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World Shipping Council Public Address

The Harbour Club, Seattle

September 14, 2010

​World Shipping Council Public Address
The Harbour Club, Seattle
14 September 2010

President and CEO and Members of the World Shipping Council, the Propeller Club and the Puget Sound maritime community, President of the Seattle Port Commission, Ladies and gentlemen,
 
What a delight and a privilege it is to be here in what is not only a beautiful and vibrant city but also one in which the maritime world is very much to the forefront of public consciousness. I have often spoken in the past about how shipping’s profile has suffered a good deal as a result of major cities losing their direct links with the industry as ships have outgrown traditional ports and purpose-built “out-of-town” facilities have sprung up to accommodate them. So, it is gratifying indeed to see that, here in Seattle, the port is very much part of the “downtown” area.
The hustle and bustle of maritime activity still takes place right under the noses of the city’s dwellers and office workers – many of whom may even have commuted to work on the popular and extensive Washington State ferry system, which has become the transportation lifeblood of the region.
 
Seattle and the other Puget Sound ports collectively make up a multi-faceted maritime hub. Seattle and Tacoma are historical port cities, where maritime commerce has long played, and continues to play, an important part in the community. The whole of Washington State, and these maritime cities in particular, are more economically dependent on international trade and commerce than many other parts of the United States. With Boeing in the back yard and Microsoft filling the malls, with apple and cherry farmers seeking effective outlets for their bountiful produce, this is very much a “pro-trade” area.
 
Maritime trade is the key to this area’s prosperity: Alaskan oil is brought to the northern Puget Sound for refining; cruise ships pick up passengers in Seattle and, then, themselves head for Alaska and its wonderful scenic attractions. And, of course, being situated closer to the global economic engine of Asia than most other US ports, this is a vital gateway for container-based trade between the two continents.
 
This juxtaposition of shipping with a major concentration of population makes it no surprise that safety, security and environmental issues are high on the agenda here. The Seattle community is one of the more environmentally progressive areas in North America, with considerable focus placed on both air and water quality. Indeed, within the Puget Sound area as a whole, environmental quality has consistently been a matter of great public concern. Your understanding of the importance of both maritime trade and of safety, security and environmental issues make you acutely aware of the fine balance that must be achieved if the two are both to be effectively served. IMO, in partnership with the shipping industry and in consultation with environmental groups, is charged with developing and maintaining an international regulatory framework that allows just such a balance to be achieved and maintained – a framework within which efficient, clean, competitive and commercially successful shipping operations can take place.
 
Shipping has a good track record and a good story to tell – about how it carries more than 90 per cent of world trade safely, securely, efficiently and at a fraction of the environmental impact and cost of any other mode of bulk transportation. We must, therefore, spare no effort to ensure that, through the media, national and international, everyday realities, such as those I just mentioned, are always given due prominence. That is another reason why I am delighted to have the opportunity to address such a sizeable and varied audience today.
 
Of course, in any effort to improve public perception and raise positive awareness, the most important element is not the image but the reality. For, if we had already attained the ultimate goal of an industry with zero accidents, zero loss of life and zero pollution, I do not think we would need to worry too much about the image of shipping, although we would still wish to promote its global role, contribution and benefits. Redoubling our efforts to be proactive in preventing accidents and, consequently, fatalities and environmental damage, would, by itself, do the trick.
 
The World Shipping Council (whose contribution to IMO as an NGO in consultative status is highly appreciated) and the Propeller Club render invaluable services to shipping and we are grateful to both for that.
 
***
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Not only are the seas and oceans of the world worthy of protection for their own sake, they are also key components in the sustainability and preservation of the entire planet. As befits a global industry operating in such a fragile, yet crucial, milieu, shipping has developed a clear sense of responsibility vis-à-vis its environmental identity and credentials. And IMO, as the industry’s regulatory body, has been, and continues to be, the focal point for, and the driving force behind, efforts to ensure that shipping never ceases to become greener and cleaner.
Maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment are very much two sides of the same coin. Every time a ship is involved in an accident, whether it be a grounding, a collision, a fire or anything else, there is the potential for pollution. So, when we work towards the improvement and enhancement of maritime safety or security we are, at the same time, also taking steps to safeguard the marine environment.
 
The meticulously designed, extensive traffic separation scheme, for example, that IMO has, at the proposal of your community, adopted for the Puget Sound and its approaches, is a perfect illustration of how what is ostensibly a safety measure can also serve to protect the environment in an area of dense traffic and deep ecological sensitivity – efficiently and effectively supported by what I understand is the first VTS system established in the United States. There is a great deal of oil tanker traffic in this region and the spectres of the Exxon Valdez and, more recently, the Deepwater Horizon fill the American public with a perfectly rational dread of oil-related accidents. Thus far, the Pacific North West has been mercifully spared any incident of such magnitude and IMO measures on navigational and tanker safety are designed to help ensure that that remains so; something a little more tangible than knocking on wood. The terminal phasing-out, this year of single-hull tankers will, for certain, add gravitas to the various other IMO measures to enhance environmental protection along with those to strengthen tanker safety.
 
