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Philippine Maritime Industry Stakeholders Lunch Forum

February 8, 2012

Philippine Maritime Industry Stakeholders
Lunch Forum
8 February 2012
Speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
 
It was my great pleasure to participate yesterday in a forum organized by the Philippine Inter Island Shipping Association that was devoted principally to domestic shipping issues.
 
I am equally pleased to have the opportunity, today, to take part in this forum with a wider grouping of maritime industry stakeholders, and am grateful to the organizers, the Filipino Shipowners Association, for the opportunity to do so.
 
Yours is a country with a long and historical association with the sea. Like other island nations and archipelagos, you have always looked to the sea, not only for internal communication and transport, but also for trade and interaction with your neighbours, and further afield.
 
With a coastline of over 36,000 kilometres, it comes as no surprise that the people of the Philippines have a natural affinity to the seas, whether as a source of food or as a means of livelihood. Throughout the archipelago, and in almost all the provinces of the country, one can find maritime industry clusters. Ship operators, ship builders, ship repairers, fishers, and many more, are all active here in the Philippines and, I am sure, they are represented here today.
 
Above all, in the maritime context, the Philippines is famed for its supply of manpower resources to the global shipping fleet. Filipino seafarers are, quite rightly, a source of pride for the country, not just in terms of their numbers but also in terms of their quality and competitiveness.
 
As I mentioned at yesterday’s inland shipping forum, the part played by Filipino seafarers in the evacuation of thousands of survivors from the cruise ship Costa Concordia is something everyone concerned with the maritime industry in the Philippines should feel very proud of.
 
It is almost impossible to be completely accurate about the exact size of the Filipino seafarer workforce but, based on projections by the Philippine manning industry, a record number of 400,000 Filipino seafarers were deployed, worldwide, by the end of 2011 – a figure estimated to be around 25 per cent of the overall seafarer labour force. It has also been estimated that this workforce is worth around US$ 4 billion in foreign currency remittance to the Philippine economy.
 
It is little wonder, therefore, that the Philippines was the obvious choice to stage the Diplomatic Conference that, in 2010, adopted important and far-reaching amendments to the STCW Convention, that regulates seafarer training worldwide. What are now universally known as the “Manila Amendments” entered into force at the beginning of this year.
 
They bring the Convention and its associated Code up-to-date, and ensure that the necessary global standards are in place to train and certify seafarers to operate technologically advanced ships now, and in the future. They will make a very substantial contribution towards the supply of a better-qualified and more capable labour force for the shipping industry for many years to come.
 
The importance of Filipino labour to the shipping industry and to the national economy places considerable responsibility on the country’s maritime training infrastructure. This is a responsibility that has always been taken very seriously.
 
In this context, it is encouraging to note that the Government of the Philippines took quick and effective actions to address concerns raised in a recent report by the European Maritime Safety Agency. This is typical of the importance that is placed in the Philippines on ensuring that seafarers trained here continue to meet the standards prescribed in the STCW Convention and Code, and are thus able to find gainful employment in the industry anywhere in the world.
 
The high proportion of Filipino seafarers in the global fleet means the threat of piracy has a strong resonance here. So many people are directly affected. Again, it is hard to be completely accurate but figures suggest that, since 2006, around 750 Filipinos, in more than 60 vessels, have been hijacked and taken captive.
 
Once again, the Government of the Philippines has been active in its response, chairing the Governing Council of the Information Sharing Centre of the Regional Co-operation Agreement of Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, as well as participating in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
 
We all need to intensify our efforts to combat this insidious threat to international shipping. To that end, one of the first decisions I took on becoming Secretary-General of IMO was to appoint a Special Representative for Maritime Security and Anti-Piracy Programmes, to supplement at the highest level the work already being carried out by IMO in this regard.
 
I also met United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York, at the end of January, and secured his support that counter-piracy capacity building in Somalia and neighbouring countries should be enhanced through further co-operation between IMO and the UN, UN specialized agencies and other relevant international organizations.
 
This initiative will build on IMO’s existing capacity-building activities under the Djibouti Code of Conduct, funded by the Djibouti Code Trust Fund.
 
I took the opportunity to inform Mr. Ban about plans to organize a Counter-piracy Capacity-building Conference on 15 May at IMO Headquarters, as well as to hold a high-level policy debate on the carriage of arms on board merchant vessels, on the first day of the 90th session of the Maritime Safety Committee on 16 May. I encouraged high-level participation to these events from the UN and I am confident they will receive strong support.
 
Although piracy is a major challenge facing shipping today, there are others, too, that must be tackled with equal resolve. The industry must, for example, do more to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases and to enhance its already strong contribution towards a sustainable future for mankind on our planet.
 
Sustainable development is a term that is already very familiar and which will become used more and more, as events like the Rio+20 conference in June this year and the World Expo in the Republic of Korea focus on how mankind can find ways to survive and flourish in harmony with the environment, rather than at the expense of the environment.
 
A widely accepted definition of sustainable development is that it meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This is something I would urge all of you, in the Filipino maritime industries, to have in the forefront of your mind as you strive to meet your own goals and objectives.
 
There is, I know, increasing interest within your community to make the Philippines a leading maritime hub in the Asian region, a true alternative to the existing maritime centres that have enjoyed leadership in the region for some time now. Geography will certainly help you in this quest; and the reservoir of maritime human resources, consisting of competent and qualified merchant marine officers and professionals, as well as ship management executives, will also provide a valuable resource.
 
Through its technical co-operation programmes, IMO is currently helping strengthen and enhance capacity among maritime agencies in the Philippines, with the aim of improving maritime safety, security and environment protection. I am pleased to note that discussions are underway at the Department of Transportation and Communications towards accelerating the ratification or accession of the Philippines to a number of IMO Conventions, including SOLAS Protocols, the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, and the Ballast Water Management and Antifouling Conventions; and that other agencies, such as the Philippine Ports Authority, are actively working towards ratification of the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, before I conclude these remarks I must mention another important aspect of IMO’s work in which the Philippines has played a very active, leadership role – the integration of women into the maritime sector.
Under IMO’s capacity-building agenda, five formal associations for women managers in the maritime and port sectors have been established, with IMO support, since 2003. Their overriding objectives are to assist in the effective implementation of IMO instruments and to provide a springboard for developing regional training opportunities for women.
 
The Women in Maritime Association, Asia, was launched in January 2010, at an event hosted in partnership with MARINA, and with the assistance of the Women in Maritime Philippines Association. I am delighted to see that members of the Women in Maritime Association, Asia, have been able to take a break from their workshop in green shipping and join this forum and I know that their presence here will add depth and perspective to the proceedings.
 
Thank you once again for the opportunity to speak to you today. We face many challenges in the years to come. If we face them together, I am sure we can turn challenges into opportunities, and opportunities into solutions.
 
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