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Global Maritime Environmental Congress and Shipbuilding, Machinery and Marine Technology Exhibition 2010

Hamburg, Germany, 6 September 2010 Joint keynote and opening address (dinner speech)

September 6, 2010

Global Maritime Environmental Congress and
Shipbuilding, Machinery and Marine Technology Exhibition 2010
Hamburg, Germany, 6 September 2010
Joint keynote and opening address (dinner speech)

Chairmen, State Minister, Commissioner, State Secretary, Deputy Shipping Minister of Norway, Chairman of ICS, President of Hamburg Messe und Congress, Organizers and Members of the GMEC and SMM Executive Board and Steering Committee, Ladies and gentlemen,
 
You are about to embark on what will undoubtedly be a big week for shipping and the maritime industries in general as two major events – one firmly established in the calendar, the other taking place for the first time – come together in this historic City of Hamburg, whose maritime heritage and influential role in shipping affairs goes back many, many centuries.
 
This week, Hamburg will play host to SMM – or Schiffbau, Maschinen und Meerestechnik, if we are speaking formally – for the 24th time, which, given that this is a biennial exhibition, means that the first SMM took place in the early 1960s – about the same time as the Beatles were enjoying their famous Hamburg residency, if I am not mistaken. I wonder if the visitors’ register for that inaugural SMM contains a Mr. Lennon or a Mr. McCartney? Or, indeed, whether the rock-and-rollers, who packed the Star-Club and the Kaiserkeller by night were actually sober-suited shipping executives by day? I’ll leave you to judge which is most likely!
 
Both popular music and the shipping industry have changed almost beyond recognition in the intervening years, but SMM has managed to maintain its pre-eminence as a showcase for all the latest and the best in marine technology. The exhibition has, in particular, carved out a reputation as the place at which the heavy end of the marine technology industry shows its wares. Shipbuilders are usually here in force and so too are the engine manufacturers, and I am sure this year will be no exception.
 
When you look at a ship’s propulsion engine in situ, surrounded by a maze of pipework, wires and other machinery and equipment, squeezed in between bulkheads and flats, it is virtually impossible to get a feeling for the sheer scale of some of these beasts. But, at SMM, in the giant halls of the Exhibition Centre, you can get a true impression of their size and power.
 
What is of particular interest to me, and this ties in perfectly with the theme of GMEC – “setting the green course” – the second event we are launching this evening, is that one of the principal competitive indicators that ships’ machinery builders will be highlighting at SMM this year will be the environmental performance of their products, specifically their low fuel consumption and minimal harmful emissions. “Lean and green” promise to be the watchwords of SMM 2010 and I am confident that, as ever, the event will reveal an impressive level of technical development and engineering ingenuity.
 
I am in no doubt that the shipping industry as a whole – with its associated marine technology sectors being very much a part of it – has a track record to be proud of in this regard. Shipping has consistently and continually improved its performance over the years in many environmental arenas. Less oil is spilled; less chemicals pollute the seas; less garbage is ejected; less raw sewage is emitted. Atmospheric pollution is being reduced and greenhouse gas emissions are under scrutiny within our energy efficiency schemes; cleaner hull coatings have been adopted; ballast water is being addressed. The list goes on.
 
It is, as you might expect, a source of satisfaction to me that much of the progress made on these, and many ancillary, fronts has been in response to the ever more comprehensive, and stringent, regulatory regime developed, established and adopted through IMO. The role played by the industry in this process should, I think, be a source of equal satisfaction. Shipping, through its broad network of specialist representative groups, takes a positive and pro-active stance – and, from my perspective, I view its response to regulatory development not as one of grudging compliance but, rather, as one of active and committed engagement.
 
This has contributed, in no small measure, to the fact that the regulatory framework enshrined in the collective body of more than 50 conventions that IMO has developed since its inception, provides an operational milieu that allows the industry not only to be safe and have a good environmental record, but also to be efficient, competitive and cost-effective. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly apparent that, far from being in conflict with one another, good economic performance and responsible environmental practices are mutually advantageous.
 
