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Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW), 42nd session

January 24, 2011

ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AT THE OPENING OF THE FORTY-SECOND SESSION OF THE
SUB COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF TRAINING AND WATCHKEEPING
(24 to 28 January 2011)
 
Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the forty-second session of the Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping.  I extend a warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
 
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
 
It is customary, in my opening speeches, to address the most important items on the agenda of the IMO body in session.  But I intend to break with convention this time and use this opportunity to give you, and the wider membership, an account of the outcome of our efforts throughout 2010 to promote the year’s theme, which, I hardly need remind you, was the Year of the Seafarer.
 
During the course of the year, and in the context of that overall theme, we pursued three main objectives:
 
• one, to increase awareness among the general public of the indispensable services seafarers render to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society at large;

• two, to send to seafarers a clear message that we recognize and appreciate their services; that we understand the extraordinary conditions and circumstances of their profession (and that they are deprived of the company of families and friends for long periods); that we do care about them; and that we do all that we can to look after and protect them when the circumstances of their life at sea so warrant; and

• three, to redouble our efforts at the regulatory level to create a better, safer and more secure world in which seafarers can operate.
 
I have chosen to use the platform offered by your Sub-Committee to present my report on the outcome of last year’s work, in and around the 2010 World Maritime Day theme, for three reasons:
 
• first, because, of all the IMO bodies, yours is closest to what we generally call “the human element” in shipping;

• second, because of your instrumental role in preparing the ground for last year’s outstanding achievement at the regulatory level, that is the comprehensive revision of the STCW Convention and Code; and

• third, because, fortuitously, the timing of this meeting, so close to the beginning of the new year, provides an excellent opportunity for us to take stock of last year’s work and to examine and analyse its outcome – with, of course, a critical eye on what may have not gone entirely according to plan or what could have gone better.
 
***
 
I will start with the first objective sought in 2010, namely, to increase awareness among the general public and the maritime community of how much the world depends on seafarers.  Examples include: a New Year’s message published in Lloyd’s List to announce the launch of the Year of the Seafarer; issuing press releases at regular intervals throughout the year to promote the theme; missions undertaken to many parts of the world to meet with Government officials and industry representatives, during which my associates and I continually urged support for the theme; and widespread IMO participation in many externally organized events related to or prompted by the theme.
 
It is in this regard that I wish to express sincere thanks to the many governments, international organizations and industry bodies that provided opportunities for, and assisted in many ways in, publicizing the Year of the Seafarer.  A wide range of activities took place throughout 2010 that added valuable impetus to our traditional World Maritime Day celebration, held here at Headquarters in September, and to the Parallel Event held two weeks later in Buenos Aires, in the course of which I unveiled a solemn Memorial to the Seafarer – and, once again, I reiterate my thanks to the Government of Argentina for hosting the event.  A special mention should be made here to the IMO Bravery Award ceremony, an established annual event that, in November 2010, took on an extra dimension as it provided an emotional reunion between an elderly yachtsman, who had been rescued under extremely adverse circumstances, and the seafarer whose selfless act had saved him, demonstrating the best traditions of preserving life at sea. 
 
I firmly believe that the Year of the Seafarer has also made a difference in galvanizing others to increase awareness of seafarers and their all-too-often overlooked role in serving the daily needs of the more than 6.5 billion citizens of the world.  It has been a great source of satisfaction to me personally to see just how widely the theme has resonated, as manifested in the many conferences, seminars, workshops, award schemes and the like that were organized with the active engagement or symbolic support of our many different partners in the shipping and maritime communities (and for which we are very grateful) – all focusing on seafarers and the vital work they undertake to the benefit of us all.
 
I am well aware that the hardships faced by seafarers today cannot be solved by a publicity campaign alone and that we still need to do more to inform the general public.  But, I am hopeful that those who create, or perpetuate, the poor conditions under which some seafarers are forced to live and work will find it increasingly difficult to escape the glare of the spotlight that, prompted by the Year of the Seafarer, is now being shone upon them.
 
***
 
Turning to the second objective, that of sending the seafarers a clear message of recognition of, and appreciation for, their services, IMO Members-party to the STCW Convention did much to endorse this when they unanimously adopted a resolution at the 2010 Manila Conference, entitled “Year of the Seafarer”, which:
 
o having recognized fully the enormous risks seafarers shoulder in the execution of their daily tasks and duties in an often hostile environment;

o being mindful of the deprivations to which they are subject through spending long periods of their professional life at sea away from their families and friends; and

o being concerned at reported instances in which seafarers were unfairly treated when their ships were involved in accidents; were abandoned in foreign ports; were refused shore leave for security purposes; and were subjected to serious risks while their ships were sailing through piracy-infested areas and to potentially harmful treatment while in the hands of pirates, expressed deep appreciation and gratitude to seafarers from all over the world for their unique contribution to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.
 
