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Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping: Speech to cadets on “the role of IMO in providing safe shipping, particularly in the Arctic”

October 19, 2013

Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping
19 October 2013
Speech to cadets on “the role of IMO in providing safe shipping, particularly in the Arctic”
By Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen, Cadets,
 
It is a pleasure to meet you today and I am very grateful for the opportunity to say a few words to you.
I always find it inspirational to see members of the younger generations on the verge of new careers and new challenges, setting out on the voyage of life. It reminds me of the responsibility that we in the slightly older generations have to ensure that the legacy we pass on to them is a good one; a sound one; a sustainable one.
 
I am a great believer in the value of education and training. Time spent for learning is never time wasted; and in the shipping industry, the need for high-quality, well-trained officers is as great as it has ever been.
 
IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It became operational in 1959 and, today, has 170 Member States and three Associate Members. A large number of intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations also participate actively in its work.
 
Because of the international nature of the shipping industry, it has long been recognized that action to improve safety in maritime operations is more effective if carried out at the international level rather than by individual countries acting unilaterally and without coordination.
 
IMO’s purpose is to ensure that shipping is safe, secure and efficient and that shipping operations are as environment friendly as possible. The nations of the world established IMO as the forum in which they would, together with the industry, develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for international shipping.
Its mandate was originally limited to safety-related issues, but subsequently its remit has expanded to embrace environmental considerations, legal matters, technical cooperation, issues that affect the overall efficiency of shipping – such as how to deal with stowaways or how a cargo manifest should be transmitted to the authorities ashore; piracy and armed robbery against ships and, most recently, maritime security.
 
The direct output of IMO’s regulatory work is a comprehensive body of international conventions, supported by literally hundreds of guidelines and recommendations that, between them, govern just about every facet of the shipping industry – from the drawing board to the scrapyard.
 
It is important to understand that implementation of IMO measures is the responsibility of the Member States. IMO is not a police force; it does not have the mandate or the capacity to put teams of inspectors aboard ships and check their compliance with international standards. It is not “operational” in the sense that it does not get involved in individual incidents and accidents at sea, such as groundings, collisions, explosions etc. It is not a court – although there is an International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, in Hamburg, but this is established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which is not an IMO Convention. And it does not get involved with issues such as territorial waters, economic zones or fishing rights. Again, these are regulated by UNCLOS and fall within the remit of other international organizations.
 
Although founded as a strictly technical body, there is no doubt that the political and economic dimensions of the Organization’s work are becoming increasingly influential and we are adapting and changing accordingly. This can be seen in a number of areas, such as the Organization’s work to improve vessel efficiency and, thereby, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from ships into the atmosphere.
 
An area in which IMO is currently taking a strong lead is in the concept of sustainable maritime development. One of the main outcomes of the UN conference on sustainability, held in Rio de Janeiro last year, was the agreement by UN member States to launch a process to develop Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Immediately after that conference, I started working on sustainable development in the maritime context. 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 – a concept that we launched on World Maritime Day last month – which is available for download on IMO’s website.
 
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.  Port operation, traffic management, communication systems, navigation aids, coast guards, search and rescue services, towage and salvage providers are all vital components.
Looking slightly further afield, shipbuilding and classification, ship registry and administration, ship finance, ship repairing, ship recycling, the education and training of seafarers and many more, all have a part to play in defining and achieving a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.
 
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.
 
You may be aware that the main purpose of my visit to your country is to participate in an international conference about the environmental and safety challenges presented by the increase in maritime traffic in the Arctic Ocean.
I made the point during the conference that the Arctic provides both an unusual challenge and a unique opportunity as far as sustainable development is concerned.
 
Shipping’s growing interest in the Arctic can be observed in a variety of different sectors. Commercial carriers are understandably excited by the apparent benefits of shorter routes.
 
For shipowners, shorter transits mean fuel, wages and other operating costs are all reduced – not to mention the additional bonus of avoiding the security trouble-spots of the Horn of Africa and the western Indian Ocean. The development of these sea routes is of enormous strategic importance and promises to open up a new era of reduced shipping time for a number of key trades between Europe and Asia.
 
The oil and gas industries are showing an increasing interest in the Arctic, as large and, so far, mainly un-tapped resources are known to be present in the area.
 
All of which will inevitably lead to more local activity, as the infrastructure needed to support it is developed. Numbers of tugs, barges, supply vessels, ferries, workboats and so on will all increase as the region is developed.
With this rapid development comes a host of new challenges, principally in the areas of safety, environmental protection and provision of the necessary infrastructure to support this upsurge in activity.
 
Special problems exist for navigation and communication, too. There is currently a scarcity of accurate, up-to-date charts; huge areas lack accurate hydrographic data. Coverage from satellite-based and land-based positioning systems is not extensive, and satellite communication systems have limited reach in the polar regions.
 
