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World Maritime Day Symposium on a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System

September 26, 2013

World Maritime Day Symposium
26 September 2013
Opening Speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this World Maritime Day Symposium. This is the second symposium we have held this year. And, this is the first time that such an event has been associated specifically with World Maritime Day.
 
I see these events as an opportunity for the “IMO family” to pause briefly from its regular work, to lift its head and take a look at wider perspectives and different horizons; to take a fresh look and consider issues that may not be listed on the current work programme but which, nevertheless, need to be addressed and in which IMO should take a leading role. It is an opportunity to open our doors to others who are not usually part of the process at IMO. We hope today’s event will be stimulating, lively and thought-provoking.
 
Today, the topic is sustainability. As the theme adopted for this year’s World Maritime Day, it has been an important focus this year for me and for my colleagues in the IMO Secretariat. This Symposium is an opportunity to reflect on this year’s theme for World Maritime Day, and to give the theme substance. The background for the Symposium is a document on a Concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System that has been developed in consultation with industry partners and organizations. The document is available to download on IMO’s public website.
 
Sustainability and sustainable development have been matters of concern for several decades. The Brundtland Report, which established the most widely accepted definition of sustainable development, was issued as long ago as 1987. More recently, last year’s Rio+20 conference gave a strong impetus to those existing concerns about sustainability. And, as I am sure you will be aware, IMO chose to focus on its contribution to sustainability beyond Rio+20 as the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day.
 
So, what do we understand by “sustainable development”? The widely accepted definition is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". It is a concept generally understood to have three main components – economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and social sustainability.
 
But how does this translate to the maritime context? I think that we need to look at this from two different aspects. First, what part can shipping and its related activities play in global sustainable development in a general sense? And second, how can shipping ensure that its own development is also sustainable?
 
I think we can say, with confidence, that shipping will have a central role to play if the world is to achieve sustainable development.
 
This is because the shipping, and ports are vital links in the global supply chain, the complex mechanism without which today’s inter-dependent, global economy would be simply unable to function. Shipping has always provided the only truly cost-effective method of bulk transport over any great distance, and the development of shipping and the establishment of a global system of trade are intrinsically and inherently linked.
 
Not only is shipping cost-effective, it is also safe, secure and environmentally sound. It provides reliable mass transportation for energy, materials, foods and industrial products, all over the world, and at a price that society can afford, and is willing to pay. So, to me, it seems inevitable that shipping must be at the heart of sustainable development, and that shipping itself must, therefore, ensure that its own development is also sustainable. The sustainable development and growth of the world's economy will not be possible without sustainability in shipping and, therefore, in the entire maritime sector.
 
One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by States to launch a process to develop Sustainable Development Goals. At the global level, the United Nations is working to formulate a list of Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Immediately after Rio+20, I started working on sustainable maritime development. As a first step, I established an internal mechanism to join with our industry partners in developing the concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System – and it is that concept we take as the basis of the Symposium today. The document is not intended to be prescriptive, but we do hope that it will provide a focus for thought and debate around the subject of sustainability and a framework within which maritime transportation can move forward.
 
So what do we mean by a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System? What are the elements that we must put in place in order to achieve it?
 
The first thing to make clear is that the concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System must include not just the operation of ships, but all the activities that are vital to support shipping.
 
Activities such as the operation of maritime traffic management systems and global communication systems, ports and multi¬modal connections are all components of this multi-faceted sector.
 
Also, shipbuilding and classification, ship registry and administration, ship finance, ship repairing, ship recycling, the education and training of seafarers, are all part of the system – as, indeed, are search and rescue services, maritime security agencies, coast guards and maritime law enforcement agencies and many others, too. They all have a part to play in defining and achieving a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.
 
Let me highlight some of these in a little more detail. As the concept document explains, such a system requires, for example, well-organized administrations that cooperate internationally and promote compliance with global standards, supported by institutions with relevant technical expertise, such as classification societies acting as recognized organizations.
 
