Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AASMT) Graduation Ceremony
Alexandria, Egypt, 26 January 2018
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, graduates,
It is my great pleasure to join you here today. I’d like to start by congratulating the class of 2018 who are successfully concluding one chapter of their lives and stepping out to new challenges.
The maritime sector has plenty to offer talented people. And I can tell you from my own experience that this is a very rewarding industry to work in – and one which touches everyone’s lives. Billions of people all over the world rely on maritime transport to deliver the clothes they wear and the food they eat; the medicine they need and the energy that warms or cools their homes.
Around 90,000 vessels transport more than 80% of global trade by volume. They are operated by more than a million seafarers of many nationalities.
But for the maritime industry to remain safe, secure, clean and effective, it needs to rest on a foundation of globally-enforced standards. IMO is the United Nations agency, made up of 173 Member States, responsible for developing and maintaining those crucial international standards. They cover almost every aspect of the shipping industry, including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and the disposal of ships. Today there are more than 50 IMO treaties – as well as numerous codes and guidelines.
Therefore, we are a small organization with a big impact. We do not police the world oceans. We do not administer peacekeeping missions. But the decisions taken at IMO help to save lives, protect the environment and provide the essential regulatory framework for a shipping industry that is the backbone of global trade.
IMO can be justifiably proud of this record.
Dear graduates, today you are contemplating your achievements, and looking forward to your long careers ahead of you. And at IMO we are taking the opportunity this year – the year of our 70th anniversary – to reflect on our own successes, and to look ahead.
Under the theme “IMO 70: Our heritage: better shipping for a better future” we will be showcasing how IMO has developed and adapted while staying true to its overall mission – to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.
Indeed, the Organization is working hard to ensure shipping makes a continued and strengthened contribution towards sustainable development and a greener future. This will be among IMO’s major priorities in this anniversary year and in the years to come.
I encourage you to follow our activities and events online, particularly through social media, and to take part and contribute to this global conversation about how to achieve better shipping for a better future.
One area that will clearly play a major part in future sustainable development is technology – a subject in which many of you are experts.
All around us, in every sphere of life, we are encountering radical new models for the way we live our lives, usually driven by some form of innovative digital technology or artificial intelligence. We see this in our homes, in our workplaces, in the way we purchase and receive goods and services. From healthcare to entertainment, from manufacturing to food production, we are now entering the fourth industrial revolution. The only certainty is that nothing will look the same in the future.
For IMO, this raises a crucial issue: how do we deal with the fact that technology will move far, far more quickly than the regulatory process? This is why integrating new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework and ensuring regulatory effectiveness both feature among the Organization’s newly adopted strategic directions.
Digital disruption will arrive in the shipping world very soon; and, when it does, IMO must be ready. For me, this means the rules for shipping must be based firmly around goals and functions rather than prescriptive solutions. This is the only way to make sure that measures adopted by IMO are not rendered obsolete by the time-lag between adoption and entry-into-force.
I believe technology holds the key to a safer and more sustainable future for shipping. I do not expect one single breakthrough that will solve all our problems at once. But what we will see is real progress through the collective effect of small gains in many different areas.
Thanks to the opportunities provided by new technology, shipping is on the brink of a new era. The technologies emerging around fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction and so many other areas, will lead to new generations of ships that bring step‑change improvements in all the areas that IMO regulates.
And, in the future, we can expect the "soft" technologies of digitization and big data to be as important in the development of shipping as the traditional "hard" technology issues that I have just mentioned. E‑navigation and cyber security are already on IMO's agenda and we will be looking at the subject of autonomous vessels in the coming months, starting with a comprehensive exercise to review current regulations and how they may or may not apply to autonomous vessels.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to address you on this happy occasion.
Time spent learning is precious. It is never wasted. And I would like to conclude by urging all of the graduates here today to retain their thirst for knowledge. Continue on the course of hard work and dedication. But before you move on to new challenges, take a look at the person next to you. Stay in touch with each other. Support each other. They may be a friend for life, your future colleague at an organization, or a business, or a valuable contact that one day you need to call on for help. Therefore, wherever your journeys take you – see your work as part of a voyage together.
A prosperous, safe, clean and efficient maritime sector relies on strong cooperation, collaboration and communication between all of the men and women involved.
Once again, I wish all the graduates every success in their future endeavours, and I very much look forward to meeting many of you in a professional capacity in the coming years – as that voyage together continues.