International Maritime Pilots’ Association
Video-Address by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
Panama City, April 7-11 2014
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to address you today. Because of the unforeseeable developments which have not allowed me to travel away from home and although I am not attending this Congress with great regret, I am delighted to have, once again, the chance to share a few thoughts with you on the occasion of your Congress. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to tell you, once again, how much the contribution of IMPA to the work of IMO is appreciated, particularly on matters concerning the safety of navigation.
Over more than 40 years since IMPA was granted consultative status at IMO, your Association has consistently brought a strong professional voice to our international forum. If pilots help shipping to navigate through difficult waters in real life, then the same could be said of your assistance to IMO, as you help us to make sure the industry continues to become, safer, greener and more sustainable.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I last spoke to you, in 2012, the location was London. I remarked at the time how appropriate it was that you should pick one of the world’s traditional centres of maritime activity for your Congress.
The same can be said of Panama, although perhaps for slightly different reasons. Panama today is one of the great maritime centres of the modern era, with the world’s largest ship registry and the iconic canal, a waterway that not only shapes the world’s modern trade routes but also exerts a huge influence on the design of ships, too.
It also has a strong resonance as the location for a Congress of pilots, bearing in mind the critical role that you play in taking ships safely through the Canal. This year marks the centenary of the opening of the Canal and we are here at a pivotal time in its ambitious enhancement and improvement project.
I note from the conference programme that the impact of the canal expansion will be among the topics covered during this Congress, along with a number of other very specific issues such as pilot boats, pilot access, pilot training, the manoeuvrability of very large ships, e-navigation, as well as the pilotage situation in a number of geographical areas.
I see, too, that later in the event you will be setting aside strictly pilot-related topics and devoting time to look at what might be termed 'The bigger picture', With that in mind, I should like to outline for you today some of the major issues on IMO’s agenda for the coming period, when the Organization will be seeking to make progress in a number of important areas.
First, as you would expect, safety must always be at the top of the list and, in this context, a top priority is to ensure a thorough and effective response is made to the Costa Concordia incident. The grounding of the Costa Concordia occurred in the centenary year of the Titanic sinking, and only two weeks after I took up my new responsibility as Secretary-General of IMO. You cannot compare the scale of the loss of lives in the two incidents but, nevertheless, as I stated immediately afterwards, IMO could not take this latter accident lightly; it was, and is, imperative that we seriously consider the lessons to be learnt and examine the regulations in the light of the casualty investigation.
Through its Maritime Safety Committee, the Organization has already taken some action. However, despite two years of discussion and development, this important issue is still not finalized.
I am eagerly looking forward to the debate at the coming MSC in May on the issue of safety of large passenger ships, covering all aspects including design, damage stability, operation and management aspects in the context of the Costa Concordia accident. I hope the Committee will take decisive action to further improve the regulatory system in the light of this incident. The stakes are high, and if IMO cannot take the appropriate action, then nobody can.
Last year, there was another accident which I think deserves equally thorough consideration. Although, in this case, no life was lost and there was no major pollution, nevertheless this was a very serious incident. I am referring to the Japanese-built MOL Comfort, a relatively young container ship which developed a serious crack, leading to the progressive structural failure and the total loss of the vessel.
I would like to see an accelerated investigation into this casualty and all the necessary information provided to IMO as soon as possible. The MSC is, again, the most appropriate body in the world to deal with this important issue. And again, the stakes are very high indeed.
Both these incidents lend weight to my feeling that the time has come for a new regime for the safety of shipping in the future.
The first Safety of Life at Sea Convention – SOLAS – was adopted in London, just two years after the sinking of the Titanic. That instrument effectively created one of the most important fields of activities of IMO. In 1974, IMO adopted the current version of this Convention, and it is still in place today.
The 1974 SOLAS Convention provides a good framework and we can update it as necessary, as we have done over the last four decades. But it is largely a prescriptive instrument. In the years to come, however, my aspiration is to encourage the maritime community to use more safety-assessment and risk-assessment techniques in framing goal-based regulations. This process is already underway and I think it is in this approach that the future lies. The development of goal-based standards for construction rules for tankers and bunkers is a step in this direction and their implementation is another "must" for IMO and for shipping.
We need to start, as soon as possible, a holistic review of the current regime. We should not rush, but we should start working now, with all stakeholders. Emerging technologies and innovation offer huge potential to take safety into a new era – but they need to be properly and cautiously embraced, in a systematic way, making sure that all relevant players are involved in the process.
