Home » Media Centre » Secretary-General » Speeches by the Secretary-General

Economy of the Sea Conference: The Sea – An Area to Manage, to Exploit and Protect

November 21, 2012

Economy of the Sea Conference
Biarritz, 20-21 November 2012
21 November Session
The Sea – An Area to Manage, to Exploit and Protect
Opening speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,
 
I am delighted to have the opportunity to address what has become one of the maritime world’s major events, providing an opportunity for people from many different arenas within the wider maritime community to meet and discuss the issues and topics that concern, and affect, us all.
 
And in this case, what unites us all, what concerns us all, is the sea. The sea covers around 70 per cent of our planet’s surface. It provides a resource that supports global society in so many different ways. The world’s oceans provide raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live, a place to relax and the means to transport about 90 per cent of global trade.
 
It is difficult to measure precisely the worldwide economic value of ocean-based goods and services, but all estimates place the figure in the trillions of dollars. There are many industries that rely on access to ocean resources, services and space, such as maritime transport, offshore oil and gas, ports, renewable energy, fisheries, aquaculture, marine tourism, and seabed mining. These, in turn, generate other industries that are also dependent on maritime activities. Connected with shipping, for example, are shipbuilding and repair, ship design, ship broking and chartering, vessel traffic management, pilotage, ships’ agency and many, many more. Ocean-based industries are already large and they are still expanding, despite the current difficult economic climate.
 
But the success and growth of these industries is actually threatening the integrity of the very element that sustains, supports and gives them life – the sea. It has been widely documented that the global marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited. Species, critical habitats and the health of the marine ecosystem are all becoming endangered, to the extent where this is adversely affecting people who live in coastal regions and communities, worldwide, that depend on marine areas for food and livelihood.
 
That is why I find the title of this conference session so thought-provoking: “The sea, an area to manage, to exploit and to protect.” For me, management of the sea is highly desirable; exploitation of the sea is seemingly inevitable; but protection of the sea is absolutely vital.
 
Use of the sea and the ability to benefit from its resources should not be a free-for-all. Based on this concept, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – UNCLOS – emerged, in 1982. The nations of the world began to understand that a shared, agreed and commonly understood framework to govern use of the world’s maritime spaces was the best way forward.
 
Nevertheless, conflicts in the use of ocean space and resources among the various stakeholders are increasing. Although the oceans cover such a large percentage of the earth's surface, they are becoming increasingly crowded.
 
So the search for growth in this sector is a balancing act. The varied and sometimes conflicting stakeholders all have a legitimate interest in the process, while the overall health of the seas themselves is a common concern. There is now a clear understanding that future growth must be sustainable – which means it must be able to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the current generation without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
 
Our understanding of sustainable development today embraces a concern both for the capacity of the earth’s natural systems and for the social, economic and cultural challenges faced by humanity.
 
Earlier this year at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations undertook an initiative to develop Sustainable Development Goals.
 
I attended Rio+20, and I took the opportunity to re-affirm IMO’s commitment to sustainable development and, in particular, to sustainable maritime development. I used the event as a platform to draw the attention of the general public to how shipping contributes significantly to three of the pillars of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental.
 
As the United Nations’ international regulatory body for shipping, IMO has been, and continues to be, the focal point for, and the driving force behind, efforts to ensure that the industry becomes greener and cleaner. The raft of international measures for which IMO is responsible, such as MARPOL, the Ballast Water Management Convention and the London Convention, which this year celebrates 40 years since its adoption, all bear witness to how diligent the Organization has been in pursuing these objectives.
 
It is, therefore, quite appropriate that IMO should develop Sustainable Development Goals for shipping and maritime industries. Such an initiative would exist both in parallel with, and as a contribution to, the wider efforts of the United Nations.
 
After the Rio+20 event in June, as a first step, I have established an internal mechanism, within my office, to work with our industry partners and interested stakeholders on the development and implementation of clearly defined Sustainable Development Goals for the maritime transport sector. The intention is also to develop a specific and meaningful policy document covering all technical aspects of shipping and all activities of IMO in the context of sustainable development.
 
I have defined eight key elements or ‘pillars’ on which IMO’s Sustainable Development Goals for shipping and the maritime industries should focus. They are:
 
1.  safety culture and environmental stewardship;
2.  energy efficiency;
3.  new technology and innovation;
4. maritime education and training;
5. maritime security and counter-piracy measures;
6. maritime traffic management;
7. maritime infrastructure development; and, last but not least,
8. implementation of global standards developed, adopted and maintained by IMO.
 