***
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
Perhaps the most significant challenge to our environment today is the preservation of the earth’s atmosphere. Although the shipping industry is a relatively small contributor to the total volume of harmful emissions (standing at less than 3 per cent of the world total on 2007 data), IMO and the shipping community at large are, nevertheless, continuing to work towards further reductions.
 
IMO’s efforts to regulate and reduce emissions from ships have been conducted (and are still being conducted) on two fronts – combating atmospheric pollution (something that will be of particular interest here, where shipping’s effect on the local air quality is so important) and limiting or reducing emissions of greenhouse gases – thus adding our own contribution to the world efforts to address the worrying phenomena of climate change and global warming.
 
The first of these, atmospheric pollution, is addressed in Annex VI of our main anti-pollution treaty instrument (the MARPOL Convention, as it is widely known), which was adopted in 1997 and set, for the first time, limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ships’ exhausts i.e. bunker fuels and marine engines (otherwise known as SOx and NOx); prohibited deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances; and put a global cap on the sulphur content of fuel oil.
 
In 2008, IMO adopted amendments to Annex VI, providing for further progressive reductions in SOx emissions from ships; in the overall limits applicable both globally and in Emission Control Areas – known as ECAs; and in NOx emissions from marine engines. The revised Annex VI (which entered into force in July of this year and in the formulation of which your Vice-President Bryan Wood-Thomas played an instrumental role) also allows, in certain circumstances, for ECAs to be designated for reduced SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships. Indeed, the first new ECA to be designated as such and adopted under the 2008 amendments, following a joint proposal by the United States and Canada, is to be found here, off your coast, as part of the wider oceanic areas covering the Pacific and Atlantic waters facing the two countries. This first, extensive ECA – the introduction of which is expected to stem ship-generated emissions that may have the potential to harm human health – is expected to enter into force on 1 August next year.
 
***
 
Turning to the second strand of IMO’s efforts regarding atmospheric issues, the Organization is in the final stages of developing a robust regime to regulate shipping at the global level and, thus, contribute, from its perspective, to the slowing down of climate change.
 
As envisaged, this regime consists of three pillars: technical, operational and market-based measures – all designed to pave the way for significant reductions in GHG emissions. Significant progress has been made on all three and work has been continuing, in earnest, between sessions of our Marine Environment Protection Committee, which meets, once again, later this month, with this topic high on its agenda. In this context, I should like to thank the World Shipping Council for its contribution to the debate on possible market-based measures by proposing a standards-based system aiming at driving emission reductions from within the industry itself – which is one of the ten schemes put forward for consideration by an Expert Group, the findings of which will be reported to MEPC’s forthcoming session.
 
***
 
Ladies and gentlemen, if our work on climate change is to serve the best interests of shipping, IMO and, most important of all, the environment itself, we must keep two broad objectives in mind. One concerns the measures we develop, which must be workable, effective, well balanced and proportionate to the level of responsibility of shipping within the world total of greenhouse gas emissions. The second is that we must not only conclude our work successfully but also in good time, thus confirming the seriousness with which we approach our task and highlighting the efficiency and effectiveness we aspire the outcome of our endeavours will have within the overall efforts of the community as a whole to stem greenhouse gas emissions.
 
I am firmly convinced that the industry and its regulators share common aims in this respect. I regard the quest to continually reduce any harmful impact shipping may have on the environment as one on which we are jointly embarked and in which success will produce a “win-win” situation. After all, costs incurred to improve vessel efficiency would generate lower fuel consumption and, in that sense, they could be seen as an investment in corporate assets from which everybody benefits. I, therefore, appreciate very much the industry’s support and co-operation and feel encouraged that, working together, we will be able to make the difference that the environment deserves, shipping is prepared to contribute to and IMO aims at achieving.
 
***

Ladies and gentlemen,
 
As members of the wider maritime community here in Seattle and beyond, you will, I am sure, understand why I want now to say a few words about one particular part of that community that is often unsung and largely unheralded. I refer, as you may have guessed, to the seafarers.
 
In today’s global economy, it is not just the citizens of a maritime enclave, such as this, that depend on them, albeit unwittingly; the reality is that, all over the world, hundreds of millions of people rely on ships to transport the great multitude of commodities, fuel, foodstuffs, goods and products on which our lifestyles are based. But ships without seafarers to sail them would remain idle in ports. Once we recognize this simple reality, we will then treat them with the consideration and respect they deserve. For example, while I applaud the measures you have taken in the Port of Seattle to implement the ISPC Code and fully understand how important an issue port and container security is – particularly here where the US Customs’ authority deserves great credit for developing what is perhaps the most sophisticated cargo screening system in the world – I would urge all concerned to take care that, for all they do for us, seafarers are welcomed as visitors and guests.
 
