to amaze.  History will write what this Committee, and the Organization as a whole, owe to you – and I have no doubt it will be kind and generous in highlighting your many and significant contributions.  In the meantime, I will only repeat the question Capt. Finley asked yesterday: “Why are you doing this?”
 
Our thanks are also due to the Committee’s Vice-Chairman, Mr. Manuel Nogueira of Spain – who, as you know, is returning to his country after some six years of dedicated service to the Organization and this Committee – for his commitment and the valuable support provided throughout this and earlier sessions.
 
Our appreciation goes, furthermore, to the chairmen of the working, drafting and other groups established this week, namely, Mr. Koichi Yoshida of Japan, Mr. Zafrul Alam of Singapore, Dr. Phillip Belcher of The Bahamas, Dr. Claude Wohrer of France, Mr. Chris Wiley of Canada, Mr. Harilaos N. Psaraftis of Greece, and Mr. Paul Nelson of Australia; and, of course, to the coordinators of the various correspondence groups that have reported to this session.
 
I wish to pay a special tribute to all the staff of the Marine Environment Division for their tremendous input in the preparation of this session and throughout this intense week.  All this is only possible through hard work, an excellent team spirit and strong leadership, which the Division’s new Director, Jo Espinoza-Ferrey, has delivered with dedication and commitment.  He was strongly supported by all the staff in the MED and, in particular, by the Division’s senior officers, Messrs. Du Dachang, Coenen and Micallef. As from next week, they will be joined by Mr. Vagslid, who’s to be promoted in recognition of his valuable services on climate change matters, at Headquarters and around the world.
 
While, as a matter of course, the Legal Division supports, from this podium and behind the scenes, the work of all IMO bodies, this time the Legal Office in general and Director Balkin, in particular, not only supported but also contributed to the dialogue and decision-making process of the Committee and I believe it would be a matter of justice in extending to Dr. Balkin and staff in her Division (in particular, Mr. Librando and Mr. Young) our thanks and appreciation.
 
Last but not least, my special thanks go also to the interpreters and all the staff of the Conference Division, including the translators and colleagues in the Conference and Documents Sections.  Ably led by the Division’s Director, Mrs. O’Neil, all of them work as true professionals of a high calibre for very long hours almost every day and, together with many members of staff from other Divisions, deliver quality support services.
 
***
 
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
 
It is customary at this stage of the week to pay tribute to delegates and observers who have left or are leaving us for a variety of reasons. In saying our farewells, we thank them wholeheartedly for their valuable contributions to the work of the Committee and IMO. I wish to mention, in particular:
 
  - Captain Valentin Sanz Rodriguez and Commander Roberto Annichini, both of Argentina;
  - Captain Jean-François Fauduet of France;
  - Captain Hadi Supriyono of Indonesia – although we can still look forward to seeing him as Vice-Chairman of COMSAR next year;
  - Ms. Petra Bethge of Germany, who we honoured just yesterday through the Maritime Attaché’s Club;
  - Rear-Admiral Giancarlo Olimbo of Italy;
  -  Mr. Alexander Frolov of the Russian Federation; and
  - Dr. Jack S. Spencer of the United States of America.
 
All of them leave behind many colleagues and friends. They shall be missed and we wish them the very best for the future.
 
Our farewells and thanks are also extended to staff members, who will be retiring this year, in particular, René Coenen , Head of the Office for the London Convention and Protocol in the Marine Environment Division, who has done sterling work for the consultative meetings and subsidiary bodies of the two instruments and, indeed, for this and other Committees. René has made a significant contribution to IMO’s work and objectives and, in thanking him for that, we also wish him well for a long, happy and healthy retirement.
 
***
 
Mr Chairman, distinguished delegates,
 
As you are aware, I will take leave at the end of the year when I relinquish my office as Secretary-General of the Organization.
 
I have, as many of you know, a very long affiliation with IMO, spanning over 45 years and, since this is my last MEPC attendance as Secretary-General, I will seize the opportunity to say a few words, by way of a good-bye to the Committee and you, dear friends and colleagues.
 
Before joining the Secretariat and for 15 years thereafter, my work was mainly associated with maritime safety. Since, however, I was appointed Director of the Maritime Safety Division and Secretary of the MSC and, later, as Assistant Secretary-General and, more particularly, since I took over as Secretary-General, I became gradually and increasingly involved in the work of this Committee – a development, which gave me the opportunity to become better and more deeply involved in your work, which, in turn, contributed to my building a deep feeling of admiration and respect for what you do to protect and preserve the environment and conserve marine wild life.
 
So, in addition to congratulating you for your accomplishments and achievements in responding satisfactorily to IMO’s responsibilities vis-à-vis the environment, I thank you for educating me in aspects of our work that have repercussions far beyond those one would imagine if not deeply involved in, and familiar with, your multi-faceted agenda – drawn to address issues our generations has grown to be extremely sensitive about.
 
On a more general note, it has given me enormous joy and satisfaction to witness closely, and to be part of, the tremendous changes and developments shipping has gone through over the last 50 years and to be able to watch, from the vantage position that is IMO, the progress it has continuously made in serving the largest percentage of the transport needs of mankind – in particular, the industry’s improving safety record and the continuous reduction in pollution of the marine environment. As one would expect, it has not always been plain sailing and, during these long years, we have suffered some serious accidents with heavy loss of life and environmental disasters. Our response has always been prompt, decisive, comprehensive and thorough. The results are there for all to see. For a great part, that response and the successes that followed are attributable to this Committee and its indefatigable servants – you and the dedicated staff.
 
So, when my time comes, at the end of the year, to bid farewell, I shall take with me the fondest memories of the wonderfully rewarding time I have had in the service of this Organization and of shipping.
 
Throughout that long affiliation, I was privileged to enjoy your:
 
• support;
• understanding;
• co-operation; and, above all,
• your friendship,
 
which I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hope you will extend the same kindness and support to my successor, Mr. Sekimizu, who, before becoming a star of global dimensions, had reached stardom status as Director of MED and Secretary of this Committee.
 
I tried to return your kindness by being:
 
• loyal to this Committee, all the Committees and the Organization as a whole;
• committed;
• dedicated;
• impartial; and
• objective in all my dealings and advice.
 
Whether I succeeded in all those, it is not for me to say.
 
And now that the curtain is about to fall, I thank you for enabling me to live the dream: that of an Organization capable to deliver on its mandate in the service of safety of life at sea, maritime security, efficiency of navigation and protection and preservation of the marine environment.
 
God bless IMO and all of you – and, please, continue supporting Manchester United and, when in Greece, do come to Galaxidi:  Greece will appreciate your contribution to its ailing economy!
 
Thank you.
_______