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Monaco Shipping Event: Climate change and piracy top issues on IMO’s agenda

Monegasque Chamber of Shipping

June 18, 2011

Monegasque Chamber of Shipping
“Monaco Shipping Event”
16-18 June 2011
“Climate change and piracy top issues on IMO’s agenda”
Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Your Serene Highness, Excellencies, Chairman, President of ICS/ISF, President of the Chambre Monegasque du Shipping, President of V. Ships, distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is a pleasure for me to be with you this evening and I thank the organizers of this event for their invitation. Monaco is an esteemed member of IMO and the maritime community at large with a good record of ratification of Conventions developed and adopted by the Organization – not to mention that it provides host country facilities to the International Hydrographic Organization, with which IMO has a long and fruitful working relationship.
 
Of the plethora of items on IMO’s current agenda, I have chosen to speak to you today about our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and about our anti-piracy campaign off the coast of Somalia.
 
However, before I go any further with my subject, I will use this opportunity to pay a special tribute to you, Your Serene Highness, for your interest in all matters maritime and, in particular, for your sensitivity about the environment – both marine and atmospheric – and about the protection and preservation of marine wildlife.  Of the former, I have personally witnessed your active role at successive sessions of the UN Conference on Climate Change, while, on the latter, the inclusion of Mr. Mayol in these proceedings is indicative of your genuine interest to ensure the conservation of cetaceans in the Mediterranean – an initiative that matches that of IMO, when, early in the last decade, we adopted a mandatory ship reporting system to protect the highly endangered north Atlantic right whale off the north-eastern and south-eastern coasts of the United States.
 
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
In the last half century, the environmental credentials of all industrial sectors have come under closer scrutiny than ever before. The transport industry has, along with several others, been identified as one from which significant, continued improvements need to, and can, be sought and obtained. As the specialized agency of the United Nations with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of pollution by ships, IMO has a leading role to play in this – principally in the creation, maintenance and development of the international framework through which shipping is regulated.
 
Of necessity, shipping takes place in a particularly precious and vulnerable setting. 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. Today, marine ecosystems and biodiversity are endangered; and marine species, such as whales, seals and dolphins, are in decline – as are the world’s fish stocks. 
 
Yet statistics reveal that shipping is the least environmentally-damaging form of commercial transport and, in comparison with the land-based industry, is a relatively minor contributor, overall, to marine pollution from human activities.
 
Indeed, despite a massive increase in world seaborne trade over the last 20 years, there has been a substantial reduction in marine pollution from ships – especially with regard to the amount of oil spilled into the sea. While the industry’s own desire and determination to become cleaner and greener has played a major part in this, so too has the international regulatory framework put in place by IMO.
 
It is hard to imagine it today but, when the Convention establishing IMO was adopted in 1948, marine pollution was regarded as little more than a local problem. Some areas, notably those near ports and on major shipping routes, had experienced occasional oil pollution, but it was not generally thought of as a matter of international, let alone global, concern.
 
By the 1950s, world trade was growing, the merchant fleet was expanding and oil pollution was increasing. When IMO became operational, in 1959, the global boom in international oil trade was just around the corner. Within less than two decades, the world tanker fleet had increased tenfold in tonnage and tankers themselves had grown in numbers and size by almost the same amount.
 
One result of all this was an alarming increase in marine pollution, especially oil pollution, which was caused not only by tanker accidents but also as a consequence of routine operations on board.
 
A multi-faceted, ambitious programme of work in IMO led to the adoption, in 1973, of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, now known universally as MARPOL. Today, albeit much expanded, amended and updated, the MARPOL Convention remains the most important international treaty instrument covering the prevention of virtually all possible sources of marine and atmospheric pollution, such as pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; by sewage; by garbage; and, most recently, pollution of the air from ships.
 
Looking beyond MARPOL, IMO’s environmental work in recent years has covered a remarkably broad canvas, embracing everything from the topics I just mentioned to, for example, the microscopic aquatic life-forms (that, when transported in ships’ ballast water, can cause immense damage to alien local ecosystems); to the use of harmful anti-fouling paint on ships’ hulls; to ship recycling; to preparedness, response and co-operation in tackling pollution from oil and from hazardous and noxious substances; to the right of States to intervene on the high seas (to prevent, mitigate or eliminate danger to their coastlines or related interests from pollution following a maritime casualty); and to the removal of wrecks that may present either a hazard to navigation or a threat to the marine and coastal environments, or both.
 
But perhaps the most significant threat to our environment today concerns the earth’s atmosphere. And, although the shipping industry is a relatively small contributor to the total volume of harmful emissions, nevertheless, IMO has worked tirelessly in this arena and continues to work towards further reductions.
 
Our efforts to regulate and reduce harmful emissions from ships are conducted on two fronts: combating atmospheric pollution and reducing or limiting emissions of greenhouse gases.
 
The first of these, atmospheric pollution, is addressed in Annex VI of MARPOL, which, among other things, sets, for the first time, limits on sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions from ships’ exhausts; prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances; and puts a global cap on the sulphur content of fuel oil.  Through amendments adopted in 2008, Annex VI ushers in progressive reductions in SOx and NOx emissions and a reduction of the limits applicable both globally and in designated Emission Control Areas – known as ECAs.
 
Much of the context for IMO’s work on greenhouse gas emissions has been provided by two studies commissioned by the Organization to ascertain just how much international shipping was responsible for such emissions globally; to look at possible scenarios for curbing them; and to analyze the likely consequences of such scenarios.
 
The first study, completed in 2000, estimated that ships emitted about 420 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which amounted to about 1.8 per cent of the world’s total anthropogenic CO2 emissions that year.
 
