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Future Ship Safety Symposium - Opening Remarks

June 10, 2013

Future Ship Safety Symposium
IMO HQ, 10-11 June 2013
Opening Remarks, Day 1, by Koji Sekimizu,
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to IMO today, for an event that marks something of a departure from “business as usual” at IMO.
 
I am particularly pleased to be able to welcome many of you to IMO for the first time, and, again for the first time, to welcome participants who are taking part via various means of remote access. I trust the technology is successful, and that you will be able to participate fully from your office located in various regions of the world. It is now 5 p.m. in Tokyo and 4 a.m. in New York.
 
Good morning Americas and good evening Asia and Oceania. I wish you will all stay up with us meeting at IMO Headquarters in London.
 
When I addressed the 27th IMO Assembly in 2011 to thank delegates for confirming my election as Secretary-General, I said that I felt it was important that, as well as pursuing all its regular activities, IMO should create the opportunity to take a step aside from its day-to-day business and contemplate the future of ship safety in a more holistic and rounded way.
 
I said that we needed to look forward, and to assess the potential of emerging new technologies and innovations that might lead us into a new era of maritime transportation systems, with new challenges and opportunities for safety. To this end, my idea was to launch a symposium to look at wide ranging issues and the future of ship safety, at some time during last year, 2012.
 
Indeed, 2012 seemed a suitable year in which to hold such a symposium, as it saw a number of anniversaries of significant events on the pathway towards maritime safety.
 
For example, it marked 25 years since the sinking of the Dona Paz, in the Philippines, and the capsize of the Herald of Free Enterprise, in the English Channel. The Dona Paz will be remembered in particular for the huge loss of life – some estimates suggest that more than 4,000 people may have perished in the disaster – while the Herald of Free Enterprise became the catalyst for the development of the International Maritime Safety Management Code.
 
The most famous of last year’s anniversaries was, of course, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the White Star liner Titanic, which we ourselves marked in last year’s World Maritime Day theme.
 
The Titanic disaster prompted the major shipping nations of the world, at that time, to take decisive action to address maritime safety. It led to the adoption of the first international convention on safety of life at sea, SOLAS, in 1914. Next year, 2014, will mark the 100th anniversary of SOLAS.
 
IMO can trace its own roots back to the Titanic disaster. In its aftermath, the requirement for an international standard-setting body to oversee maritime safety became apparent; and safety at sea remains the core objective of IMO.
 
As it happened, 2012 also turned out to be a year that will be remembered for its own shipping accidents. The Rabaul Queen off Papua New Guinea, the Shariatpur-1 in Bangladesh and, of course, the Costa Concordia, on the coast of Italy, reminded us that our work to improve safety can never cease.
 
The grounding and subsequent capsize of the Costa Concordia raised serious concern in the general public on the safety of large passenger ships.  It certainly prompted me, as the IMO Secretary-General, to reconsider and reschedule all planned activities of that year, 2012, that deal with passenger ship safety – including the planned symposium. I simply did not want to intervene in the process of the safety review into the Costa Concordia accident last year and at the beginning of this year with the assurance of the availability of the Casualty Investigation report, I decided to hold the Symposium now.
 
The Symposium aims to look ahead to the decades to come, and to the ships of the future. Such vessels must be able to meet clear goals and functional requirements to fulfil the safety and, increasingly, the environmental expectations of society – which are growing ever more demanding. The ships of the future must provide a continuous response to the needs of society, industry and global trade and be operated within a framework that encourages a safety culture beyond mere compliance with statutory requirements. The Symposium will also provide a good opportunity to consider future regimes and regulatory systems over ship safety; the future of SOLAS as well.
 
There is a trend towards a more scientific approach, including risk-based methodologies, in the design and operation of the safe ship of today.
 
This trend is set to continue, but it requires structured data collection and analysis methodologies to give future regulations a sound basis from which risk-based regulations will emerge reflecting more formal safety assessment techniques.  The advances in technology unavoidably outpace prescriptive regulation. Ships are being built today to meet demands and challenges not thought of until very recently, and the innovation inherent in their design today will find its way into the mainstream design of tomorrow. As such, there is a need to devise a regulatory framework that will evaluate and regulate designs for safety through technological innovation.
 
The Symposium will discuss all of these issues from the standpoints of designers, builders, operators, regulators, class and academia and will provide the forum for a look over the horizon at the shape of things to emerge. The Symposium will attempt to picture the world of the future, and conceptualize shipping in that future world in order to initiate now the identification of actions needed to get from where we are today – to where we want to be in that future world. We must act now to shape what we want in 2050.
 
On the first day, the Symposium will review the current impacts on ship safety today, and question where this is heading to and where we would wish to be from the perspectives of the shipping industry, society and others – in view of the challenges, opportunities and driving forces that currently exist.  The second day will aim to answer those questions by addressing approaches to ship design, risk assessment and the human element with a focus on how these elements may best be regulated in the future.
 
We are dealing with the future of ship safety. But in the wake of the recent nuclear industry disaster after Tsunami in Japan, I thought it would be beneficial for us to learn from the Fukushima incident and actions taken in the nuclear industry. Because, we are handling the same issue – safety. I think that lessons learnt from Fukushima should be taken into account in our discussion.
I appreciate Mr. Amano, Director-General of IAEA for responding to my request and sending the Head of Transport Safety, Mr. Jim Stewart to this Symposium to share their lessons with us and the maritime community. I appreciate Mr. Stewart, for your participation and contribution.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, each new generation of vessels brings fresh challenges and, even today, accidents still occur, reinforcing the need for continual improvement. Our efforts to promote maritime safety will never end.
 
Indeed, it is my belief that we stand on the brink of a new and positive era for ship safety, with techniques such as formal safety assessment, probabilistic risk assessment, and measures such as goal-based construction standards pointing the way towards more robust and safer ship designs. I feel sure that the collective expertise of all those participating in this Symposium, including those of you who are participating remotely on a global scale, will help us to see that future more clearly after the next two days.
 
Thank you.
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