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Skip Navigation LinksCGI2016voyagetogether "Our voyage together – IMO's history and future challenges" - Captain Ghani Ishak (CGI) 2016 Lecture, Association of Malaysia's Maritime Professionals (IKMAL), Malaysia

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"Our voyage together – IMO's history and future challenges" - Captain Ghani Ishak (CGI) 2016 Lecture, Association of Malaysia's Maritime Professionals (IKMAL), Malaysia


Captain Ghani Ishak (CGI) 2016 Lecture, Association of Malaysia's Maritime Professionals (IKMAL), Malaysia
"Our voyage together – IMO's history and future challenges"
By Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today. I consider it an honour to be giving this lecture, which is named after one of the founder members of IKMAL and one of the most significant figures of Malaysia's modern maritime community. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Government of Malaysia and IKMAL for inviting me.

The late Captain Abdul Ghani bin Ishak, or CGI as he was usually addressed, was one of the first Malaysians to obtain a foreign-going Master's certificate and, at 26, the youngest ever Master to command a foreign-going vessel in the Malaysian International Shipping Corporation fleet. After a distinguished career at sea he achieved even greater things ashore, eventually qualifying as a maritime lawyer.

CGI sadly passed away in 2011 but his name and his contribution to the maritime and shipping community in Malaysia live on in this lecture.


At IMO, our mission is to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation. Like all good mission statements, this is a simple statement behind which lies a detailed and complex structure designed to achieve those objectives.

When IMO came into being, it was becoming generally accepted that international standards to regulate shipping – standards which could be adopted by all and accepted by all – were necessary to facilitate the seamless flow of traffic and promote safety in shipping operations worldwide. Conscientious, safety-minded shipowners should not be placed at an economic disadvantage to their competitors who were investing relatively little on safety.

Today, shipping is the most international of all the world's great industries. The construction, ownership, registration, management and operation of any particular vessel can embrace many different countries.

Clearly there has to be a common approach to regulations and standards, so that ships can trade around the world and countries receiving foreign ships can be confident that, in accepting them, they do not place their safety, security and environmental integrity at risk.

In fact, the first attempts at such a common approach date back to well beyond the establishment of IMO. But IMO was the first truly international body to address such concerns.

The Convention by which IMO was founded was adopted in Geneva in 1948 and the Organization actually came into being 10 years later, in 1958. Today, IMO has 171 Member States and three Associate Members, and a host of intergovernmental organizations and non governmental organizations also participate actively in its work.

You will see from those dates that 2018 will be a special year for IMO. We will celebrate 70 years since the adoption of the IMO Convention and 60 years since it came into force. We plan to commemorate those anniversaries with a series of events that will both reflect on the achievements of the Organization and draw on the rich vein of global maritime heritage to show how much the modern world relies on ships and ports.


Since its establishment, IMO's main task has been to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for international shipping. Its mandate was originally limited to safety-related issues, but subsequently this has expanded to include environmental considerations, legal matters, technical cooperation, security and maritime crime, as well as issues that affect the overall efficiency of shipping.

Here in Malaysia, you have been a part of this process for 45 years, since your country joined IMO in 1971.

Being a country of islands, located in a pivotal position on the great global trading routes between east and west, gives Malaysia a long and historic connection with the sea. In the modern era, Malaysia's commitment to IMO is a clear demonstration of the high priority you still give to shipping and maritime activities. That you have appointed a Permanent Maritime Attaché based in London, and have recently added an Assistant Maritime Attaché, corroborates how important Malaysia considers this relationship to be, and I would take this opportunity to commend Malaysia for its strong and continuing commitment to maritime issues, through IMO.

I should also like to commend Malaysia's track record for ratifying IMO conventions, which is another example of your strong commitment to the Organization and its values.


Enhancing maritime safety and security and protecting the environment remain at the core of IMO's objectives and they dictate the broad direction of the Organization's activities. Some of the key areas that we are currently addressing, for example, include:

• reducing harmful emissions from ships;
• developing goal-based standards for vessel construction;
• passenger vessel safety – both the giant modern cruise ships of today and the domestic ferries that are so important in island nations;
• implementing the Ballast Water Management Convention;
• application of the Polar Code, concerning navigation in the Polar regions and which becomes mandatory from the beginning of next year;
• the development of electronic navigation;
• the continuing efforts to address security, piracy and other maritime crime, and
• facilitation of maritime traffic

As these clearly demonstrate, IMO is as relevant today as when it began operations all those years ago. The regulatory framework will need continual adjustment to keep pace with technology, although the philosophical shift in favour of goal-based standards, initially for ship construction, is important, as it allows for innovative new ways to meet the agreed goals to be developed without having to re-write the rule book every time.

Nevertheless, the regulatory framework is now quite comprehensive, and it is well understood that new regulations should only be developed if there is a clear and demonstrable need to do so. Indeed, IMO has been actively engaged in efforts to reduce the administrative burdens and red tape associated with regulatory compliance for Member States, shipowners and their staff.

