2002 marks 25th annual World Maritime Day

IMO - Safer shipping demands a safety culture

Today (26th September 2002) marks the 25th celebration of World Maritime Day, the annual event which is used around the world to focus attention on the global importance of the maritime industries to world trade and to emphasise in particular IMO's work to promote safety and security in shipping and to help  protect the marine environment. 

IMO Secretary-General William O’Neil delivered his customary message to countries all over the world on the chosen theme for World Maritime Day and, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the event, gave a special address to staff at IMO Headquarters in London.

Although the international shipping industry remains one of the most technically vibrant and innovative businesses in the world today, the focus for those who are concerned with safety at sea is being placed ever more sharply on all aspects of human behaviour.  That was the overriding theme of the message delivered by Secretary-General O’Neil today as countries all over the world joined in the celebrations.

Expounding on the theme “Safer shipping demands a safety culture,” Mr O’Neil drew attention to the fact that rules and regulations are not in themselves sufficient where safety and environmental protection are concerned. “Although the behaviour of individuals may be influenced by a set of rules,” he said, “it is their attitude to the rules that really determines the culture. Do they comply because they want to, or because they have to? To be truly effective in achieving the goal of safer shipping, it is important that the shipping community as a whole should develop a ‘want-to’ attitude.”

He went on to stress the key responsibility of company management in establishing the appropriate corporate culture.  “If the management is clearly seen to be giving safety the highest priority then that mindset will quickly permeate into the chain of command, from the Board Chairman through the directors, the superintendents, to the ships’ officers and crews.  The message that an effective safety policy is considered to be a major contributing factor to the organization’s overall productivity, vitality and profitability will then be readily assimilated by everyone.”

In his special message to IMO staff to mark the 25th anniversary of World Maritime Day, Mr O’Neil drew attention to the continuing decline in lives and ships lost at sea and to concurrent reductions in maritime pollution. He said that the world looked to IMO for leadership in all matters related to maritime safety and environmental protection and that he believed the Organization could feel proud that it was fulfilling its objectives and meeting the increasing demands made of it. “An international industry such as shipping needs an effective international regulatory body and IMO has shown it can meet all the challenges that have arisen in this respect.”

In particular, he referred to the considerable body of additional work undertaken by IMO since the terrorist atrocities of September 11th 2001 to establish an effective regulatory framework to promote ship and port security.  A diplomatic conference in December this year is expected to adopt legislative requirements that have been developed by IMO throughout the course of the last 12 months.

World Maritime Day celebrations were concluded at IMO’s London headquarters on Thursday evening with a reception for members of the London diplomatic and maritime communities.


The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations specialised agency with responsibility for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Every year IMO celebrates World Maritime Day. The exact date is left to individual Governments but is usually celebrated during the last week in September. This year, IMO celebrated the day on Thursday, 26 September 2002.

World Maritime Day is used to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety and the marine environment and to emphasise a particular aspect of IMO's work.

To mark the occasion, the Secretary-General of IMO prepared a special message and this is backed up by a paper which discusses the selected subject in greater depth.

The full text of the message and the background paper can also be found on the IMO Web site at http://www.imo.org

For further information please contact:
Lee Adamson, Public Information Manager on 0207 587 3153 (ladamson@imo.org) or
Natasha Brown, Information Officer on 0207 587 3274 (nbrown@imo.org).