The sheer remoteness of the region means there is very little maritime infrastructure in place. Facilities for vessel traffic management, search and rescue, pollution clean-up, waste reception and so on will all need to be developed. Towage and salvage provision will need to be considered, as will places of refuge for vessels that find themselves in difficulty. More icebreakers will need to be built and this is an area the Russian Government is working on.
Earlier this year, I experienced at first hand navigation in the Northern Sea Route when I undertook a 1,700-mile voyage from the Kara Sea to the East Siberian Sea aboard the nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Let Pebedy. During the voyage I was able to observe closely the operation of the vessel, communication systems, charts and other navigational aids, and to assess the development of the search and rescue coordination centres at Dikson in the Kara Sea and Pevek in the East Siberian Sea.
 
I am most grateful to the Government of the Russian Federation for giving me this opportunity to experience the challenges that shipping in the region faces. It reinforced for me how vital it is that we work together to create the conditions in which that development can be safe, environmentally sound and sustainable. 
 
A universally accepted regulatory framework is essential for sustainable development in shipping – and the world looks to IMO to provide that framework. IMO measures are designed, among other things, to promote safety, to protect the environment, to improve efficiency and to ensure a properly trained workforce. In doing so, they contribute to the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and societal.
 
There are already a number of measures in place or under development that specifically address operations in polar regions. In March last year, for example, a draft timetable for bringing the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System up to date was agreed by the COMSAR Sub-Committee. The review of the GMDSS will look specifically into the communication requirements for the polar areas, including the use of more modern communication technologies, in recognition of the unique challenges of search and rescue in remote areas.
 
And, to better reflect the need for navigational and meteorological information and to identify the responsibilities of coastal State providers in the region, the provision of Maritime Safety Information has been updated for the Arctic, including the creation of new NAVAREAs and METAREAs up to 90 degrees north.
 
IMO has also adopted important guidelines for vessels operating in remote areas, such as the 2006 Guide for Cold Water Survival and the 2007 Guidelines on Voyage Planning for Passenger Ships Operating in Remote Areas. Moreover, the 2010 Manila Amendments to the Convention on Standards for Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) provide for new training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters, thus constituting a first step in strengthening standards for polar seafaring.
 
But the most important initiative for the development of appropriate safety and environmental regulation for Arctic shipping is the development of a mandatory polar code – which is currently underway at IMO.
 
To give it its full title, the draft International Code of Safety for Ships Operating in Polar Waters would cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding both poles.
 
The move to develop the Polar Code followed the adoption in 2009 of Guidelines for ships operating in polar waters, which address additional provisions deemed necessary beyond the requirements of existing conventions. But, whereas the Guidelines are recommendatory, the IMO membership has agreed that the Polar Code would be a mandatory instrument, setting out internationally binding requirements appropriate for the severe environmental conditions of the polar areas, over and above those already contained in existing instruments.
 
Shipping is central to the world we live in today, providing the delivery mechanism for world trade and serving the needs of a rapidly expanding global population that has already passed seven billion and is rising exponentially.
The world depends on a safe, secure and efficient shipping industry; and, in turn, the shipping industry is dependent on an adequate supply of highly qualified seafarers to operate the ships that carry the essential cargoes we all rely on.
 
Environmental pressures, the need to operate at optimum efficiency in difficult economic times and the quest for sustainable development are all combining to make modern ships more complex and sophisticated than ever before. The skill levels of sea-going personnel must be raised accordingly.
 
The modern ship’s officer needs to be far more than a navigator or an engineer, and the modern ship’s crewman needs to be far more than a manual labourer. A modern ship is a highly technical workplace operating on tight margins of commercial viability – which means that, as well as a highly-advanced technical skillset, shipboard staff now also need to be fully conversant with management and communication skills, I.T. knowledge, budget handling and so on.
 
All of which makes the importance of training and education for the ships’ crews of today and tomorrow greater than ever before. The emphasis today must be to ensure that standards of training and certification, manning, operation and management, are equally high.
 
It is, of course, highly beneficial for you that many of the skills now needed for a job at sea are also highly transferable to a continuing career ashore.
 
Many former professional seafarers are now serving in governmental departments, or are superintendents and managers in shipping companies, or perhaps working as maritime pilots or VTS operators or in rescue coordination centres. You can find them throughout the industry and in all parts of the world.
 
It is a great challenge for all of you involved in maritime training to ensure that the necessary skills are developed and practised for the future well-being of the shipping industry as a whole. This is a challenge that I am sure all of you here in St. Petersburg are rising to.
 
Shipping provides a wonderful career – exciting, rewarding and fulfilling. It can take you to so many places, all over the world, while offering you an immense variety of work experiences. And, it is not only a satisfying and worthwhile career choice in itself, it can also open the doors for you to a great variety of related jobs ashore, jobs that your experience at sea will make you very well qualified to do.
 
Russian seafarers have an excellent reputation worldwide. They are renowned for being hard-working, dedicated, competent and professional in every way. The excellent grounding you receive here, and in the country’s other excellent training institutions, provides the solid foundation on which highly qualified seafarers are continuously provided to the shipping world.
 
I wish you all the very best with your future careers; and I thank the staff of the Institute for giving me the opportunity to visit this excellent facility and meet you all today.
 
Thank you.
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