In the coming years, therefore, IMO will have an increasingly important role to play in effectively implementing the existing regulatory framework.


Ladies and gentlemen, when we talk of challenges, there are few more urgent or more pressing challenges than addressing global warming and climate change. This is not a problem that is going away – indeed, for some, time may be running out.

It is a problem for the whole world to face, not just shipping. We should draw great encouragement from the collective will shown by global leaders during the COP 21 in Paris in December last year and the subsequent signing ceremony in New York in April this year.

But, from shipping's perspective, this is a particularly difficult challenge. According to the estimates in the Third IMO Green House Gas Study 2014, international shipping emitted almost 800 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012, or about 2.2 per cent of the total emission volume for that year.

In 2011, IMO adopted a suite of technical and operational measures which, together, provide an energy-efficiency framework for ships; mainly for new ships. These mandatory measures entered into force as a package in January 2013, addressing ship types responsible for approximately 85 per cent of CO2 emissions from international shipping. Together, they represent the first-ever mandatory global regime for CO2 emission reduction in an entire industry sector.

You will be very familiar, I am sure, with the Energy Efficiency Design Index, or EEDI, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan, or SEEMP. These are significant achievements of which IMO is very proud, and justifiably so. By 2025, all new ships will be 30 per cent more energy efficient than those built in 2014. This is more than a target, it is a legal requirement.

More recently, in April this year, IMO approved mandatory requirements for ships to record and report their fuel consumption. This is the first in a three-step process in which analysis of the data collected will provide the basis for an objective, transparent and inclusive policy debate at IMO. This will then allow a decision to be made on whether any further measures are needed to enhance energy efficiency and address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. If so, proposed policy options will then be considered and adopted, as appropriate.

Moving beyond the regulatory field, IMO is actively supporting two major technology programmes to help improve energy efficiency in shipping and help the industry move towards a low-carbon future.

All these initiatives are just the sort of thing that governments, the industry – indeed all stakeholders – can get involved with in order to help promote the innovations and technologies that will take shipping to a greener future. I am confident that Malaysia will want to play an active and positive part in that process.

Of course, what these measures do not address is growth in the overall demand for shipping. The mid-range scenarios forecast in the Third IMO GHG Study show that, by 2050, CO2 emissions from international shipping could grow by between 50 and 250 per cent, depending on future economic growth and energy developments. Like any market based activity, shipping will respond to the demands made of it. How will the world manage its demand for shipping, especially as the aspirational middle classes of the newly-developed countries begin to acquire more goods, is the real challenge in this context.

In the 21st century, more than ever, we rely on technology. And the world must invest in technology if we are to address the complex challenges we face today. I believe that technology really does hold the key to a sustainable future. In the case of climate change, I'm not suggesting there will be one single breakthrough that will solve the problem at a stroke. But I think what we will see is real progress brought about by the cumulative effect of a world of marginal gains in all areas of human activity. The EEDI and the SEEMP are good examples – they will help to make individual ships themselves significantly more energy efficient. Engineering and technology must become the driving forces for a better world.

Indeed, if we think of the technologies emerging around fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction and so many other areas, it is not difficult to envisage new generations of ships that bring step-change improvements in all the areas that IMO regulates – and, yes, in economic viability and profitability too. That, I think, is part of the voyage we are taking together.


Today, we live in a global society supported by a global economy. The potential benefits are clear: growth can be accelerated and prosperity more widespread; skills and technology can be more evenly dispersed, and both individuals and countries can take advantage of previously unimagined economic opportunities.

The broader challenge that we all face is how to ensure future growth can be achieved sustainably; and to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people, and not for just a privileged few.

As part of the United Nations family, IMO is actively working towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that world leaders pledged to support in 2015 last year. Most of the elements of that Agenda will only be realized with a sustainable transport sector supporting world trade and facilitating the global economy.

Quite apart from the key role shipping plays as the carrier of global trade, maritime activities also provide an important source of income to many developing countries. Indeed, developing countries now lead the world in some of shipping's most important ancillary businesses, including the registration of ships, the supply of seagoing manpower and ship recycling. They also play a significant part in shipowning and operating, shipbuilding and repair and port services, among others – and their presence in IMO is appropriately strong.

I believe maritime activity can both drive and support a healthy economy and that is why investment, growth and improvement in the shipping and port sectors are also important. They facilitate global commerce and the creation of wealth and prosperity among nations and peoples, creating a wide variety of jobs aboard ships and ashore. Malaysia has been one of the great global success stories in terms of recent growth, listed by the World Bank as one of just 13 economies that have managed to average 7 per cent annual growth over a sustained period. I am sure that policies and initiatives to stimulate and develop maritime activity will be beneficial for Malaysia as it seeks to continue that growth into the future and deliver increased prosperity and well-being to its citizens.

There can be no doubt that transport and communication are crucial for sustainable development in the global environment. If the benefits of globalization are to be evenly spread, all countries must be able to play a full and active part in the distribution system and build strong transport infrastructures. IMO's contribution towards this goal will be founded on our work surrounding implementation and capacity building.