In this context, what would be of paramount importance is to establish a robust formal mechanism of collection and analysis of casualty data under SOLAS, so that objective judgement over the risks could shape in design standards of future ships. This would entail a long process but we must start creating such a mechanism as soon as possible.
This year marks 100 years after the adoption of the first SOLAS, and 2024 will be the 50th anniversary of the 1974 SOLAS Convention. I think the regulatory regime of tomorrow may well require a full and complete review of the SOLAS Convention. My vision is to introduce a system change before we celebrate that 50th anniversary, in 2024. We need to make serious efforts now, and for the decade to come, to develop a new SOLAS, SOLAS 2024, for the jubilee year of the current instrument.
Safety must remain firmly at the centre of IMO’s activities. As pilots, you will be more aware than most that, despite the huge advances that have been made in recent years, each new generation of vessels brings fresh challenges and accidents still occur, even today. This reinforces the need for continual improvement and underlines the idea that the maritime community should start considering a new regime for the future.
The ships of the future must provide a continuous response to the needs of society, industry and global trade and must be operated within a framework that encourages a safety culture beyond mere compliance with statutory requirements.
I genuinely believe 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 based on systematic casualty data analysis, and measures such as goal-based construction standards pointing the way towards more robust and safer ship designs.
Ladies and gentlemen, although maritime safety is still at the centre of IMO’s work, other areas also form a key part of the Organization’s remit.
Implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention is at the top of the agenda of IMO in the field of protection of the marine environment. As I have said many times before, we cannot escape from the need for prevention of the global spread of harmful invasive species via transfers of unmanaged ballast waters and sediments, because these harmful transfers are inherently linked to the expansion of shipping. This is, in my view, a risk management measure. Unless we take action now, you never know what problem would happen when, where and in what magnitude in the future. Shipping cannot escape from this issue and we must implement the best technology available now. In this context and as I have said also many times, any work on the unwanted transfer of invasive species through ships’ ballast water and sediments must be done under the Ballast Water Management Convention in force.
We have spent more than 10 years at MEPC in formulating a new legal instrument dealing with ballast water management. We have spent another decade since the adoption of the Ballast Water Management Convention in 2004. We have an ever-growing number of type-approved ballast water management systems now available, including for ships with high capacity and high flow rate, and these are being fitted in increasing numbers.
Therefore, I am still hopeful and optimistic that the threshold tonnage value of 35% for condition for entry into force could be fulfilled before the end of this year, 2014, and the Convention would be implemented before the beginning of 2016.
Other high environmental priorities include the wider and deeper implementation of the IMO measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, including the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, together with the promotion of technical cooperation and technology transfer relating to improvement of energy efficiency of ships.
The identification and adoption of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, or PSSAs, is another high-priority area for IMO. A Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) is one that needs special protection through action by IMO because of its significance for recognized ecological or socio-economic or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities. So far 14 PSSAs have been designated and that number may well increase in the future.
Atmospheric pollution from ships has been a major concern of IMO for many years and the Organization can point to a detailed and comprehensive set of measures aimed at reducing it. This work continues, with 2020 identified as a key target date for further reductions in the sulphur content of marine fuel. IMO is committed to carrying out a study on the likely availability of low-sulphur fuel in 2020 and I have voiced my support for proposals that this study should be carried out as soon as possible, without delay. We need a clear picture of the availability of low-sulphur fuel as soon as possible, in order to take appropriate actions in time to meet the target date.
One important area of IMO’s work that embraces environmental and ship safety concerns is the development of a mandatory code for ships operating in polar waters. In recent years, we have witnessed increasing navigation of the Arctic northern sea route, not only by ships seeking a shorter route between the Atlantic and the Pacific but also through oil and gas exploration activities and increasing numbers of cruise ships bringing passengers to marvel at the majestic scenery of these extreme regions.
The safety of ships operating in the harsh, remote and vulnerable polar areas and the protection of the pristine environments around the two poles have always been a matter of concern for IMO and many relevant requirements, provisions and recommendations have been developed over the years.
Ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic environments are exposed to a number of unique risks. Poor weather conditions and the relative lack of good charts, communication systems and other navigational aids pose challenges for mariners. The remoteness of the areas makes rescue or clean-up operations difficult and costly. Cold temperatures may reduce the effectiveness of numerous components of the ship, ranging from deck machinery and emergency equipment to sea suctions. When ice is present, it can impose additional loads on the hull, propulsion system and appendages.
A universally accepted regulatory framework for vessels operating in these challenging conditions is essential – and the world is looking to IMO to provide that framework. A mandatory polar code is in the final stages of preparation at IMO. It is expected to be adopted by the beginning of next year, 2015, and to become effective at the beginning of 2017.
