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High-Level Symposium on International Maritime Developments in the Caribbean - opening address

February 22, 2013

High-Level Symposium on International Maritime Developments in the Caribbean
Opening Address by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Montego Bay, Jamaica - 22 February 2013

Honourable Ministers, distinguished participants, Members of the Caribbean Community Secretariat, observers, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this High-Level Symposium. Let me begin by thanking, on behalf of the Organization, the Government of Jamaica, the Minister of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. the Honourable Omar Davies, for hosting this Symposium. I am most grateful to Minister Davies for allocating his time to be here with us, representing the host Government. I thank you, Minister.
 
The provision of such excellent facilities and services should ensure the successful running and outcome of the Symposium in the best traditions of IMO. I extend my special thanks to the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Rear Admiral Peter Brady, and his staff, for shouldering the heavy task of dealing with all the logistics for this event.
Distinguished delegates,
 
This High-Level Symposium aims to give fresh impetus to the steps being taken to establish and upgrade the legislative and institutional systems necessary for the States of the Caribbean to effectively discharge their responsibilities as flag, port and coastal States.  By coming together here in Montego Bay to attend this Symposium, you have all demonstrated your commitment to concerted action to enhance maritime safety, security and environmental protection.  It goes without saying that you have my full support, and that of the wider membership of IMO, in pursuing these commendable objectives and ideals.
 
The countries of the Caribbean region are dependent to a very large extent on shipping, which not only provides the backbone of trade links, both within the region and with the wider international community, but is also itself an engine for economic growth.  Up to 2011, the registries of the Caribbean countries were together responsible for 4,760 merchant ships of 72 million tons, representing 4.5 per cent of the world fleet in terms of number and nearly 7 per cent in terms of tonnage. Shipping also contributes significantly to the tourism sector. More than 45 per cent of world cruise shipping takes place in the Caribbean, with its beautiful beaches, picturesque scenery and generally advantageous climate that provide the major attractions.
 
We must also remember that the Caribbean is one of the world's great shipping routes. Tonnage heading to or from the Panama Canal inevitably passes through the Caribbean Sea.
 
All these considerations clearly demonstrate how important it is that the countries of the Caribbean play a full and active part in the regulatory and standard-setting process and implementation process, including port State control, that IMO sets in motion for international shipping. If your countries are to participate fully in the activities of IMO, then you will receive the full benefit from the international regulatory framework that has brought about such considerable improvements in shipping standards for safety and environmental protection over successive decades.
 
The ever-increasing pressures on the marine environment and the impacts of human activities, for example, shipping, maritime tourism, oil exploration, fishing, and climate change, underscore the continuing importance, globally, of IMO instruments on protection of the marine environment. The particular issues facing the Caribbean Sea, such as the risk associated with increased vessel traffic, need for search and rescue operations and further co-operation for port State control, the exploration and movement of oil, and the threat of invasive species, reinforce the ever-increasing importance of co-operation through the activities of IMO in this region and further co-operation for port State control.
 
The IMO Conventions, notably the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 (MARPOL), the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response (OPRC), the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments and the International Convention relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, are the prime instruments used for the protection of the Caribbean Sea’s sensitive resources, and are essential components for ensuring their sustainability, not only in the present but also for future generations.
 
Our understanding of sustainable development today embraces a concern both for the capacity of the earth’s natural systems and for the social and, not least, economic challenges faced by mankind.
 
The United Nations is the global leader pushing forward efforts to turn the concept of sustainable development into something tangible.  At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, in June last year, twenty years after the first such conference in the same city, the United Nations undertook an initiative to develop and set a series of Sustainable Development Goals.
 
I attended at what became known as Rio+20, and I used the event as a platform to draw attention to how shipping contributes significantly to three of the pillars of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental.
The theme chosen by the IMO Council for the 2013 World Maritime Day, – “Sustainable development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20” – will be something in which IMO, the shipping industry and all other stakeholders, who are keen to turn the concept of sustainability into a tangible reality, will be able to join together, and make a very positive contribution.
 
