Address to Tanzanian maritime community

Speech by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization, Tanzania, 6 May 2006


Distinguished members of the maritime community of the United Republic of Tanzania, constructors, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today and I am delighted that I have been afforded the opportunity to say a few words to you this afternoon on, this, my second visit to your country.

When I first came to Tanzania on behalf of IMO back in 1997, it was under very different circumstances and for other purposes, which I will refer to later. So I am delighted to be here again to celebrate with you the advances made in the maritime sector of this nation that, over its 42 years of existence, has grown in stature on the world scene and is today known for its rich culture and history, the variety of its agricultural and industrial products, its growing economy, the nobility of its people and its natural beauties. These and many others are the legacies of a young, vibrant, growing nation as it faces the challenges of the 21st century, of a globalized economy and the digital age, of harnessing all its varied assets and talents for the benefit of today's and its future generations.

Building on those legacies, Tanzania today enjoys good relations with its neighbours in the region and, in recent years, has actively participated in efforts to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes. In March 1996, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya revived discussion of economic and regional co-operation, a process which culminated with the signing of an East African Co-operation Treaty in September 1999, an important step in the direction ofeconomic integration that culminated in the establishment of the current East African Community (EAC).

As a servant of the United Nations, I am also pleased to note the strong co operation today between Tanzania and the EAC, with whom IMO has a close working relationship with regard to the implementation of a project for the safety of navigation on Lake Victoria.

From the foregoing one can appreciate that, although a relatively new country, Tanzania has taken its rightful place within the community of nations and is playing a significant role regionally and internationally. And while it may also be a relatively new country in terms of shipping, this region's maritime and commercial roots go back centuries. The coastal area was once the subject of an intense maritime rivalry first between the Portuguese and Arab traders and later between various European powers. By the early 1800s, Zanzibar had become an important centre of the spice trade - so much so that the Sultan of Oman moved his capital there from Muscat in 1840.

Today, Tanzania's maritime connections look both outwards and inwards. Looking out to sea, the ocean coastline is some 800 nautical miles in length and sees extensive coastal traffic in addition to some 5,800 ships that visit Tanzanian ports each year. One of the world's major maritime traffic lanes passes along the coast of Tanzania with big tankers, taking the Cape route between Europe and the Middle East, regularly passing by. And, looking inland, Tanzania shares with neighbouring countries three of Africa's Great Lakes, Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria.

In this latter context, I take the opportunity to assure you of IMO's continued support to the improvement of the safety of navigation on Lake Victoria. This huge body of water has been the scene of several serious accidents over the course of many years, most noticeably the sinking of the ferry Bukoba nearly ten years ago to this day causing the loss of hundreds of precious human lives, most of them Tanzanian citizens. As I mentioned earlier, in March 1997, I came to Mwanza (in my then capacity as Director of IMO's Maritime Safety Division) to participate in the first workshop on the safety of navigation on Lake Victoria, which resulted in the formulation of a project to put in place measures to ensure the safety of life and property on the lake and the protection of its environment. This project has been a long-term commitment, the most recent manifestation of which was a High-Level Meeting in Arusha, last October, jointly organized by IMO and the East African Community, which brought together Members of Parliament, senior Government officials (Ministers and permanent Secretaries responsible for transport) from the three partners States of EAC and relevant legal and technical experts. As ever, the delegation of Tanzania played a full and constructive part in that meeting and helped to move this important issue closer towards a satisfactory resolution. Unfortunately, only very recently the elements struck again and I was very saddened to hear the news earlier in this week of a small ferry sinking in Lake Victoria with the loss of 28 persons on board.

Ladies and gentlemen, with such a clear interest in shipping, it is no surprise that Tanzania joined IMO more than 30 years ago and it is satisfying to note that your country has been able to accept 12 key IMO Conventions, including SOLAS and the Load Lines and STCW Conventions.

