IALA VTS Symposium
14 September 2012
By Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Secretary-General Prosser, Director General Orakҫı, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I understand that you have a successful symposium this week. Congratulations! Because of my tight schedule, I could not attend the opening session to join with Minister Yıldırım, but I am glad that I managed to come to Istanbul to attend the concluding session today.
It is a pleasure for me to be here and I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words at the close of a symposium that has been dedicated to discussions concerning something that makes a positive contribution towards several of IMO’s core objectives – improving safety at sea, improving the efficiency of shipping and helping to protect the marine environment.
But before I come to the subject of the symposium – VTS, I would like to give you a short briefing on how IMO is working today. That means how I am working with Member Governments and the staff of the Secretariat.
Already eight months have passed since I took up my new responsibility as the Secretary-General. I appreciate very much the support and cooperation provided to me by Member Governments and the Secretariat. I also appreciate the shipping industry for their cooperation. I feel that I am making progress towards what I believe should be achieved together. I am aiming at an open, fair, efficient, creative and forward-looking Organization.
I value the idea and objectives of the United Nations very much. IMO is an agency in the United Nations, which is important to me. It is, I believe, also important for the staff of the Secretariat. It gives us a pride and a corporate culture. We are not working only for the shipping industry. We are working for the marine environment, the maritime community and world society.
Cooperation with staff is the most important thing I want to achieve. This is the foundation on which everything could be built. I want to work closely with the staff and I want the staff to work with me as a solid piece of rock. The same applies to my relationship with Member Governments. I want to create a cooperative culture. Having reviewed all the activities of IMO over the past eight months, I believe that things are moving in the right direction. I again appreciate the cooperation and support provided by Member Governments and the Secretariat. I have set new directions and we are making new waves.
But it is not me doing the really creative work. It is the staff of the Secretariat. I am setting targets and directions and the staff responds to my expectations.
When you want to achieve something important, with a great number of people, you need to have a clear objective as a target and a corporate outline. This applies to our core business – safety.
I know that, since the introduction of the most advanced VTS in this Strait in 2003, there has been no major accident. It has been a significant achievement over nearly a decade with a record of zero accidents. That required efforts by all involved, be it the maritime authority, VTS operators, mariners, pilots, etc. But every day is a challenge for everybody to continue this excellent achievement. In order to promote safety, encourage all parties involved including every mariner and shipping company, I think you should create a clear concept of a corporate culture in order to continue this excellent achievement; something that will ensure that everybody is working together to achieve a common objective. For me the words “Accident Zero” will work. Every day is a challenge to achieve “Accident Zero” to continue a continuous period of “Accident Zero” day by day and this will give you a solid framework to work together, to involve everybody, to encourage everybody to contribute towards a common and great objective – continuous days of “Accident Zero”.
I would ask IALA to consider this concept and create with me the initiative of an “Accident Zero” campaign worldwide and start such a campaign from this VTS Symposium in Istanbul. With a solid good track record of operation under one of the most advanced VTS, I think Istanbul is an ideal place to begin an “Accident Zero” campaign.
Turning to major issues IMO is now facing, the issue of piracy continues to be a priority issue. At the high-level segment of the Maritime Safety Committee in May this year, the issue of arms on board ships was debated and IMO is now searching for an international approach providing guidance for the maritime community. The issue of different legal regimes and policies on firearms on board merchant vessels among counties is still an important issue and I think that the Maritime Safety Committee should do further work on this issue. Furthermore, IMO is making progress in capacity building for signatory countries of the Djibouti Code of Conduct and IMO now has firm partnership arrangements with all relevant UN Agencies and the European Union, so that a coordinated approach could be ensured for capacity-building activities in this region.
With regard to the Costa Concordia accident, I made it clear at the opening of the SLF Sub Committee, three days after the accident, that we should not speculate as to the causes of the accident and a formal casualty investigation should be conducted as soon as possible. The Maritime Safety Committee has debated on this matter and established an action programme. What we need now is a report of the casualty investigation so that the Maritime Safety Committee could learn lessons and take action to establish and implement the necessary measures to avoid any recurrence of similar accidents in the future. We have not yet received the casualty investigation report but I am sure that such a report or relevant information would be submitted to the Maritime Safety Committee for its consideration.
Safety is a core business of IMO and in this centenary year of the sinking of the Titanic, I proposed to hold a Future Ship Safety Symposium to provide an opportunity to maritime administrations, classification societies, shipping industry, shipbuilding industry, researchers, universities and academics of their discussions on the future of our safety system. We should be open to any opinion and ideas to improve our system. While this proposal had met with a significant number of supporters and generated interest, the Costa Concordia accident caused me to postpone this symposium until the current safety issue relating to the Costa Concordia would be settled. Now, with the initial discussion at the spring session of the MSC this year and its action programme depending on the casualty investigation report, I have decided to hold the symposium in conjunction with the spring session of the Maritime Safety Committee in June next year. I would like to see more scientific approaches, more mechanisms to analyse casualty data, further progress to ensure a safety culture in our regime of safety in the 20 years ahead, or even our system in 2050, and I would like to encourage IALA and its members to actively participate in the Future Ship Safety Symposium next year.
