China Maritime Day "Seas, Straits and Seafarers"Quanzhou, China11 July 2010
Madam Chairman of the National People's Congress, Minister of Transport, Madam Secretary of CPC Fujian Provincial Committee, Governor of Fujian Province, Vice-Minister of Transport, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today as China celebrates its national Maritime Day, and I am glad that, with your theme "Seas, Straits and Seafarers", you have chosen to take up IMO's own theme for 2010, the "Year of the Seafarer", as one of your principal focuses for this national celebration.
It is, indeed, a very appropriate topic. As a country that is forging ahead on the road to a bright new future (as the success of the Shanghai Exhibition has made abundantly clear), China has a great deal for which to thank the world's seafarers. At a time when your country has become the world's greatest driver of global trade and international commerce, sea transport remains by far the most cost-effective way to move goods and raw materials in quantity around our planet. The vast majority of world trade is carried in ships and it is impossible to envisage that changing in the foreseeable future.
All of which makes the mariner, the human factor that operates at the cutting edge of sea transportation, a vital component of the global economy. We are, all of us, hugely dependent on the services rendered by seafarers, who are, in effect, the lubricant without which the engine of trade would simply grind to a halt.
Because safety and efficiency are two sides of the same coin - by which I mean that accidents are not only undesirable outcomes in themselves, they also have a negative impact on the supply chain that is the very muscle and sinew of the new global economy - at IMO, we place human element considerations at the centre of our work to reduce shipping-related accidents and lessen their consequences on human life and the environment.
Our goal is to make sure that the people manning the world's ships today are alert, motivated, educated, trained and qualified to the highest practicable standards and, in fact, possess the skills necessary to perform properly under all foreseeable conditions and circumstances. We recognize that the challenge to achieve this is a complex and multi-faceted one, but it is one to which we are firmly committed.
Indeed, and to this end, last month the Organization adopted, in the nearby Philippines, far-reaching and comprehensive amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers - the Manila Amendments, which aim at ensuring that the necessary global standards to train and certify seafarers to operate any modern, technologically advanced ships are now in place.
In this, the "Year of the Seafarer", we have also tried to re-focus attention, along with our "Go to Sea!" campaign, on the pressing need to come to grips with the long-predicted labour-supply shortage in the shipping industry.
Today, maritime labour is a global commodity, and the seagoing workforce is sourced from all over the world. Indeed, the shipping world now looks to newer sources, of which China is an important one, to provide its labour resources. That is why I am particularly pleased that China has chosen to pay special attention to seafarer issues in this national Maritime Day celebration, and add its voice to the many that have already joined together in conveying to the 1.5 million seafarers of the world that the entire shipping community appreciates them and their indispensable services; is aware of the conditions under which they operate; shows compassion for the sacrifices they make; and really does care for them - as evidenced by their assembling of naval vessels off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden to protect them against attacks by pirates - an effort in which China plays a much appreciated role.
As a major player in the shipping world and in international maritime affairs, you have, by so doing, made the message louder, stronger and clearer; and I thank you for that. And I do hope that, as from next year, you will join the maritime community in celebrating the 25th of June as the "Day of the Seafarer".
Let me conclude by wishing you every success in China's own Maritime Day celebrations and in all of your country's maritime aspirations. I am sure you will use the occasion to spread the good word about ships, shipping and seafaring far and wide and help to promote the cause behind which we are all united. We share in your celebrations and honour your achievements in the maritime sector.