The security of shipping is another important area of IMO’s work. Because of the global character of piracy and the vital need to combat it, States must establish effective cooperative mechanisms. The UN system as a whole acts as a leader and a facilitator in this respect, and IMO plays a central part in these efforts.
Capacity building in Somalia and neighbouring countries is being enhanced through cooperation between IMO and the UN, UN specialized agencies and other relevant international organizations, founded on IMO’s existing capacity-building activities under the IMO-led regional counter-piracy agreement, the Djibouti Code of Conduct.
The combination of these and other efforts has resulted in a welcomed reduction in piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean. The goal now is to hand over the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct to the signatory States.
More recently, however, the ongoing situation in the Gulf of Guinea, west and central Africa, where there has also been an unacceptably high level of acts of piracy and, more frequently, armed robbery against ships, has received increasing attention.
IMO, in cooperation with the Member States of the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), is seeking to address these issues through capacity building and developing a regional “coast guard function network”, addressing a wide range of maritime safety, security and law enforcement challenges.
A Code of Conduct was adopted formally by the Head of State meeting in Cameroon's capital, Yaoundé, in June 2013, and has subsequently been endorsed by 25 States. The Code builds on the existing MoU and incorporates a number of elements of the Djibouti Code of Conduct, but is much wider in scope as it addresses a range of illicit activities at sea including illegal fishing, illegal oil bunkering, drug smuggling and piracy.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the years, IMO has built up an enviable track record for developing and adopting new international conventions. There are some 53 in all. Collectively, they are aimed either at the prevention of accidents, casualties and environmental damage from ships; at mitigating the negative effects of accidents when they do occur, or at establishing a mechanism for ensuring that those who suffer the consequences of an accident can be adequately compensated.
While most of these are in force and have done so much to make shipping safer, more efficient and more environment friendly, there are still several conventions for which a slow pace of ratification and a lack of implementation are serious causes for concern. I believe that we can, indeed must, do more in this respect.
This is why I believe that the theme selected for World Maritime Day 2014 – namely “IMO conventions: effective implementation” – is so important. Through it, we will have the opportunity to shine a spotlight on those IMO treaty instruments which have not yet entered into force, as well as those for which ratification by more States would lead to more effective implementation. The sooner these conventions enter into force, the sooner the benefits they enshrine can be felt and the hard work of those who developed them can be justified.
Although IMO’s membership is made up of governments, and its primary role is to regulate the shipping industry, it simply could not function without the active engagement of the industry. This is achieved through the participation of a long list of industry organizations in the work of IMO. There are more than 60 of these non-governmental organizations that have consultative status at IMO, and the range of different interests they represent is comprehensive. Shipowners, ship managers, shippers, shipbuilders, ship repairers and classification societies are all represented, as indeed are lighthouse authorities, terminal operators and, of course, you, the pilots – as well as many, many more.
Through these organizations, just about every sector and discipline within the industry can participate in the process of establishing and agreeing standards for the industry at IMO – and, equally important, ensuring the universal and effective implementation of those standards.
Collectively, you represent many different and often apparently unrelated facets of the industry; but what you share is a strong and passionate belief in ensuring that the shipping industry is seen as a trusted and responsible partner in the communities that it serves.
The synergies that can be achieved when industry and regulators combine can be seen in many – indeed most – of the measures adopted by IMO. And, looking to the future, I believe that it is only through similar cooperation that the objective of a sustainable maritime transportation system can be achieved. Regulators, governments, policy makers, administrators and all sectors of the industry need to work together to create the conditions in which future development can be safe, environmentally sound and sustainable.
Pilots can play a hugely positive and beneficial role in this, not only through your formal input, through IMPA, to IMO, but also in the day-to-day encounters that pilots have with ships and their masters and officers. This is a really important aspect of your work. Indeed I was reminded by your Secretary-General, Nick Cutmore, while preparing for this address, that, for all the technology available today, marine pilotage is essentially a human activity and the human element is critical – and this applies as much to the pilot as to the bridge team with whom he or she works.
“Pilots are interested in technology but not carried away by it,” Nick said. “In our business looking out the window remains critical.”
There is a strong argument that pilots are at the top of the tree as navigation professionals, as not only do they always operate in high-risk areas such as port approaches, shallow or constricted waters and crowded shipping lanes, they also have to apply their skills across the complete range of vessel types and sizes. As such, the shipping community has always viewed pilots as an essential element in the safety chain.
Recognizing the depth of professionalism and expertise that pilots bring to every aspect of their work, I have no doubt that pilots will continue to live up to those lofty expectations.