Another highlight of the Manila Conference was its decision to declare the day on which it adopted the comprehensive amendments to the 1978/1995 STCW Convention and STCW Code, the 25th of June, as the annual “Day of the Seafarer”, which will be celebrated, for the first time, this year – an annual event that will provide an excellent opportunity for all of us to maintain our efforts to continually raise awareness among the general public of the key role played by seafarers in today’s world.
 
And, as for me, I tried, whenever possible throughout 2010, to visit seafarer training establishments and missions to seafarers in many Member States to meet and talk with them and cadets and to convey to them, directly and personally, our message of appreciation and care for them.  I was particularly pleased to be able to join cadets aboard the Polish training ship Dar Mlodziezy for a short but memorable voyage in the Aegean Sea last May and to have the privilege of meeting in Manila and offering moral support to the spouses and families of Filipino seafarers held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia.  And, only ten days ago, I commissioned a “drop-in” welfare centre for seafarers in Chittagong while on mission in Bangladesh.
 
In a personal letter to seafarers, dispatched in February 2010, I informed them of the Council’s decision to make 2010 their year and of the objectives we would pursue in its course in recognition of their services and in paying tribute to them.
 
2010 also gave us the opportunity to promote the work of IMO on matters of continued concern to seafarers and us, such as:
 
o their fair treatment;

o their abandonment in foreign ports;

o denial of entry visas in, and shore leave at, certain ports; and

o their vulnerability to pirate attacks, notwithstanding the continuation of our multi-faceted efforts to stem the activities of pirates in certain areas around the world and, particularly, off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.
 
Looking in more detail at these issues, while we have been undeniably able, together with ILO, to make progress in addressing those pertaining to seafarer fair treatment and abandonment, through, particularly, the Guidelines the two Organizations have adopted to that end, their effective implementation remains a genuine concern – especially in the light of reports on seafarers being incarcerated in the wake of accidents which cause pollution, or being abandoned in foreign countries with their wages left unpaid, often for months, or even years.
 
Just as important, in the context of the Year of the Seafarer, the Legal Committee recognized that the ineffective application of the relevant IMO/ILO Guidelines and the reported continued unfair treatment of seafarers, in some parts of the world, could have an adverse impact on recruitment of young people of the right calibre and on IMO’s “Go to Sea!” campaign, which aims to reverse the shortage of qualified merchant navy officers the recent BIMCO/ISF study brought to light once again.
 
The denial of shore leave to seafarers, mainly on security grounds, continues to give rise to concern.  While the legitimate security concerns of coastal States cannot, and should not, be ignored, they should not lead to discriminatory treatment of seafarers.  The guidelines on seafarer shore leave the Facilitation Committee adopted last year, building on the relevant work of the MSC in connection with the ISPS Code, should, therefore, be seen as a step in the right direction.
 
***
 
Now I come to one of today’s key concerns for seafarers, their families and the international maritime community as a whole, i.e. the issue of piracy, which, although not the sole objective we pursued during the Year of the Seafarer, was, nonetheless, the one that, understandably, attracted most attention.  If asked whether we can claim success in our efforts, last year, to stem piracy and armed robbery against ships, we must be critical, and honest, when formulating an objective answer.
 
Were we to base our answer on the number of ships and seafarers in the hands of pirates at the beginning of 2010 (12 ships with a total of 299 on board) with those at the end of the year (28 ships totalling 656 seafarers), the unbiased conclusion would be: “No, we did not make progress, on the contrary, we went backwards” – and this makes us neither proud or content.
 
But, especially in the case of Somalia, the solution is not a straightforward one. It has long been recognized, and accepted, that a substantive and lasting success in the anti-piracy campaign off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden cannot realistically be expected unless a viable solution to the political problems that have torn the country apart since civil war broke out in 1991 can be found – a solution that would lead to, among other things, the creation of a national naval force and/or coast guard, which, by being able to exercise control over the country’s extensive coastline, would deprive the pirates of the possibility of using any part of it they choose to harbour the ships they hijack until ransom money is paid.
 
