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Panama Maritime XI - ‘Sustainable development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20’

February 27, 2013

Panama Maritime XI
27 February 2013
‘Sustainable development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20’
By Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,
 
We understand that the planet’s resources are limited and that the environment can be damaged, unless we give it our care and attention. And yet mankind must continue to develop. But what we now realize is that our development in the future must take full account of finite and diminishing resources and a fragile environment. In short, our future development must be sustainable.
 
The Brundtland Report, released by the United Nations in 1987, gave us what has become the most widely accepted definition of sustainable development, namely "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
 
Our understanding of sustainable development today embraces a concern both for the capacity of the earth’s natural systems and for the social, economic and cultural challenges faced by mankind.
 
Central to all of this is the global supply chain, the complex mechanism without which today’s inter-dependent, global economy would be simply unable to function. The shipping and ports industries are vital links in that chain. Shipping has always provided the only really cost-effective method of bulk transport over any great distance, and the development of shipping and the establishment of a global system of trade are intrinsically and inherently linked.
 
Not only is shipping cost-effective, it is also relatively safe, secure and environmentally sound. It provides reliable mass transportation for energy, materials, foods and industrial products, all over the world, and at a price that society can afford, and society is willing to pay. So, to me, it seems inevitable that shipping must be at the heart of sustainable development. And shipping itself must ensure that its own development is also sustainable. The sustainable development and growth of the world's economy will not be possible without similar sustainability in shipping and, therefore, in the entire maritime sector.
 
I include within this blanket term not just the operation of ships, but all the activities that are vital to support the actual management and operation of ships and the movement of cargo. Activities such as the operation of maritime traffic management systems and global communication systems, ports and multi-modal connections are all components of this multi faceted sector. Looking to a slightly broader horizon, shipbuilding and classification, ship registry and administration, ship finance, ship repairing, ship recycling, the education and training of seafarers, could all be included under the same umbrella. Indeed, search and rescue services, maritime security agencies, coast guards and maritime law enforcement agencies are also components of sustainable shipping.
 
At the global level, the United Nations is taking the leadership role in pushing forward efforts to turn the concept of sustainable development into something tangible. A significant mark on the road to sustainable development was laid down last year at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, in June, 20 years after the first of such conferences in the same city.
 
At what became known as Rio+20, the United Nations undertook an initiative to develop and set a series of Sustainable Development Goals.
 
I was at Rio+20, and I took the opportunity to re-affirm IMO’s commitment to sustainable development and, in particular, to sustainable maritime development. I used that event as a platform to draw attention to how shipping contributes significantly to three of the pillars of sustainable development – economic, social, and environmental.
If the establishment of a sustainable maritime transportation sector within the overall global supply chain is essential, then clear, identifiable Sustainable Development Goals for shipping and maritime industries are needed. And it is my view that IMO, as the United Nations’ international regulatory body for shipping, is the proper place for this to be done.
 
As a first step, I have established an internal mechanism, within my office, to work with our industry partners and interested stakeholders on the development and implementation of clearly defined Sustainable Development Goals for the maritime transport sector. The intention is to develop a specific and meaningful concept of a sustainable maritime transport system covering all technical aspects of shipping and all activities of IMO, in the context of sustainable development.
 
I should stress, too, that, at this stage, our plans are still embryonic and in a very early stage of development. Nevertheless, I am confident with the prospect of something that may provide a new direction for IMO in the future, and make a very positive and tangible contribution to the future well-being of mankind.
 
So, how do we turn the concept of sustainable development goals into something tangible? The first step is to identify some broad areas that we need to ‘get right’ if sustainability is to be achieved. The specific goals will fall within these areas. Safety; environmental protection; efficient operation; security, and resource conservation are, I believe, the areas on which we will need to focus.
 
Because it is so essential to the continued development and future growth of the world economy, IMO must continue to take the lead in supporting the shipping industry with the appropriate global standards and by helping to promote, through technical co-operation, the necessary national maritime transportation policy and institutional frameworks for a sustainable maritime transportation sector. To this end, I have defined eight key elements or ‘pillars’, the promotion of which will, I believe, help to achieve the sustainable maritime development goals. They are:
 
• safety culture and environmental stewardship;
• energy efficiency;
• new technology and innovation;
• maritime education and training;
• maritime security and counter-piracy measures;
• maritime traffic management;
• maritime infrastructure development; and
• implementation of global standards developed, adopted and maintained by IMO.
 
They are all components of our sustainable shipping and maritime transportation system. These are areas in which I would like to establish meaningful targets, so that, through the activities of IMO, we will attempt to achieve the sustainability of shipping.
 
Let me give you some indications and examples: in the field of Energy Efficiency, we should establish a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of EEDI and SEEMP; in the field of New Technology and Innovations, we should invent a forum of discussion and exchange of information on the latest developments; in the field of Maritime Education and Training, we should search for an effective mechanism for the provision of on-board training capacity.
 
In the immediate future, there are many specific challenges that need to be overcome. Among these I would include:
 
• threats to maritime security;
• piracy and armed robbery;
• a shortage of competent seafarers;
• lack of or insufficient maritime infrastructure such as ports and terminals, intermodal connections, vessel traffic management systems, maritime zone monitoring and control mechanisms; and
• a lack of cohesive and connected maritime transportation policies.
 
All our responses to these challenges are corner stones of sustainability of the great international transportation system.
 
Throughout history, those who have succeeded have been those best able to treat their challenges as opportunities. I believe the challenges we face today offer the opportunity to develop new and innovative transportation systems.
 
