Georgia International Maritime Forum
Batumi, Georgia, 13 September 2016
Keynote address by Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General
Prime Minister, Ministers, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here today at the opening of this landmark event, the first-ever international maritime forum to be held here in Georgia.
I should say at the outset how much I appreciate the personal interest taken in this forum by Prime Minister His Excellency Mr Kvirikashvili. I have no doubt that his patronage has not only helped to encourage participation at such a high level, but is also a reflection of the importance and the value that this country - and this region – places on maritime affairs.
I also appreciate very much that one of the main objectives of this event is to raise awareness of our theme for World Maritime Day this year; namely that shipping is indispensable to the world.
In today's economy, people all over the world rely on ships to transport the commodities, fuel, goods and products that they depend on. Maritime transport is the backbone of international trade and global markets.
Ships today are more technically advanced, more sophisticated, safer and more environment-friendly than ever before; and, they have never carried so much cargo and never been more efficient than they are today.
It is thanks to the global fleet and global workforce of over one million seafarers that the modern world can be sustained.
As I have said many times before, maritime activity can both drive and support a growing economy. And there many ways this can be achieved – for example:
• by promoting trade by sea;
• by nurturing national shipping lines and promoting seafaring as a career;
• by improving port infrastructure and efficiency;
• by developing and strengthening inter-modal links and connections;
• by managing and protecting fisheries; and
• even by fostering maritime tourism.
In all these ways, maritime activity can be a foundation on which to build growth and development.
We call all of this ‘the blue economy’. But there is a problem: the success and growth of this sector is actually threatening the integrity of the element that sustains and supports them – the sea.
As a Black Sea country, Georgia knows better than most that the marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale.
Species, critical habitats and the health of the marine ecosystem are all becoming endangered, and this is adversely affecting people who live in coastal regions and communities that depend on marine areas for food and livelihood.
Conflicts in the use of ocean space and resources among the various stakeholders are increasing. Although the oceans cover such a large percentage of the earth's surface, they are becoming increasingly crowded.
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. Today, collaboration is needed, within and across different sectors, to address impacts and reduce conflicts.
This clearly suggests an integrated approach, with a long-term focus: we need to respond to challenges surrounding resources, climate, the environment and growth. 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.
And that is why I am so keen to support this summit meeting. It clearly demonstrates that, within the context of Georgia and of the region, the importance of joined-up thinking and collaborative planning across the full spectrum of the maritime sector has been understood. At this forum, many of those different yet interconnected stakeholders are being brought together; and I wish you all every success as you explore the many opportunities for mutual benefit.