This concept has been one of the main driving forces behind the establishment of GMEC – to which, in the interests of consistency, I should also confer its full title, the Global Maritime Environmental Congress. It is a testimony to the seriousness with which shipping views its environmental responsibilities that, notwithstanding the advances that have been made in this respect, the leading lights of the industry should convene in such a forum.
I see from the programme that GMEC will be a high-level event, adopting what today’s jargon rather aptly calls a “helicopter view” of the subjects being tackled. I note with particular interest that you will be devoting a good deal of the programme to looking ahead, and I cannot stress how important I think this is. In an era when “slow steaming” is once again a subject of great discussion, it is worth reflecting that technology in shipping, while undoubtedly vibrant, is itself inherently slow to take full effect. Let me say straight away that that is not meant as a pejorative remark; simply an acknowledgement that the average 25 year economic lifetime of a typical vessel means that new technology takes its time to filter through the entire global fleet.
 
Historically, the timing of the introduction of new technology has been heavily influenced by dates and deadlines set in IMO conventions. Following extensive debates, these dates are decided upon to reflect what is realistic and achievable. But there is nothing to prevent early adoption and implementation; indeed, particularly where environmental measures are concerned, the earlier the better. For example, at SMM, several major engine manufacturers will be exhibiting units that comply with the Tier III emission standards enshrined in the revised MARPOL Annex VI adopted by IMO in 2008, even though the standards themselves will only be formally applicable to ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016.
 
That such units are already in the market place and being specified in newbuildings today is clearly a winning situation, not only for the environment but also for the shipowners investing in the technology, as they will benefit straightaway from their improved fuel consumption and greater efficiency overall. And I look forward to their complying not only with the requirements of the revised MARPOL Annex VI introducing progressive reductions in SOx emissions, overall limits both globally and in Emission Control Areas and NOx emissions from marine engines but also, when the time comes, with the technical, operational and market-based measures IMO is currently elaborating within its desire to add shipping’s contribution to the world efforts to stem climate change and global warming.
 
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Ladies and gentlemen, both SMM and GMEC will provide ample evidence of how committed the maritime community is to a green future; of how important technology will be in achieving this; and just how far the shipping industry has come in embracing what is effectively a new philosophy. But let me conclude with a final thought, and something of a plea to you.
 
At both events, shipping industry people will, predominantly, be interacting with other shipping industry people. These will be events at which insiders speak to each other, whether discussing or debating, buying or selling or simply comparing notes. My plea to you is simply this: throughout this week, and beyond, please try to bear in mind how essential it is that the good news about our industry is also conveyed to the outside world. It seems utterly unfair to me that the popular image of shipping still does not truly reflect the greatness, in so many respects, of the modern, hi-tech and highly advanced industry that will be on show this week – an industry that is capable of designing, building, maintaining and running enormous ships; powered by huge engines; supported by hundreds of systems and sub systems; carrying passengers in their thousands and cargoes in their hundreds of thousands of tons and thousands of containers – one that serves the overwhelming percentage of the needs of mankind, trade and the world economy smoothly, efficiently and at a fraction of the cost demanded by other modes of transport.
 
If nothing else, consider how a change in public perceptions might impact beneficially on the manpower shortage within the industry, by re establishing shipping as an attractive career option for high-calibre young people – especially during this, the Year of the Seafarer. If you could devote some collective time and thought, perhaps during your informal coffee breaks and meetings, to how you can help our industry improve its image and broaden its appeal, I feel sure that would be time well spent.
 
And of one thing I am certain: what you will see and hear this week at SMM and at GMEC will provide you with the best possible inspiration – an inspiration, which we also need at IMO while seeking to engage all our Members in ensuring a successful outcome to the meeting of our Marine Environment Protection Committee, at the end of this month, and that of the UN Climate Change Conference, in Cancún in November/ December.
 
Let us, Governments and industry, continue working together to serve the environment as best we can and it deserves, thus proving that, when it comes to its stewardship and sustainable operations, the maritime industry is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
 
Chairmen, Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by commending the organizers of both events for their efforts and wish you all a stimulating, engaging and, above all, productive week.
 
Thank you.
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