Shipping is a competitive industry, driven in the short-term by commercial imperatives. Its central premise has traditionally been to design and operate safe yet cost-effective ships that can provide a satisfactory return on investment for their owners.
 
But, looking forward, we need to develop a transport system that satisfies wider needs. Shipping must evolve in such a way that it meets the essential needs of individuals, corporations, society and the environment.
 
Many of you, I am sure, will remember when, not too long ago, the search was for speed. A containership with a 20 knot service speed would be trumped by another with a 21 knot service speed, and so on. How things change. The price of fuel eventually brought this race to an abrupt halt, and now, operators are slow-steaming their ships.
 
Indeed, today, commercial, regulatory and environmental imperatives dictate that fuel efficiency is the new holy-grail for naval architects and marine engineers alike. The challenge is to mitigate the impact of rising fuel prices, meet impending international regulations and make sure that shipping improves even further on its already excellent record as the most environment-friendly mode of transportation. The key to this is science and engineering, technology and design.
 
We need to encourage the industry to promote innovation. Already, we are seeing numerous examples in which the regulatory framework established by IMO is prompting new levels of innovation and creativity within the shipping and marine equipment industries.  Propeller technology continues to move forward, for example.
 
On the machinery side, engineers are far more willing to consider alternatives to the conventional solutions; thus we see increasing use of diesel electric propulsion, electronic engine controls, waste-heat recovery and alternative fuels such as LNG. Software products will enable shipowners to administer their Shipboard Energy Efficiency Management Plans.
 
I quote these examples not because I think they necessarily hold the key to sustainable shipping in the future, but simply to illustrate the power of regulation to create a groundswell of imagination and innovation from which we all will benefit eventually. The industry is finding that a combination of operating efficiencies and highly visible corporate social responsibility can actually yield real commercial benefits.
 
But sustainability cannot only be ensured by the efforts of designers of ships and operators in the shipping industry.
 
Let us take a look at the stringent emission control over sulphur oxides as an example.  MARPOL has already decided targets for sulphur reduction. This would require fuel with low sulphur content. But, the fact is that the shipping industry cannot produce low sulphur fuel. Only the oil and refinery industries can generate the necessary amount of low sulphur fuel and this needs extensive investment not in the shipping industry but the oil and refinery industries. If the world community requires sulphur control in emissions from ships, we need to ensure that sufficient investment would be made now to produce low sulphur fuel in time for the impending implementation of the MARPOL requirement.
 
If low sulphur fuel could not be provided, the remaining options are on-board scrubbers or alternative fuel such as LNG. LNG is promising but the logistics to provide LNG at terminals is a challenge.
 
This sort of discussion clearly indicates that, when it comes to the sustainability of the maritime transportation system, you cannot provide an answer only within discussion in the shipping industry. We need policy discussions among a wide range of stakeholders and policy makers. In this case, this would include shipping, ship designers, oil and refinery industries and port developers; and it is essential that Governments establish clear policy so that industry partners could make proper and timely investment to meet the targets and desired objectives.
 
Shipping cannot shoulder the burden of sustainability alone anymore and industries other than the shipping industry must support sustainable maritime transport and it is essential that Governments coordinate interests among various industry partners outside the shipping industry.
 
In the case of protection of shipping from piracy off the coast of Somalia, Governments supported shipping and protected shipping lanes.
 
Governments should also support shipping by leading energy and fuel suppliers to provide clean fuels to shipping; or by leading port developers to construct new terminal facilities to provide LNG as fuel. Over the years and decades, people enjoyed low cost transportation provided by the shipping industry which is operating under severe competition and within a free market. Historically, industries which relied on service provided by shipping have taken it for granted that low cost maritime transportation would be continuously provided under the mechanism of competition.
 
The free market and competition are important for a sound economy but we should realize the limits of the present system where all the burdens are expected to be absorbed by shipping. We need to create new ways to share the burden of shipping to achieve sustainable shipping. And we need policy discussion as to how to support shipping to stay sustainable.
 
* * *
 
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
The world relies on a safe, secure, efficient and clean international shipping industry.  And, the comprehensive regulatory framework developed, and maintained, by IMO creates the conditions in which shipping can achieve those objectives.
 
Governments, along with the shipping and maritime industries and the world community, should work together to make necessary investments, and take actions to bolster the future of the maritime transportation system and ensure that shipping continues to be environmentally friendly, properly supported and protected from security risks.
 
To achieve sustainable development in shipping, it is important to establish a coordinated approach to maritime policy-making. Energy efficiency, new technology and innovation, maritime education and training, maritime security, maritime traffic management and the development of maritime infrastructure are the key objectives, and these must be underpinned by the principle of global standards.
 
The world has entered an era of global interdependence. We cannot reverse the process. We are at a turning point.  Global problems demand global solutions, but the current global decision making process is still struggling to provide them.
 
We need leadership for a new generation, towards new governance. We need leadership towards new partnerships – new private-public partnerships and new public-public partnerships. It is time to move towards new ways of handling our business and a new mechanism. That is why I am promoting the concept of sustainable development for the maritime industry.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, it remains only for me to thank the organizers of this conference, the Panamanian Maritime Law Association and the Panama Maritime Chamber, for organizing such an excellent event and for putting together what promises to be a fascinating and thought-provoking programme. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate, and I hope that you will all, in turn, will be able to participate in my vision of a sustainable future for the maritime industries.
 
Thank you.
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