Secretary-General opens 23rd IMO Assembly

Tangible improvements in ship safety and the protection of the marine environment have been made, but more needs to be done, IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil told delegates as he opened the 23rd session of the Assembly of the International Maritime Organization at its London headquarters on Monday 24 November.

Mr O'Neil, who steps down as Secretary-General at the end of the year, told delegates: "During the 14 years that I have been privileged to be Secretary-General of IMO, the Organization has worked diligently to create suitable conditions for real improvements in the shipping industry in terms of safety, the environment and, latterly, security. It is a source of considerable satisfaction to me, as I approach the end of my tenure, that our efforts have met with considerable, measurable success."

Praising the work of colleagues in the IMO Secretariat, Mr. O'Neil stated: "I know that there is still a long way to go".

"Indeed I cannot imagine that any successor of mine will ever reach the point where he or she can close the file on the quest for better standards in shipping and say 'job done'. But we have managed to achieve a great deal during the past 14 years and, as a result, when put under any form of scrutiny, shipping is a far safer industry today and its environmental credentials are immensely improved," Mr O'Neil said.

"The shipping industry provides the cleanest and cheapest method of transporting more than 90 per cent of the world's goods, and while its public image may not always be what we would like it to be, the reality is that shipping today is in a much better state, from the safety and pollution prevention viewpoints, than it was fourteen years ago. And it continues to improve. However, we have not yet reached the end of the voyage and more needs to be done if we are to create a safer, more secure and environmentally friendlier maritime world," Mr. O'Neil said.

"The world wants an end to rusty ships that fall apart and coastlines that are polluted with their cargoes and fuel. It wants quality shipping," Mr. O'Neil said. "But it does not want to see transportation costs spiralling through the roof. These are both reasonable demands and I do not believe they are mutually exclusive. But achieving them together will be a considerable test."

Mr. David Jamieson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport, welcomed delegates to the Assembly on behalf of the host Government, the United Kingdom.

The outgoing President of the Assembly, the Hon. Mr Edward Singhatey, Secretary of State for Presidential Affairs, The Gambia and the incoming President, His Excellency Mr. Mel Cappe, High Commissioner for Canada also addressed the Assembly.

The 23rd Session of the IMO Assembly runs until 5 December 2003.

Election of Officers
The Assembly elected His Excellency Mr. Mel Cappe, High Commissioner for Canada as President of the Assembly.

The Vice-Presidents are:
1st Vice-President: Honourable Mr. Symeon Matsis, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Works, Cyprus.
2nd Vice-President: His Excellency Mr. Edgardo B. Espiritu, Philippines.

The Assembly elected the following to chair the two Committees of the Assembly:

Committee 1
Chairman: Rear Admiral Peter Brady, Head of the Maritime Authority, Jamaica.
1st Vice Chairman: Captain Frederick Ouma Wahutu, Merchant Shipping Superintend, Kenya.
2nd Vice Chairman: Captain Pawel Czerwinsky, Permanent Representative to IMO.

Committee 2
Chairman: Mr. Koichi Yoshida, Vice Principal Research/Co-ordinator National Maritime Research Institute, Japan.
1st Vice Chairman: Mr. Clive Davidson, Chief Executive Officer, AMSA, Australia
2nd Vice Chairman: Captain Marcelo Gustavo Genne, Alternate Permanent Representative to IMO, Argentina.

The Credentials Committee is made up of the following countries: Cote D'Ivoire, Croatia, Ecuador, Lebanon, Tonga.

Background
The Assembly normally meets once every two years. All 163 Member States and three Associate Members are entitled to attend as are the inter-governmental organizations with which agreements on co-operation have been concluded and non-governmental organizations which have consultative status with IMO.

The full text of the IMO Secretary-General's speech is available on request.

24 November 2003
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IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

Web site: www.imo.org

For further information please contact:
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).