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High Level Symposium on International Maritime Developments in the Caribbean - The Institutionalization of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme

February 22, 2013

High Level Symposium on International Maritime Developments in the Caribbean
The Institutionalization of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme
Introductory remarks by Koji Sekimizu,
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you again. This time the topic is much more specific, namely the IMO Member State Audit Scheme.
In a few moments, Mr. Pedro San Miguel, my colleague from the IMO Secretariat, will speak to you in some detail about the institutionalization of the audit scheme, which is being undertaken in order to shift its status from voluntary to mandatory. As you will hear, this is a project which was given the green light by the IMO Assembly in December 2009, and with which a great deal of progress has been made.
As part of the ratification process, Parties to international conventions accept a responsibility, under international law, to fully meet and discharge the obligations contained within those instruments.
In the maritime context, IMO conventions confer clear obligations and responsibilities on States in respect of maritime safety and security and protection of the marine environment. This applies in their capacities either as flag States, coastal or port States. They have a clear responsibility to establish and maintain an adequate and effective system to exercise control over ships entitled to fly their flag, and to adopt measures to ensure that they comply with the relevant international rules and regulations.
And this is important because the ultimate effectiveness of all IMO instruments depends not only upon States becoming Parties to them, but also that they implement and enforce them fully and effectively.
But the ‘chain of command’ surrounding compliance with international standards can be long and, occasionally, complex. There are several players involved, each with their own roles and responsibilities. And, while the responsibility for developing technical standards for safety, security and pollution prevention, related to maritime transport rests with IMO, the Organization has traditionally had no enforcement or compliance monitoring role.
Governments, as I mentioned a moment ago, have a prime responsibility in this regard. But this will often be carried out through a number of different entities and authorities, coordination and communication between which may not always be as it would be in an ideal world.
And Governments then often delegate tasks connected with enforcement and compliance, such as statutory surveys and the certification of ships’ to non-state entities, typically classification societies.
In a wider context, shipping companies also have a responsibility to apply the same standards to individual ships; and shipboard personnel have the task of putting into operation the various standards related to safety and pollution prevention on ships.
All this has inevitably given rise to a situation in which national laws to implement international maritime treaties vary considerably. This, in turn, can lead to a relative absence of State accountability, varying degrees of implementation, and a lack of uniform flag State enforcement.
This is where the Audit Scheme has been of great benefit. It was envisaged from the outset that the Audit Scheme would be there to help ensure that all Member States would have a common platform and methodology for assessing and improving their capabilities, as well as their overall performance in complying with the provisions of the IMO instruments to which they are party.
It is important to remember, too, that being Party to IMO Conventions not only confers obligations, it also brings benefits; and, by the same token, those benefits can only be fully realized when all Parties carry out their obligations as required by the instruments concerned.
It is well understood and accepted that, for some at least, this is far easier said than done, and that some Member States may face difficulties in complying fully with all the provisions of the various IMO instruments to which they are party. IMO therefore has a very active programme of rendering assistance to Member Governments to improve their capabilities and overall performance in order to be able to comply with the IMO instruments to which they are party.
Indeed, one of the clear goals of the Organization is to ensure the consistent and effective implementation of IMO instruments and compliance with their requirements on a truly global basis.
The vision was of a scheme which, rather than causing embarrassment to those to be audited by exposing their weaknesses, would instead bring all parties concerned closer together in pursuit of the common goals of enhanced safety and environmental protection in promoting safer shipping and cleaner seas.
The Audit Scheme has provided a unique opportunity for IMO, as a whole, to attain its objectives in a uniform manner.
There is no doubt that every time IMO adopts a new instrument or simply a new standard, progress is made in regulating shipping engaged in international trade. But, by providing the mechanism to measure how well those measures are actually being implemented, the Audit Scheme has given IMO a tool to enable it to make even further progress. If, ultimately, the goal is to eliminate sub-standard shipping, then the Audit Scheme has been a tremendous positive force in that respect. And, when it becomes something in which all Member states participate, that positive effect will be even greater.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The world has entered an era of global interdependence. We are at a turning point. Global issues require global solutions and we need leadership for a new generation, towards new governance. We need leadership towards new partnerships – new private-public partnership and new public-public partnership. It is time to move to new ways of handling our business and a new mechanism. I believe that the Audit Scheme will give us all a solid framework in which we can explore new partnership in the future.
Thank you.