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Korea Maritime University - Special lecture for graduated cadets

August 13, 2012

Korea Maritime University
Special lecture for graduated cadets
By Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
13 August 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, cadets, graduates,
 
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, in particular to have the opportunity to say a few words to those of you who are about to embark on your careers in shipping. I very much hope that this proves to be a life choice that you will be glad to have made, in the years to come.
 
The industry you are about to enter is, perhaps, the most international the world has to offer, serving more than 90 per cent of global trade by carrying huge quantities of cargo, all over the world, cost-effectively, cleanly and safely.
Ships themselves are surrounded by a complex structure of ownership, finance, construction, registry, insurance, manning, operation and many other facets, a structure that typically embraces many different countries and is at the heart of what makes shipping so international. Not only that but ships spend their lifetimes moving between different countries and different legal jurisdictions. One inevitable outcome of all this is that the shipping industry needs a regulatory framework that is internationally agreed, internationally adopted and uniformly implemented – particularly with regard to safety, security and its environmental impact.
 
Today, we live in a society which is supported by a global economy, which simply could not function if it were not for shipping. IMO plays a key role in ensuring that lives at sea are not put at risk and that the marine environment is not polluted by shipping.
 
Given the phenomenal development of the Republic of Korea as a major shipping and shipbuilding nation in the second half of the 20th century, it should come as no surprise to you to learn that the Republic of Korea is a major participator in the work of IMO and a great supporter of the Organization’s aims and objectives.
 
It is a strong supporter of the Organization’s technical  co-operation programme. As an example of this commitment, last year IMO and the Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA) signed a co-operation agreement for the implementation of a pioneering project on Building Capacities in East Asian countries to address Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from Ships.
 
The co-operation between KOICA and IMO through this project is part of a much broader initiative by the Republic of Korea to take a lead in reducing carbon emissions and to move toward a low-carbon society, thereby setting a milestone for green growth and, in this process, to assist the developing countries in this region.
 
Here, once again, the Republic of Korea and IMO are sharing common objectives. In recent years, IMO has done a great deal of work to develop, and adopt, the first-ever set of mandatory greenhouse reduction measures for an international industry sector; work, which is still continuing, to expand the scope and secure the implementation of the measures thus far adopted.
 
But, more than that, IMO is firmly committed to the concept of sustainable development, a concept of which a low-carbon society and green growth are central elements.
 
In June, I attended the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, 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 attention to how shipping contributes significantly to the three pillars of sustainable development – social, environmental and economic.
 
I strongly believe that establishing a sustainable maritime transportation sector is essential to the development and growth of the world's economy. Indeed, without shipping, we cannot really think about the future of the global economy.
 
Despite the current global economic downturn, demand for shipping services over time will continue to rise.
 
Today, international trade has evolved to the point where almost no nation can be fully self-sufficient. Every country is involved, at one level or another, in the process of selling what it produces and acquiring what it lacks: none can be dependent only on its domestic resources. Shipping has always provided the only really cost-effective method of bulk transport over any great distance, and the development of shipping and the establishment of a global system of trade have moved forward together, hand-in-hand.
 
Given the enormous responsibility carried by those who serve aboard ships, especially in view of the size and complexity of today’s vessels, it requires a very special kind of person to take up the challenge of a seafaring career. And, although the global economic downturn may have reduced short-term demand for shipping services to a certain extent, the underlying requirement for new seafarers still remains. 
 
Currently, more than 1.5 million people are employed as seafarers.  If the global economy continues to grow, more highly trained and qualified seafarers will be needed. Some estimates say that, to meet the demand of growth, more than 50,000 seafarers every year will be required. Related activities such as shipbuilding, ship repair and ship recycling will also have growing requirements for manpower resources.
 
Rarely, therefore, if ever, has maritime training and education been more important to the industry than it is now.
 
Today, more than ever, seafaring is a job that demands highly trained and qualified personnel: people who have the courage, strength and determination to spend long periods of time away from home; and the professional competence and wherewithal to respond to any of the hazards that the sea and the weather might throw at them.
Modern ships are designed and built to the highest technical standards. The emphasis must, therefore, increasingly be on ensuring that standards of manning and operation are equally high, and it falls to the major providers of maritime training and education – institutions such as the Korea Maritime University – to play a leading role.
 
Since it was founded in 1945, the Korea Maritime University has played a pivotal role in providing the well-trained and highly-qualified people required to fuel and sustain the remarkable development of the Republic of Korea as a major shipping and shipbuilding nation in the second half of the 20th century.
 
More than that, the University has become a centre of excellence, through its teaching and research-orientated faculties, for all facets of the maritime industry, embracing the cutting edge of maritime science and technology and marine information technology as well as the more traditional skills of shipbuilding and engineering.
 
It is no exaggeration to say that the safety and security of life at sea, protection of the marine environment and over 90 per cent of the world's trade depends on the professionalism and competence of seafarers.
 
IMO's International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers – known as the STCW Convention – was adopted in 1978 as the first internationally-agreed Convention to address the issue of minimum standards of competence for seafarers. In 1995, the STCW Convention was completely revised and updated to clarify the standards of competence required and provide effective mechanisms for enforcement of its provisions.
 
A further, comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and the STCW Code commenced in January 2006, and culminated in a Conference of Parties to the STCW Convention which was held in Manila, Philippines, in 2010. This conference adopted a significant number of amendments to the STCW Convention and STCW Code, referred to as the Manila amendments. The Manila amendments, which entered into force on 1 January this year, will ensure enhanced standards of training for seafarers are in place now, and for years to come.
 
