Secretary-General places IMO at forefront of efforts for harmony in shipping

In a forthright speech at the 1st Lloyd's List International Shipping Convention in London on Wednesday 18th October, IMO Secretary-General Mr. William O’Neil raised the prospect of an expanded role for the Organization in helping to ensure that its standards are met. Confirming the Organization’s readiness to adopt a more robust role, Mr. O’Neil said, "If its Members choose to give it new powers and new tasks, and are prepared to supply the necessary resource, then IMO is ready to respond. The fact that authority for assessing implementation of the 1995 amendments to the convention on training was delegated to IMO by Member States indicates that the will to give the Organization a greater role in the implementation of its standards does exist".

    In a speech focussing on IMO’s role in promoting harmony within the shipping industry, Mr. O’Neil went on to stress the importance of the work carried out recently by IMO to draw up a revision to the MARPOL regulation concerning the phasing out of single-hull tankers. "There were many different views on whether this phasing out should be accelerated and, if so, how it should be approached," he told delegates. "There were considerations both technical and political. Several Governments and many industry bodies had their own strongly held views on what needed to be done – or not done, in some cases. What happened at IMO was that a series of apparently entrenched positions was transformed, through a process of consultation, talking, listening and understanding, into a single, coherent way forward for the industry."

    According to Mr. O’Neil, "a number of recent high-profile accidents had placed under an intense spotlight the need for shipping to deliver a cohesive response to criticism levied at it. As we all know, the world’s public media only pays any attention to shipping when there has been a casualty. The maritime media, however, presents an entirely different and more accurate interpretation of the facts".

    Stressing the importance of a harmonized, global approach to regulatory matters, he told delegates, "what if the collision regulations were different from region to region? Or, if one region decided to adopt and impose its own standard language of the sea? It doesn’t make sense. It would lead to chaos and could actually increase the risk and the number of accidents and casualties. The presence of a strong IMO brings harmony to the safety regime world-wide and there can be no alternative."

    He concluded, "there is no doubt that, because of the vast array of players involved, our industry can only survive and prosper if all are working in a concerted way towards achieving our common objectives. IMO has already demonstrated that it has the capability and expertise to provide the leadership necessary to draw the disparate elements together and thereby fulfil its role".