Secretary-General highlights shipping's improving safety record as key meeting gets underway

Maritime Safety Committee - 77th session: 28 May-6 June 2003

IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil has highlighted the shipping industry's continued success in achieving improvements to its safety and environmental record as he addressed delegates at the opening of the 77th session of the Organization's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in London today.

Mr O'Neil spoke of shipping as "an industry to be proud of", and added that no opportunity to emphasize this should be missed. Shipping, he added, "is in a much better state, from the safety and pollution prevention viewpoints, than it was a decade ago."

Mr O'Neil drew delegates' attention to statistics for the period 1991 to 2001, recently issued by the Lloyd's Underwriters Marine Intelligence Unit, which show a very clear and sustained decline in the number of ships over 500 gross tons lost each year, from over 180 units in 1991 to less than 80 units just ten years later. During the same period, the decline in terms of aggregate gross tonnage lost each year is from 1.75 million gross tons in 1991 to less than 0.75 million lost in 2001.

He also made particular reference to the steadily improving figures concerning bulk carrier safety, an issue with which the MSC has been dealing for more than a decade. He said that the conclusions reached by INTERCARGO in their latest Bulk Carrier Casualty report are "very encouraging indeed." During the ten-year period from 1993 to 2002, the average number of bulk carriers, lives and deadweight tonnage lost has fallen. "The beneficial impact of the standards adopted by this Organization, either in the form of amendments to SOLAS or the application of FSA in the IMO decision-making process, and those approved by IACS, should be recognized as contributing to the improvements in this sector of shipping," said Mr O'Neil. He added that further gains should be expected following the adoption of the proposed amendments to the 1988 Load Line Protocol which are before the Committee at this session.

However the Secretary-General was also keen to point out that a great deal of work was still required if the objectives of IMO are to be achieved. He told delegates "I would readily admit that we have not yet reached the end of the voyage and that more needs to be done if we are to create a safer, more secure and environmentally friendlier maritime world."

Mr O'Neil expressed his great concern for those who become the victims of shipping accidents. He said "I can understand the frustration, even the wrath of the victims of accidents, the anguish of those who lose beloved ones at sea and the anger of those whose coasts and livelihood are damaged by catastrophic pollution incidents; and I can think of no words to fully express my, and my associates' in the Secretariat, deep sympathy and compassion for both."

Addressing the MSC for the final time in his 14-year term of office as Secretary-General, Mr O'Neil told delegates, "I believe you will share my satisfaction with our contribution to the overall effort to raise the safety standards of the shipping industry - a satisfaction which should serve to strengthen our determination to work harder to achieve even better results in the future."

28 May 2003
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Background
IMO is the United Nations agency concerned with safety of shipping and protection of the marine environment and is concerned with ensuring ships comply with international standards, including financial security. The Maritime Safety Committee is the highest technical body of the Organization. Delegates from all 162 member States may attend. The main function of the MSC is to consider any matter within the scope of the Organization that directly affects maritime safety. It has the power to adopt amendments to conventions, such as the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS), Collision Regulations, Load Lines etc. It is assisted in its work by nine sub-committees which are also open to all Member States. They deal with the following subjects: Bulk Liquids and Gases; Carriage of Dangerous Goods; Solid Cargoes and Containers; Fire Protection; Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue; Safety of Navigation; Ship Design and Equipment; Stability and Load Lines and Fishing Vessel Safety; Standards of Training and Watchkeeping and Flag State Implementation.

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Lee Adamson, Senior External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3153 (media@imo.org) or Natasha Brown, External Relations Officer on 020 7587 3274 (media@imo.org).