Shipping is indispensable to the world, as reflected in our theme for World Maritime Day this year. For 2017, we will build on this theme by focussing on the linkage between ships, ports and people and I trust that Malaysia will provide a good example of the mutual benefits these three elements bring to each other.


Today's global economy simply could not function without a safe, secure and efficient shipping industry. But let us not forget that shipping itself depends on seafarers to bring the cargo safely to its destination.

Quietly and efficiently, seafarers keep the wheels of global trade in motion. And that is why they need, and deserve, people who look after their interests and take care of their welfare. Having recently celebrated the annual Day of the Seafarer, which brought seafarers to the attention of millions of people all over the world, I would like to commend IKMAL for everything that it does to promote the interests of its members, many of whom have served at sea.

Today, more than ever, seafaring is a job that demands highly trained and qualified personnel. Modern ships are designed and built to the highest technical standards and require crew members with a high level of professional competence. To operate them safely and efficiently is a stimulating job in a truly hi-tech workplace.

But more than that, a successful seafaring career also holds the promise of a rewarding career ashore, after retiring from the sea. There is an immense selection of challenging and rewarding professions ashore for which a career at sea provides an excellent background.

Looking ahead, the demand of the global fleet for manpower is increasing, and predicted to rise still further. Attracting and retaining new seafarers, particularly officers, is a challenge for us all. Investment in the training infrastructure will undoubtedly help. Shipping companies also need to ensure they have properly structured training and career development programmes in place, too; and the importance of women as a future source of seagoing human resource cannot be overstressed. The shipping world cannot afford to ignore such a rich and still largely untapped source of quality recruits.
Young people today have greater choice than ever before. To be attractive, shipping needs to ensure they can feel confident they are joining a profession in which they and their families will be looked after, cared for and adequately rewarded. For countries like Malaysia, the active development and promotion of seafaring as a career holds great potential.

You may be familiar with IMO's Maritime Ambassador scheme, under which IMO Member Governments and international organizations are invited to select and identify "IMO Maritime Ambassadors" to promote the maritime and seafaring professions and raise awareness of the positive benefits of choosing a career at sea or other maritime profession. I am sure here in the audience we have several potential IMO maritime ambassadors and I would encourage the Government of Malaysia to nominate suitable candidates.


Ladies and gentlemen, I want to turn now to some thoughts about ocean governance – or the need for integrated ocean management.

Water covers around 70 per cent of our planet's surface. Not only is it vital – in the strictly literal sense of the word – but it also provides a resource that supports our society in so many different ways. The world's oceans provide raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live, a place to relax and the means to transport about 90 per cent of global trade.

So the search for growth in this sector – blue growth – is a balancing act. The varied and sometimes conflicting stakeholders all have a legitimate interest in the process, while the overall health of the seas themselves is a common concern. What is needed is collaboration within and across different sectors to address impacts and reduce conflicts. This clearly suggests an integrated approach, with a long-term focus: an approach that responds to the world's resource, climate and environmental challenges. As a maritime community, we need to ensure that growth is coordinated and planned, with input from all relevant stakeholders, and that opportunities for synergy are identified and taken.

There is a clear tendency among actors in shipping and transport to operate in silos. Among IMO Member Governments, for example, we often find that areas such as maritime safety and navigation, port and infrastructure development, maritime transport policy, environmental protection, fisheries, security, customs and border control all fall within different departments or different ministries.

And yet, in reality, all these areas are linked to one another and have a mutual influence and bearing on each another. And IMO has a legitimate interest in all of these areas, too.

As I said before, I strongly believe that establishing a sustainable maritime transportation sector is essential to the development and growth of the world's economy and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. But to achieve this will require countries to establish a coordinated and integrated approach to maritime transport policy. IMO has been supporting a number of Member States, under the auspices of the IMO Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme, to develop national maritime transport policies.


IMO represents the collective views and decisions of its 171 Member Governments; and Member States represent billions of ordinary people, all over the world, who rely on shipping every day of their lives, whether they realize it or not.

Those people need a viable, profitable shipping industry. Their prosperity, their well-being and, in some cases, their survival, depend on it.

So, when IMO regulates about issues like how ships are designed and built, the reduction of emissions, the use of cleaner fuel, ballast water management, container safety and so on, the overarching objective is to ensure that the people of the world – for whom shipping is indispensable – can continue to enjoy the benefits of this important industry on which they rely. And, in a manner that meets modern expectations about safety, environmental protection and so on.

I get a strong sense that the shipping community, by and large, understands that, and is supportive. Of course, sometimes, the industry's immediate priorities may be different from those of the Organization. But, as I said, when standing for election as Secretary-General last year, I want IMO, its Member States and the industry to embark on a voyage together: and I think that's exactly what we are doing.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a great pleasure to deliver this lecture to you this evening. It is good to have the opportunity to approach familiar topics from a slightly different angle. I have enjoyed the process and I thank you for listening so attentively.

Thank you