Its conclusions pointed to the fact that there is no other mode of transport with a better energy-efficiency record than sea transport, on a tonne-mile basis. Nevertheless, it went on to identify a number of areas with potential for reduction of CO2 emissions that, if combined, could lead to a 40 per cent reduction, again on a tonne-mile basis.  It has, however, also found that technical and operational measures alone could not eliminate completely the impact of ships’ emissions on the environment.  If the increase in demand for shipping services and market requirements for high speeds and availability were to continue, there would be a need for additional measures to prevent a total growth in emissions from ships – enter the market-based measures. 
 
The second study was completed in 2009 and concluded that international shipping contributes some 2.7% of the world total of CO2 emissions.  It constitutes the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the level of GHG emitted by ships and, more importantly, of its potential to be reduced.
 
The technical and operational measures IMO has worked on, over the last five years, are now fully developed, well matured and ready for consideration as mandatory requirements – indeed, at its next meeting in three weeks time, our MEPC will be invited to adopt them under a new section on energy efficiency in Annex VI to MARPOL. At the same meeting, work will continue on the development of market-based measures, the “third pillar” of IMO’s GHG reduction efforts. It is not possible to say, at this stage, what the outcome will be. But there does seem to be a strong feeling among many IMO Members that strong action is needed – and I feel cautiously optimistic that, through displaying a firm determination to serve the best interests of the environment, we shall see a positive outcome.
 
IMO’s work on the control and reduction of GHG emissions has been part of a coordinated global campaign spearheaded by the United Nations – a campaign that has recently generated widespread global interest. Slowing – and reversing – climate change and ocean acidification is the defining challenge of our age and the world is looking to the United Nations to provide the education, information, guidance and, ultimately, action the issue deserves. IMO has a key role to play in what must, of necessity, be a concerted effort.
 
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And, speaking of a “concerted effort”, I turn to the other top issue on IMO’s current agenda, the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia.
 
I do not think there is much to say about the scale and the scope of this problem, whether from an economic, operational or humanitarian viewpoint. We all know how appalling its impact is on those who fall victim to it (472 seafarers from 23 ships, according to latest information – figures, which, however, compare favourably with the 32 ships and 723 seafarers, when both, ships and seafarers, peaked in February of this year – although, in my view, even one ship and one seafarer in the hands of pirates are one too many). It is, therefore, imperatively urgent that we find real and lasting solutions to a problem that we have been tolerating for far too long.
 
As you know, combating piracy is a central theme of IMO’s work this year. We have developed a multi-faceted action plan designed to address the problem at several levels and are proceeding with its implementation in an orchestrated manner – a reflection of the fact that the problem has become too entrenched and deep-rooted to be solved by any single entity. The United Nations, Governments acting collectively or individually, military forces, shipping companies, ship operators and ships’ crews, all have a crucial part to play in order to rid our industry, strategically important shipping lanes and seaborne trade of this crime.
 
I think we need to seek solutions concurrently in three distinct time horizons.  In the immediate term, we need to contain piracy and thwart pirate attacks; in the mid-term, we need to undermine organized crime entities to plan and mastermind pirate operations and make it harder for pirates to engage in and conduct such operations; and, in the long term, we (and by “we” I mean the international community as a whole) need to help the people of Somalia to rebuild their country so that crime is no longer the preferred option for them.
 
Despite the number of successful pirate attacks overall continuing to cause concern, there is, nevertheless, some success to take comfort from, as the percentage of attempted attacks that end up successfully for the pirates has dropped from more than 40 per cent historically to less that 20 per cent this year – testimony, I am sure, to the effectiveness both of the naval presence in the region and of the best management practices for ships developed by the industry and promulgated through IMO.
 
As far as the mid- to long-term measures to combat piracy are concerned, good progress is being made through the implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct. All three information-sharing centres recommended under the Code are now operational – in Sana’a, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam – and work to establish a regional training centre in Djibouti is proceeding.
 
The delivery of capacity-building training and the development, in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, of the legal framework needed to prosecute pirates are also high-priority activities under the Djibouti Code project.
 
The support of navies from so many countries deserves recognition and appreciation. Nevertheless, I do have a sense that the political will, among those Governments that have the potential to make a difference, is not always translated into reality in a manner that the severity of the issue demands. And by this I am referring to such things as resources being made available; legislation to ensure pirates do not escape prosecution being expeditiously adopted and rigorously enacted; and ensuring that all ships transiting piracy-infested areas comply with the recommended best management practices. On this last matter, it has been reported that fewer than 40 per cent of ships sailing through the piracy risk areas are in compliance, and surely this is simply unacceptable?
 
Last month, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee considered whether privately contracted armed security personnel should be allowed on board ships and agreed on a series of interim recommendations for flag States, clarifying, however, that those recommendations were not intended to endorse or institutionalize the use of such personnel and that they did not address all the legal issues associated with such a practice.  It then went on to state that armed security personnel on board ships should not be considered as an alternative to the best management practices I referred to earlier and that placing armed guards on board as a means to secure and protect the vessel and its crew should only be considered after a risk assessment has been carried out.  When deciding which policy to follow, a flag State should take into account the possible escalation of violence, which could result from the use of firearms and carriage of armed personnel on board ships.
 
Because of the important role port and coastal States have to play in the effective implementation of any policy involving armed personnel on board ships, we are pursuing the matter with the due urgency it requires.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, I think I am in severe danger of overrunning my allotted time so, given the discussion session to come, I shall stop here – expressing, however, the wish that we do take seriously the threat of, and work together closely to, prevent climate change and piracy off Somalia from reaching such dimensions that we will live to regret.
 
Thank you.
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