As I hope you are all aware, 2010 has been – and still is – the “Year of the Seafarer”. Much has been done to raise their profile and to draw attention to the adversities they face in the execution of their duties in an often hostile environment and the debt that society, as a whole, owes to them. Looking to the future, in order to ensure that the impetus created this year is maintained, the Conference IMO convened in Manila in June, to adopt amendments to the STCW Convention, decided that, from now on each year, the “Day of the Seafarer” should be celebrated on the 25th of June – the date the Conference concluded its work and on which it adopted a resolution to this effect. I urge you to ink this date in your diaries, and to start planning straight away how you, as a community with deep-rooted maritime features, can join in the celebrations to pay tribute to what is, collectively, shipping’s most valuable asset.
 
***
 
Among the many hazards faced by seafarers today is the scourge of piracy, and I should like to conclude with a few words about its challenges and the efforts underway to address this insidious problem.
 
Let me, first of all, emphasize a fact that is often overlooked: if we set aside Somalia-related incidents, the overall number of acts of piracy and robbery against ships has been reducing, year-on-year, recently and most distinctly since 2003. The coordinated anti-piracy efforts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore have been extremely effective in achieving just that in an area that constitutes the second busiest shipping lane in the world, forming an indispensable lifeline for the economies of the Far East and being used by many great ships, including containerships of the first rate. It is, I think, important to keep this welcome development in perspective.
 
That said, I will now turn to the situation in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia and even the wider area of the western Indian Ocean. Although the presence of naval forces in the region has had a welcome positive effect, it is worrying that the perpetrators appear to have moved their activities further off shore into the wider Indian Ocean and into waters as far south as the Seychelles.
 
While recognizing that the root causes of piracy must be addressed on land, IMO is doing everything in its power to eradicate the threat and thus restore safety of navigation in the wider region, acting, to that effect, in unison with the United Nations and other UN agencies, political and military alliances and industry organizations. The list of measures we have either initiated or been involved in is a long one; we have, for example, raised awareness of the issue and successfully called for action within the UN Security Council; participated actively in the work of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia; issued advice to Governments, shipowners, ship operators and seafarers about practicable avoidance, evasion and defensive measures; and co operated with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea to assess the extent to which existing legislation provides a sufficient basis for the prosecution of alleged pirates.
 
Perhaps most significantly, in 2009 we developed a Code of Conduct, which provides a framework for co-operation on the investigation, arrest and prosecution of suspected pirates; the interdiction and seizure of suspect ships and property; the release of ships, persons and property subject to piracy; the facilitation of care, treatment and repatriation of seafarers, fishermen and other persons subject to such acts; and the conduct of shared operations both among signatory States and with navies from other countries. The Code, named after the capital city of Djibouti where it was adopted, has so far been signed by 16 States from the affected region and we hope that others will join soon.
 
The industry’s own response to the threat of piracy and armed robbery against ships has been commendable, as evidenced by the fact that an estimated 80 per cent of ships transiting the Gulf of Aden apply the relevant IMO Guidelines and the industry-recommended Best Management Practices.
 
Whilst most of our anti-piracy campaign concentrates on the situation in the waters of the western Indian Ocean, we, nevertheless, keep an eye on other areas of the world affected by pirates and armed robbers, most significantly the Gulf of Guinea and, recently, the southern part of the Red Sea, which do cause us great concern in the light of some high-profile incidents that have reportedly taken place in those waters recently.
 
Notwithstanding the relative success of the various and multi-faceted efforts so far made by many parties to address the scourge of piracy, much work still remains for us to do if the ultimate goal of eliminating piracy is to be achieved. Let us not forget that more than 350 seafarers are presently kept hostage for ransom by pirates.
And so, in order to place even more emphasis on the full gamut of actions undertaken by IMO and by the maritime community at large, we have decided that the theme for next year’s World Maritime Day should be “Piracy: orchestrating the response”. This will provide us all with an excellent opportunity, throughout 2011 and beyond, to maintain and enhance our efforts to galvanize worldwide support and resources for effective counter-piracy strategies and operations, at the same time transcending our perennial duty of care for the safety of those who go down to sea on ships.
 
IMO will, of course, continue to promote civil and military co-operation and action by navies, not only as a means of protecting seafarers, fishermen, passengers and global maritime transport, but also as a means of developing the capacities of States in piracy-infested areas to enforce the rule of law at sea. Together with several partners representing the shipping industry and seafarers, we have continued to press, through the good offices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Security Council, for a speedy settlement of the political issue in Somalia; prompt action to ensure the release of seafarers held hostage there; and for States to commit resources for the eradication of piracy and the preservation of maritime safety and security in the troubled waters off both sides of the Horn of Africa.
 
***
 
Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a great pleasure to come to the west side of your great country and share with you some of my views on matters of importance on IMO’s current agenda. I, therefore, thank you for the opportunity to address you and look forward to you giving me the pleasure of reciprocating your hospitality in London.
 
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