Moving to the issue of technical cooperation, as you may be aware I took an initiative to invent a new system to collect the actual technical cooperation needs of developing countries based on country profiles of developing countries. IMO’s Technical Cooperation Committee encouraged me to make progress in this new initiative and the Secretariat is now preparing a template for the country profile for technical cooperation needs. We intend to finalize the template by the end of 2013 and start using it from the beginning of the 2014. I hope that, once country profiles have been submitted to IMO from developing countries, we would see the need for maritime infrastructure such as VTS and Election Navigation Charts and, in this context, I would see significant opportunity for working together with IALA providing important contributions to developing countries.
Finally, on Rio+20, a team from IMO composed of the Secretariat and the shipping industry participated in the Rio+20 Conference this year and highlighted the importance of maritime transportation and maritime industry for the Sustainable Development. As you may also be aware, I am active in providing my vision for the sustainable maritime development. The sustainable development goals should focus on the following pillars:
• Safety culture and environmental stewardship;
• Energy efficiency;
• New technology and innovations;
• Maritime education and training;
• Maritime security and anti-piracy actions;
• Maritime traffic management;
• Maritime infrastructure development; and
• Adoption and implementation of global standards established by IMO.
I can see a number of important fields of sustainable development goals that would have a close relationship with activities of IALA, such as VTS and navigation aids, and I would like to explore further cooperation with IALA in the context of sustainable maritime development. Now, I have come to focus on the theme of this symposium – VTS.
There is no doubt that VTS can, and does, play a very significant role in boosting the safety of navigation, and there are few places in the world where this can be seen to better advantage than here in the Strait of Istanbul, the Strait of Çanakkale and the Marmara Sea. The waters are narrow, the currents are strong, the traffic is dense and the ships are large. And yet, thousands of safe passages are made through the Straits every year, including the carriage of potentially hazardous or polluting cargo through a highly populated region without incident.
All of which demonstrates beyond question the beneficial effect of VTS, in the right circumstances. Anything that can enhance and improve the useful information available is to be welcomed, and VTS has a long and well-proven track record of doing just that. Together with systems such as AIS and LRIT, overall awareness of the “maritime domain” can be greatly enhanced through use of VTS, providing a valuable tool for the master or pilot responsible for conning a ship through difficult and constrained waters.
VTS is a risk-reduction measure, useful primarily in the context of collisions and groundings, and there is no shortage of data to show just how effective it can be.
In this symposium, you have looked at ways in which the concept might be enhanced, improved and expanded in the future. This is admirable, of course. “Blue sky” thinking is very often the precursor to genuine, significant progress.
From IMO’s perspective, we can certainly envisage VTS taking its place as a component of a future e-navigation concept, something that the Organization has been developing for a number of years. The role of VTS in this context has yet to be precisely defined, but it will surely be in the realm of effective communication between ship and shore, particularly the automatic and seamless transfer of data between ship and shore and vice-versa.
However, it is also important to remember that certain basic fundamentals about VTS as contained in the SOLAS Convention should always remain.
VTS has always been considered as a system for use in restricted and crowded waterways where the degree of risk justifies such services. In practice and in accordance with SOLAS regulation V/12, this means close to land and within territorial waters. At this stage of development, it can only be made mandatory in sea areas within the territorial waters of a coastal State under SOLAS. The question regarding a concept for use outside this type of area still remains to be discussed.
Shipping is very different from aviation, in which relatively fast-moving assets move along clearly defined routes and adhere to relatively tight timetables. A VTS is not analogous to an air traffic control system; and the level of precise traffic control that now prevails in aviation has not been seen in practice in the maritime field.
A VTS does, of course, have the capability to interact and influence the decision-making process on board ships, unlike most other aids to navigation in the maritime domain. A VTS might, for example, detect the development of close quarter situations between vessels, or vessels heading into danger and can alert such vessels accordingly. In some cases the VTS may advise, or even instruct, vessels to take certain avoiding action. From this it is clear that the need to deploy properly trained, and experienced personnel, in the operation of VTS is paramount. Since IALA has launched the World Wide Academy, I wonder if, with the experience of management of VTS in this Strait, Turkey together with IALA could do something to contribute further to the maritime community. If you devise any interesting idea, I would give it serious thought as to how IMO could assist in developing a meaningful mechanism here in Istanbul.
I am pleased to note that mandatory training, training standards and accreditation for VTS personnel has been a topic on your agenda during this symposium. I would, of course, welcome any developments that would lead to both better qualified personnel and universal standards in this respect.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, it is hard to think of anywhere more appropriate to hold such an event as here in Turkey, a country which not only boasts one of the most advanced and effective examples of a VTS in deployment, but one which has also played a central role in the development of the concept.
In conclusion, may I offer my congratulations on what has been a stimulating and thought-provoking symposium. I look forward very much to hearing the discussions you have had and the thoughts and conclusions that have emerged being brought to IMO, where IALA’s active participation in the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation, and other bodies of the Organization, continues to be of great value and deeply appreciated by all.