While the process to solve the political issue and create conditions of stability in the country is long and the solution may not be around the corner, this is a matter for the United Nations to pursue and neither IMO nor the maritime community have any substantive role to play in it.
 
This, however, does not mean that, pending the much desired and sought political solution, we have remained idle, not seeking progress, during the Year of the Seafarer, in areas where action would, in due course, make a difference.  On the contrary, we used the year, while focusing on the wider picture, to energetically promote the campaign both within the areas of our undeniable competence and in those falling under the purview of other international bodies; and to take initiatives and seek innovative ideas to stem the scourge.
 
Of the numerous efforts made, within our anti-piracy campaign, last year, I would highlight:
 
• our work to implement the Djibouti Code of Conduct (now signed by 17 States from the western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden area), through the establishment of three information-sharing centres in Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania and Yemen; the progress made in developing a training centre in Djibouti; and the establishment, within the IMO Secretariat, of the Djibouti Code Implementation Unit to monitor and promote the implementation of the Code;

• our continuing and active engagement with the Contact Group on piracy off the coast of Somalia and its working groups;

• our ongoing co-operation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to help countries in the region to establish legal frameworks to allow the prosecution of pirates;
 
• our work to enhance the effectiveness of regional mechanisms for countering piracy and armed robbery against ships in other regions of the world, for example, in west and central Africa and in Asia and the Pacific;

• our work to update and enhance the IMO guidelines on the prevention and suppression of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships, including our ongoing co-operation with industry to update and improve best management practices and to develop further guidance, including that recently approved by the MSC to company security officers to prepare contingency plans in case of a hijack in the western Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden;

• the inclusion of provisions concerning maritime security and piracy in the training requirements incorporated in the Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention and Code; and

• our continuing engagement with naval forces deployed off the coast of Somalia to protect shipping carrying humanitarian aid and to deter and disrupt pirate attacks.
 
The list of achievements sought and made during 2010 that I just mentioned is not exhaustive and several others might be mentioned to reaffirm our deep concern about this modern-day scourge.  At the same time, an expression of collective disappointment and frustration that the community at large – and not only the maritime community – has not yet been able to respond to the situation as effectively as we all would wish to is perfectly understandable.  If anything, it should strengthen our determination to maintain a firm resolve to do all we can to expunge piracy from the face of the earth and condemn the despicable and unlawful acts committed by pirates to the annals of history.
 
To take stock of the work done to achieve just that and see what to do next, we should ask ourselves some searching questions:

• Could we – IMO and others – have done better during the Year of the Seafarer? Undoubtedly, yes.

• Could we have done more? Possibly.

• Should we be satisfied with the results achieved? Not entirely, when we think of the increase in the number of pirate attacks and of those ships and seafarers hijacked.  We can, however, draw some strength from the progress made within the overall plan to address the piracy issue holistically and in the medium to long term.

• Should we do more? The answer here is another resounding “yes”, as I shall explain when I revert to the issue in a short while and brief you on this year’s World Maritime Day theme.
 
***
 
As far as our third objective of the year is concerned, namely, to take action, at the regulatory level, to enhance seafarers’ safety and security, I think here we have good reason to feel satisfied.  And although enhancing safety is, and has always been, the raison d’être for IMO and the Maritime Safety Committee and all of its subsidiary bodies remain focused on doing just that, there have been some distinct areas where remarkable progress was made in 2010.  Of all these, the achievements of the Manila Conference stand out.  In the context of that Conference, I would draw particular attention to its decisions concerning:
 
o the introduction of security-related familiarization training;

o the agreement on the rest hours regime in line with ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention;

o the establishment of training standards for able seafarers and for electro-technical officers;
o the new competency standards for personnel serving on different types of tankers (including LNG carriers);

o the updated competency requirements for ships’ engineers;

o the new medical standards for seafarers; and

o the provisions relating to the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse.
 
The fact that the Manila Amendments, along with seventeen Conference resolutions (in the adoption of which your Chairman played an important role in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole) were agreed by consensus and without a single reservation, is a tribute to your Sub-Committee’s excellent preparatory work and the determination of the participants of the Conference to develop an adequate and up-to-date regulatory regime for the education and training of seafarers.  The outcome of the Manila Conference should not only be assessed for what it aims at achieving, it should also be seen as a reminder of IMO’s long-standing policy to put the human element at the forefront of its legislative work. 
 