Co-operation between IMO and the maritime sector in Tanzania is, of course, already well established. IMO has, for example, assisted the Dar-es-Salaam Maritime Institute (DMI) in various ways, by providing publications and model courses, providing training equipment and materials, donating books to its library and organizing national training courses on assessment, examination and certification of seafarers. Tanzania has also supported IMO through the in-kind hosting of a number of IMO-sponsored technical co-operation activities such as the regional workshop on Safety of Navigation in the Inland Lakes, held in Kigoma in March 2005 and the regional training course on Port State Control, for 13 Anglophone African countries, held at DMI in September 2005.

It may be recalled that since 2000, IMO has fielded a number of technical assistance missions to Tanzania for the establishment of a maritime administration and I am pleased to note that, as a result of those missions, you now have a new Merchant Shipping Act and the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) has been established in that regard.

Fifty-seven Tanzanian nationals have been trained at IMO's World Maritime University (one of the highest numbers from an African country) and more continue to be enrolled as the years go by. Many of these graduates are now active participants as members of the Tanzanian delegations to various IMO meetings, or they are employees of the government, ports and harbours authorities, educational institutions and UN agencies, as well as the industrial and commercial sectors - indeed, I am informed that some of you are here with us this afternoon, which gives me particular pleasure and satisfaction. The same applies to the eight Tanzanian maritime lawyers who have been trained at the IMO International Maritime Law Institute and to those Tanzanian nationals who have been awarded IMO fellowships in a wide range of maritime related topics.

Implicit in the term "co-operation" is the idea of mutual, beneficial assistance and it is certainly the case that the relationship between Tanzania and IMO has not been all one way. At the IMO Search and Rescue Conference in Florence, Italy, in 2000, Tanzania, along with Kenya, Seychelles and Somalia, was designated to be one of the countries covered by the then proposed sub-regional search and rescue systems for the African countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Subsequent meetings between these countries have culminated in a Regional Multilateral Agreement on Co-ordination of Maritime Search and Rescue Services, signed in Zanzibar in May 2002. The parties to this Agreement decided that a sub-regional Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre would be located in Mombasa, Kenya, and it was my privilege to commission the Centre yesterday.

Tanzania, for its part, is to host a Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre at Kivukoni Front, close to the entrance of the Dar-es-Salaam Port. The Tanzanian Government has offered to fund the construction of the Sub-Centre and, for this, it has the appreciation of all concerned, because the sub-regional system that is being put in place will provide a much-needed search and rescue capability along the long coastline of East Africa, which will be welcomed by seafarers not just from Africa but from all nations whose vessels transit these waters.

Within the framework of our Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, IMO, Inmarsat and other donor institutions have provided financial or in-kind support for the acquisition of the GMDSS and SAR equipment required by the Sub-Centre, including the associated computerized network, all of which has already been acquired and will be delivered as soon as construction of the building is complete, which I hope will be very soon.

Ladies and gentlemen, I began these remarks by mentioning the challenges faced by the developing nations - particularly those in Africa - and I would like to conclude with a few words about some of the things we can do, together, to help overcome them. For there is no doubt that, today, the inter-dependence and inter connectivity between the peoples of the world is such that all of us, whether rich or poor, developed or developing, privileged or less so, have a vested interest in finding solutions.

It is my strong hope that the bonds between IMO and the African countries, strong though they are, will become ever stronger, and a number of initiatives are currently underway to achieve this. Last year, the IMO Assembly adopted a resolution on technical co-operation as a means to support the United Nations Millennium Declaration and Development Goals. This resolution places the emphasis for the Organization's technical co-operation activities on meeting the special assistance needs of Africa.

The Assembly also approved the establishment of a correspondence group to identify the linkage between the Millennium Development Goals and IMO's Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, which will report to our Technical Co-operation Committee at its 56th session this coming June. Moreover, the IMO Council has agreed that the theme for this year's World Maritime Day should be "Technical Co-operation: IMO's response to the 2005 World Summit" and, in our efforts to highlight the substance of this theme, we shall be focusing global attention on the maritime-related needs of Africa and the support that IMO and the international community can provide to the continent to strengthen further its existing capacities for safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans. I am confident that Tanzania will play a positive and constructive role in the process, along with the role your country can play in raising the defences of the shipping industry against international terrorism and in eliminating the modern scourge of piracy which is causing much concern throughout the world and most recently over the waters adjacent to the coast of Somalia.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.