This initiative will, of course, underpin the theme chosen by the Council for the 2013 World Maritime Day, which is “Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20”. It is a theme that confirms our firm intention to concentrate on the commitments made at Rio+20. Through this theme, IMO’s leadership in environmentally-sound shipping will be extended to the wider context of more sustainable development and a ‘greener’ world economy.
 
I felt genuinely encouraged by the main outcome of the Rio+20 Conference, which was a document entitled “The Future We Want”. It contained a number of specific areas of relevance to IMO and its work for the protection of oceans and seas and for energy efficiency measures for international shipping.
 
Our efforts in this context will also be very specifically in line with the Oceans Compact. This is a separate initiative launched by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Expo 2012 World Fair held in Yeosu, in the Republic of Korea, earlier this year. The idea of the Oceans Compact is to promote, in particular, the sustainable development of the world’s oceans. It sets out a strategic vision for the UN system to deliver, as one, more coherently and more effectively, its ocean-related mandates. The Oceans Compact is consistent with the Rio+20 outcome document and linked to the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals. I am personally committed to ensuring that IMO will actively contribute, alongside other UN bodies, to the elaboration and implementation of this crucial, UN-led initiative for the protection and preservation of the planet’s living oceans and coasts through sustainable activities.
 
I am, of course, well aware that all of this is evolving against the backdrop of what is an extremely challenging period for the maritime community. The commercial well-being of shipping is directly related to a global economy that continues to struggle, hampered by the problems in global finance that have beset the world in recent years.
As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.
 
In other words, its role is to create a level playing-field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance. This approach also encourages innovation and efficiency.
 
Shipping is a truly international industry, and it can only operate effectively if the regulations and standards are themselves agreed, adopted and implemented on an international basis. And IMO is the forum at which this process takes place.
 
Both the shipping industry and IMO, are extremely sensitive to the growing public expectation that all industries must plan for future growth in a responsible and sustainable manner.
 
But is it fair that shipping should bear the full financial burden of upgrading to achieve results and objectives from which, ultimately, all of mankind benefits? Take, for example, the requirement for ships to install ballast water management equipment, something that will be mandatory under the IMO Convention dealing with that subject. While it is hard to be precise, estimates suggest that there is likely to be something in the order 50,000 ships that will need to be retrofitted, at a cost of somewhere around $1m per ship. That means a total investment, for the shipping industry, of some $50 billion. And, in the current financial climate, that will be a struggle for the industry to find.
 
But this is not an investment required for the actual business of shipping. This is an investment for the protection of the environment. So, surely, global society as a whole has a responsibility to bear the cost? Governments need to be aware of this and need to establish policies to ensure that the necessary funding streams will be available when the time comes.
 
The same can be said of the forthcoming regulations to reduce the sulphur content of fuel. This will require investment from the oil and refinery industries to ensure that sufficient fuel of the right quality is readily available. Again, this is a cost that society must be ready to bear, even if that means in terms of higher freight costs and, ultimately, more expensive goods at their eventual point of sale. The shipping industry cannot generate low sulphur oil, but the oil and refinery industry can. And Governments again must be aware of their responsibilities to ensure availability of low sulphur fuel. It was, after all, Governments that agreed to require use of reduced-sulphur-content fuel.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, in any conversation about the economy of the sea, it must never be overlooked that international shipping transports about 90 per cent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. Shipping is the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation for most goods; it provides a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples.
 
The world relies on a safe, secure and efficient international shipping industry – and this is provided by the regulatory framework developed and maintained by IMO.
 
IMO measures cover all aspects of international shipping – including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal – to ensure that this vital sector for remains safe, environmentally sound, energy efficient and secure.
 
Shipping is an essential component of any programme for future sustainable economic growth. Through IMO, the Organization’s Member States, civil society and the shipping industry are already working together to ensure a continued and strengthened contribution towards a green economy and growth in a sustainable manner. Indeed, I see the promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development as one of the major priorities of IMO in the coming years.
 
Energy efficiency, new technology and innovation, maritime education and training, maritime security, maritime traffic management and the development of the maritime infrastructure: the development and implementation, through IMO, of global standards covering these and other issues will underpin IMO's commitment to provide the institutional framework necessary for a green and sustainable global maritime transportation system.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.
___________