With the new standards now set, the next step, if we want them to benefit the seafarers as they are meant to, is to ensure their full and effective implementation upon the Amendments’ expected entry into force on 1 January 2012.  The revision and updating of the relevant model courses will be a new challenge for your sub-committee, which, however, I believe you are eminently qualified to accomplish in a timely manner.  Meanwhile, the Secretariat has already embarked on a series of regional seminars and workshops to increase awareness and explain the implications of the requirements enshrined in the Amendments, the first of which took place in China last year, shortly after the conclusion of the Manila Conference in June.  That meeting was followed by a second in the Netherlands, a third in Cyprus and a fourth in Nigeria, with a fifth scheduled to be held in India next month.
 
***
 
Distinguished delegates,
 
A wide range of other achievements of a regulatory nature were made by IMO during the course of 2010 – all of which aimed at serving the safety and well-being of seafarers, directly or indirectly.  Time does not allow me to elaborate on them all but I would single out:
 
• the approval of a draft revised Assembly resolution on Principles of safe manning and draft SOLAS amendments relating to mandatory requirements for determining safe manning;

• the ongoing work to implement the Global SAR Plan through, among other activities, establishing an adequate network of regional rescue coordination centres and sub-centres around the coastline of Africa;

• updated information on the prohibition of the use of asbestos on board ships;

• the progress made on LRIT implementation – a complex system, the beneficial impact of which can be seen in its diversity , as it covers areas such as navigational safety, security, search and rescue and environmental protection;
• the promulgation of Navigational Warnings concerning counter-piracy operations;

• numerous new and amended ships’ routeing measures and mandatory ship reporting systems;

• measures related to gas measurement and detection and fire safety systems;

• Interim Explanatory Notes for safe return to port and the Unified interpretations on safety centres on passenger ships;

• Performance Standards for Bridge Alert Management; and

• amendments to the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers and to the Manual on Loading and Unloading of Solid Bulk Cargoes for terminal representatives.
 
While we can also claim progress in the search for a definitive solution to identified problems associated with lifeboat on-load release mechanisms, the fact that we have not as yet been able to close this long pending issue is a cause for justifiable disappointment.  More positively though, we should not rush to make decisions that time and practice might later prove wrong and I am hopeful that, at the next consideration of the matter by the MSC, a sound and lasting solution will be found.
 
***
 
In bringing my remarks to a close, I wish to return to the issue of piracy and our endeavours to eliminate it.  It was because of its undiminishing sense of genuine care and concern for seafarers that the Council chose as the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day "Piracy: orchestrating the response" – one that aims to complement and, indeed, reinforce last year’s theme.  This connection was underlined by almost one million signatures of a petition calling for an immediate end to piracy, which I received on World Maritime Day last September.
 
It is in this context 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.  To give substance to the campaign and make a difference, we will, in the course of 2011, seek to:
 
• one: increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;

• two: review and improve the IMO guidelines to Administrations and seafarers and promote compliance with industry best management practices and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;

• three: promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;

• four: promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;

• five: assist states to build capacity in piracy-infested regions of the world, and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and

• six:  provide care, during the post-traumatic period, for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.
To this end, we will, among other activities, hold a seminar/workshop on Wednesday to elaborate the numerous steps taken, and those that are being taken, by various stakeholders to address globally the piracy problem.
 
To add emphasis to the campaign planned for this year, the UN Secretary-General is coming to IMO, on 3 February, to launch the action plan we have compiled to this effect.  This will take place in the presence of High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to IMO of Member States, along with industry leaders and other dignitaries.  It is my sincere hope and strong wish that the action plan will generate the widest possible interest and that it will inspire Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to act in the most appropriate and effective manner.  I hope you will 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, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates.  May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
 
***
 
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
 
Before I conclude, 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.
 
With regard to your agenda for this session, it contains a considerable workload on which to direct your undivided attention.  Several items on it demand careful consideration indeed, including training-related aspects of e-navigation and the draft Revised Recommendations for entering enclosed spaces on board ships.
 
I am confident that, with your firm commitment to the causes of safety of life at sea, security and protection of the marine environment and with the customary IMO spirit of co-operation, the objectives that have been set for this session will be achieved.  The leadership and sound advice your experienced Chairman, Admiral Brady of Jamaica, always provides guarantees that the Sub-Committee will make good, balanced and timely decisions on which to base its advice to the Maritime Safety Committee and, as the case may be, to the Marine Environment Protection Committee.  As always, the Secretariat will provide any support the Sub-Committee may require.  I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.
 
Thank you.