In order to ensure this, we will need a clear concept of Sustainable Maritime Development and realistic but ambitious goals.
 
I have asked my Task Force in my Office to start working on the 8 pillars I have suggested.  They are:
 
- Safety culture and environmental stewardship;
- Energy efficiency;
- New technology and innovation;
- Maritime education and training;
- Maritime security and anti-piracy actions;
- Maritime traffic management;
- Maritime infrastructure development; and
- Global standards at IMO.
 
IMO has long been a strong advocate and supporter of marine protection and safety and security of shipping activities in the Caribbean region, through the office of the Regional Maritime Adviser. Although established in 1985, this came under the auspices of IMO from the year 2000, with the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre, established by IMO to assist the countries in the region in preventing, preparing for and responding to major pollution incidents caused by shipping activities.  Through our longstanding support and close collaboration with all countries represented here, a wide array of workshops and training courses have been delivered, thus developing capacity at both national and regional levels for the implementation of the various IMO conventions.
 
IMO has, in the area of preparedness and response to oil pollution, supported and assisted in the development of national and regional contingency plans, training of personnel and promoting co operation amongst all countries around the Caribbean Sea.
 
In more recent years, IMO’s support has expanded to cover national and regional activities related to the relatively new IMO Convention on ballast water management, to assist countries in developing capacity, with a view to ratification and harmonized implementation of the Convention, recognizing the serious impacts due to the introduction of marine invasive species in the Caribbean Sea.
 
A safety culture in shipping will not be achieved through legislative measures alone. We must generate a new impetus in shipping to go beyond compliance with regulations and explore industry-wide mechanisms to ensure that a safety culture is embedded throughout the entire industry.
 
It is imperative that IMO ensures that the measures it adopts do not impede the deployment of new technologies and the benefits that they provide to the entire maritime industry.  Moreover, IMO must continue to address today’s pressing safety and environmental concerns proactively, and promote the use of the latest technologies, to ensure that others do not feel the need to impose inappropriate, unilateral solutions on the shipping industry.
 
One thing on which I have a concern is on the current status of the formalization of the Trinidad and Tobago Search and Rescue Region.  Despite the importance of such a co-operation arrangement for the provision of expeditious and effective search and rescue services, ongoing efforts, since 2007, to formalize the agreement have been unable to be completed. I would encourage the countries of the Trinidad and Tobago Search and Rescue Region to formalize the agreement with all speed in consideration of the safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, in order to better assist developing countries, the Secretariat of IMO plans to adopt a more targeted approach when planning technical co-operation activities, ensuring such activities are more closely aligned to the real needs of developing countries. The real needs of developing countries should be the priorities of the IMO Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme (ITCP) rather than the thematic areas identified by IMO technical committees.
 
To ensure the effectiveness of the ITCP, I initiated, in 2012, the development of country maritime profiles, to identify capacity-building needs of developing countries, which was supported by the sixty-second session of the Technical Co-operation Committee, held in June of last year. It is expected that IMO Member States will play a key role by providing information and feedback in the process of developing country profiles.
 
I am pleased to learn that the Caribbean region has made use of the country maritime profiles document, through the office of the Regional Maritime Adviser, at the recently concluded meeting of the Senior Maritime Administrators and I welcome your views in this regard.  Furthermore, it is expected that the information gathered from the country maritime profiles will provide a springboard for the development of maritime clusters in developing countries, and assistance from IMO in the formulation of national maritime transport strategy and policy would therefore be enhanced.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, you have a heavy agenda before you. I am very pleased to note that international and regional organizations are also present here and will make contributions to the Symposium. I am grateful to them for their presence.
 
I wish you every success with the Symposium. I have no doubt that the discussions that will take place and any outcome you may achieve during this event will make a very positive contribution to a safer and cleaner Caribbean Sea and to sustainable international shipping.
 
Thank you.
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