Equasis 10th Anniversary Celebration
29 November 2010
Address by E.E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General, IMO
Distinguished delegates, Executive Director of EMSA, members of the Equasis Supervisory Committee, media representatives, Ladies and gentlemen,
I have long since been a staunch advocate of transparency in shipping and ship operations and a strong believer that a healthy, quality industry should have nothing to hide and be ready, willing and able to share information with its customers and with the general public – indeed, with anyone who wants to see it.
That is why I am particularly pleased to welcome you all here to our Headquarters this evening to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Equasis, a system that provides a facility for just that.
Since the inception of Equasis, IMO has always been a strong supporter of the system – both in word and in deed. The agreement establishing it was signed here in January 2000 and we also hosted its fifth anniversary celebrations in 2005 as well as the signing venue for a new MoU among Equasis members in 2007. Indeed, you could say that hosting Equasis events is becoming something of a regular occurrence for us and, therefore, we are delighted that we, once again, have the opportunity to demonstrate our support in this way – this time under EMSA’s beneficial management.
The genesis of Equasis can be traced to the Quality Shipping Conference held in Lisbon in June 1998. At the time, it was becoming increasingly clear that one of the greatest impediments to a genuine quality culture in shipping was the lack of transparency in information relating to the quality of ships and their operators that could become available. Although a great deal of relevant information could, at the time, be collected and made available through a number of sources, such information was scattered and often difficult to find.
One of the principal conclusions of the Lisbon Conference was a unanimous call from the participants, representing a wide range of industry professionals (including shipowners, cargo owners, insurers, brokers, classification societies, agents, port and terminal representatives), to make such information more readily available and more easily accessible. The result was Equasis, which, ten years later, has now become established as one of shipping’s prime tools for the selection of vessels, promoting the exchange of unbiased information and transparency in maritime transport and thus allowing interested parties to be better informed about the performance of ships and of the shipping organizations with which they are dealing.
The data carried by Equasis is related to safety and environmental protection, and its success is based on certain fundamental principles. It was decided from the outset that Equasis should be an international database covering the whole world fleet; that it should have no commercial element; and that, to be effective, it would need the active co-operation of all players involved in the maritime industry, but acting voluntarily; and that there would be no compunction or requirement for anyone to use it. These are all strong ingredients that, in their totality, have helped sustain Equasis and provide a firm footing for continued success.
The high expectations that all concerned harboured for Equasis, when it was launched a decade ago, were clearly well founded. The initial concept was a good one, and its value is confirmed by the fact that the amount of information now available and the number of users continues to grow.
Ladies and gentlemen, I said earlier that IMO has supported Equasis in word and in deed and by this I did not just mean that we have been pleased to host its milestones and celebrations. We are also active participants, for example as a data provider for information relating to oil tankers’ Condition Assessment Scheme and for comments provided by flag States concerned.
Looking to the future, I can foresee increasing potential for co-operation between us. As you are no doubt aware, IMO has its own web-based, public-facing information portal, the Global Integrated Shipping Information System, known by the acronym GISIS. There is considerable scope to find synergies as the two systems develop and move forward. For example, the co-operation between the IMO Secretariat and Equasis in developing the port State control module of GISIS is typical of the sort of opportunities that we can explore. Other entities will become involved too: exploratory work is already underway with the Food and Agriculture Organization, for example, to develop a web-based identification tool for fishing vessels, something which could be a great help in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
Developments such as these will be not just for our two entities mutual benefit but for that of the wider maritime community as a whole. They seem set to ensure that, through a well-coordinated and harmonized international policy for data transparency – which is also a key objective of IMO’s Strategic Plan – the shipping industry and its customers will continue to receive a valuable service and an important aid in the overall drive towards better quality and higher standards.
The greater the number of like-minded contributors to that objective, the easier it will be to achieve. And, by working together, we will be able to reduce the potential for duplicating effort; maximize the outreach of the data we provide; make access to information quicker and simpler for those who rely on it; and, ultimately, improve the cause of quality in shipping.
As I mentioned earlier, the management of Equasis now lies with the European Maritime Safety Agency. Indeed, given the facts surrounding its conception, it seems appropriate that the system should reside in Lisbon – very much its natural home. I have every confidence that, in EMSA, the system is in good hands, and that the qualities, which have enabled Equasis to provide such a good service for so long will be maintained, and the strengths I referred to a moment ago, will be enhanced and built upon. EMSA’s track record under the inspired leadership of Wilhem de Ruiter guarantees that.
So, congratulations to Equasis for reaching its 10th birthday; and thank you to EMSA, on behalf of the maritime community, for ensuring that this most valuable service has the support and commitment it needs to continue. The ultimate challenge for any undertaking, such as Equasis, is to maintain its relevance, and the acid test of this is whether or not people continue to use it – which clearly they do, in ever-increasing numbers.
Equasis offers the outside world a window into the shipping industry and, in so doing, helps promote quality shipping, something for which a good many people, all over the world, have cause to be very grateful indeed. As we are grateful to all those who run the system both from the Equasis and EMSA’s sides.