Also needed is coordinated support from shore-side entities, such as providers of oceanographic, hydrographic and meteorological services, navigational aids, search and rescue services, incident and emergency responders and port facilities. Ports and ships cannot be treated separately. They exist together at the core of the global maritime transportation system and, therefore, the ship-port interface is an issue that must be addressed in this context. Harmonization between port policies and shipping policies is required. Regulations for ships and those for ports must be harmonized. And, cargo handling and logistics systems are also central to a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.
 
Academic institutions and research and development entities must also be actively engaged, in order to embrace new technologies and new operational practices.
 
We need to ensure that shipping, in future, will be supported by millions of well-trained and qualified seafarers.  The maritime industry, in future, needs to be supported by millions of maritime experts, engineers, workers, lawyers.  Education and training in the developing world is crucial for a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.
 
Security is essential for a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System. For this, shipping needs external assistance, such as navy patrols or on-shore action. However, it also must take its own preventative measures to address security threats arising at sea or in port, and which endanger both cargo and crew.
 
Finance would play a significant role for the Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.  A sound financial system is a prerequisite to support the construction of new ships or conversion or modification of existing ships, in order to meet safety and environmental requirements, bearing in mind the cyclical nature of the shipping sector.  I wish we could discuss whether it would be really impossible for all of us to achieve some control over investment for new build, so that we could avoid in future steep increases of tonnage leaving massive overcapacity and a supply/demand gap. I wish we could at least discuss this today.
 
A further, obvious, requirement for a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System is the global distribution, and availability, of marine fuels. And, as modern society increasingly demands clean air, so will such a system need to have access to an ample amount of clean energy, such as LNG and low-sulphur fuel oils.
 
The development of port facilities to provide fuel to ships must be based on proper assessments of future fuel demand. And, I believe that the burden and cost of complying with the stringent emission control standards developed by IMO to reflect global society’s demand for clean air should be shared equitably by society rather than pushed solely onto the shipping industry.
 
As you will see, our document on the concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transport System not only spells out in some detail exactly what such a system could look like: it also identifies a series of forward-looking, action-oriented goals for achieving it. It also lists the relevant stakeholders that would need to participate as partners in these aims, both within and beyond the shipping sector.
 
So where does IMO fit into all of this? Global standards that support "level playing fields" across the world, supporting global safety and environmental standards, addressing technical and operational requirements are equally important for a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System; and IMO has been successful in producing such standards.
 
Moreover, to ensure a cohesive system, policies related to the components of the maritime transportation system need to be coordinated. These policies must reflect the components of the system, as I have just outlined, so will inevitably include policies for the port sector, aids to navigation, oceanographic, hydrographic and meteorological services, fuel supply, the education and training of seafarers, maritime security and anti piracy actions and so on.
 
It is clear that, for sustainable maritime development to flourish, there will be distinct roles for IMO, for national governments, for industry, for other international organizations and for all those involved in the maritime transportation system, all acting in a concerted partnership.
 
All those involved, whether at the national, regional or international level, will need to consider how measures that have been developed for a specific sector may affect the maritime transportation system as a whole, and how coordination of activities can best be achieved.
 
All concerned will need to collaborate with the aim of achieving the three dimensions of sustainable development across the maritime transportation system – namely economic, social and environmental sustainability – but with the safety of shipping always being the overriding priority.
 
I believe that IMO is the logical place for this multi-sectoral policy coordination to take place.  IMO can provide the institutional framework for sustainable development in the field of maritime transportation.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, for this symposium we have assembled a diverse array of excellent and highly-qualified speakers who will expand on different aspects of sustainability in the maritime context. I should like to thank them all very much for agreeing to be part of today’s proceedings.
 
The most important thing for me is that we take the opportunity today of celebrating World Maritime Day, to discuss and debate the sustainability of the Maritime Transportation System and, in so doing, to highlight the importance of the shipping industry to the global context of sustainable development and the importance of the activities of IMO in that perspective.
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you.
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