And it was at that conference in Manila that IMO Member States unanimously agreed that the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole, should be marked with a 'Day of the Seafarer', to be celebrated on 25 June of each year. The date chosen was that on which the STCW revisions were adopted and it acknowledges their significance for the maritime community and, especially, those of its members who serve on board ships.
 
Many of you here today, I know, will be going on to careers at sea and, naturally, the threat of piracy will be a concern for you. Indeed,  piracy remains one of the major problems facing the shipping community today. This is a complex and multi-faceted problem requiring coordinated activity across many fronts if it is to be successfully tackled.
 
The plight of innocent seafarers held hostage for ransom may be the most immediate and harrowing aspect of this crisis on a personal level. Indeed, rarely has this been more graphically illustrated than in the case of your countryman, Captain Seog Hae-gyun, Master of the chemical tanker Samho Jewelry, who was presented with the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea for 2011, for his decisive, brave and courageous actions to protect his ship and crew during a vicious pirate attack in the Indian Ocean, which left him with serious and
long-lasting injuries.
 
But the increasing economic and social costs of piracy, both within shipping and beyond, are also of the utmost seriousness.
 
IMO has been addressing the problem of piracy since 1988. A key component of IMO’s strategy has been to foster the development of regional agreements to develop and implement counter-piracy measures. We have seen this work to considerable effect. In this very region, for example, IMO was instrumental in establishing the framework for collaboration among the littoral States of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore and the South China Sea that proved so successful in helping to almost eradicate piracy in what used to be the world’s major piracy hotspot.
Subsequently,  it was at IMO’s behest that the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia was drawn to the attention of the United Nations Security Council; and, since then, the Organization has been in the vanguard of counter-piracy efforts, both on its own initiative and in collaboration with others.
 
The benefit of many of the positive lessons learned from the experience in this region is now being harnessed in the work undertaken to combat Somali-based piracy. The actions taken by shipowners and crews to make their vessels less vulnerable, and the efforts of naval forces to provide protection and action to disrupt pirate attacks, have had a positive and beneficial effect. But these alone will not be sufficient to bring about an overall solution.
 
The building of effective counter-piracy capacity and infrastructure in the affected region; the development of proper legal and criminal infrastructures; undermining the pirate economy and its associated financial model; helping to develop viable, alternative sources of income for those who have been, or may be, tempted to turn to crime: these are some of the areas on which the spotlight must now shine more brightly if we are to bring piracy to an end – and I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that IMO is working hard, with others, to deliver in all these areas, and more.
 
While it would be wrong to gloss over the challenges that face seafarers today, such as piracy, nevertheless we should also stress how exciting and inspiring the maritime industries can be. Looking ahead over the next few years, the need for shipping to navigate through difficult economic times and improve even further on its already excellent environmental record provide a strong impetus for innovation, imagination and blue-sky thinking.
 
Ship designers and engineers are already developing design innovations that they can draw on to meet these new challenges. Propeller technology continues to move forward, for example; hull features such as ducts, bulbs and fins are all being actively explored with excellent results; and aerodynamic superstructures are also increasingly utilized.
 
On the machinery side, engineers are far more willing than ever before to consider alternatives to the conventional solutions; thus we see increasing use of diesel electric propulsion, electronic engine controls, waste-heat recovery and alternative fuels such as LNG. Even highly unconventional technologies, such as kites and rotors, are now attracting serious interest.
 
When you add all of this to challenges presented by, for example, the opening up of Arctic waters to more general cargo traffic; the increasing demand for special-purpose ships for wind farm construction; the march of oil and gas exploration into ever-more inhospitable areas; as well as the need for innovative design solutions to meet other regulatory imperatives such as the requirement for ballast water management, and to design ships for safe recycling, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that these are exciting times to be entering the maritime world.
 
Cadets, students, the career you are about to enter is a worthy and even an inspirational calling. The shipping industry is one that thrives on creativity and innovation. Seafarers provide a vital service to an industry that contributes significantly to global and sustainable development and prosperity by carrying the world’s commerce safely, securely, efficiently and at a fraction of the environmental impact and cost of other modes of transport. It is incredible to think that the global population of more than 7 billion people relies so heavily on around 1.5 million seafarers – a staggering ratio.
 
Shipping is a vibrant industry, which provides rewarding, stimulating and long-term career prospects. Today’s ships are high-value assets and should therefore be entrusted to professionals of a similarly high quality. Seafaring is a viable career choice for people of the highest calibre – people such as yourselves.
 
And, beyond seafaring, the broader marine industries as a whole have a great deal to offer, too, as my experience will testify. As a young boy growing up in Yokohama, Japan, I saw cargo ships and passenger ships that had travelled from foreign countries, as well as people from exciting foreign lands. Yokohama was quite an international city and this gave me the idea that I would go abroad sometime in the future.
 
The Yokohama Shipyard and Machinery Works was a dominant feature in the city and we children grew up in busy streets and port areas full of strong workers from the shipbuilding yards.
 
For me, it was an inspiration formed in the atmosphere of Port Yokohama that encouraged me to enrol in the Engineering Faculty of Osaka University, where I studied marine engineering and naval architecture – and to begin a career path that has eventually led me to be addressing you, here today. And, who knows, perhaps there is an IMO Secretary-General of the future among you!
 
And so, let me conclude by thanking my hosts for their hospitality and for the chance to speak to you today; and to wish you all the very best as you pursue your careers in the maritime industry. You have a wonderful future ahead of you, and I sincerely hope you can all make the most of your gifts and your opportunities.
 
Thank you.
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