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Skip Navigation LinksMPA-Academy Talk under MPA Academy's "Distinguished Visitor" series - "Future plans and visions for IMO"

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Talk under MPA Singapore Academy's "Distinguished Visitor" series - "Future plans and visions for IMO"


Talk under MPA Academy's "Distinguished Visitor" series
Singapore, 30 August 2016
"Future plans and visions for IMO"
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today, in one of the world's great maritime capitals. Not only is Singapore one of the busiest and most dynamic ports, it is also a global leader in so many other areas, like ship finance, ship broking, maritime law and so on.

Historically, shipping and trading are fundamental to Singapore's very existence and today they are as important to the city as they have ever been. The maritime community of Singapore has an influence that reaches far beyond the country itself, and that is why I am glad to have the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today about the future directions of IMO and some of the challenges we face.

As a still-relatively-new Secretary-General I am often asked to set out my priorities for IMO. The first thing I must explain is that I don't dictate the Organization's policies or even its agenda. That is the prerogative of the Member States.

But, as Secretary-General, one of my key roles is to develop a vision and the associated strategies to support the decision–making process of the Member States. And in this respect, there are a number of important areas that I would like to see the Organization concentrate on during the coming years.

I referred to them as "directions of travel”.

The first of them is implementation.

Over the years, IMO has built an enviable track record for developing and adopting new international conventions. There are more than 50 altogether and, collectively, they have done a great deal to make shipping safer, more efficient and more environment-friendly.

But the adoption of measures at IMO should be just the beginning of a process, not the end – because IMO measures are only worth anything if they are effectively and universally implemented. Only then can they have a tangible impact.

For an IMO convention to be properly effective, it needs early entry into force, widespread ratification, effective implementation, stringent oversight of compliance and vigorous enforcement. Even those conventions that command almost universal coverage of the global fleet, such as SOLAS and MARPOL, only have teeth if they are backed up by an effective implementation infrastructure at the national level.

And this leads directly onto my next priority – capacity building.

Not all countries have an equal ability to fulfil their obligations under the various IMO instruments. Some, particularly in the developing world, lack the technical knowledge and resources that are needed to comply with international rules and standards. Not only can this act as a barrier to ratification and entry into force, it also prevents these countries from participating fully in maritime activities, something I believe is essential for sustainable economic growth.

To help developing countries build their maritime capacity, IMO has a very pro-active programme of technical assistance, focusing especially on developing human resources and building institutional capacity. Given that the regulatory framework developed by IMO is now very comprehensive, the Organization's emphasis in the coming years will be increasingly on the closely related areas of implementation and capacity building.

Implementation and capacity building go hand in hand; one supports the other. We have a strong mandate to help our Member States and the industry to ensure that the regulatory framework and its provisions are effectively and uniformly implemented. And, by so doing, IMO helps ensure that the ability to participate effectively in maritime activities is not just confined to the traditional shipping countries that can tap into rich seams of maritime experience and expertise. In this, I see a much wider benefit that gives IMO a broader significance than ever before – something that is very important for us, as an agency of the United Nations.

Throughout these processes, it is vital that we take time to listen to our stakeholders, particularly those who are affected by our regulations or who are responsible for implementing them. Shipowners, ship operators and, of course seafarers themselves – the beating heart of the shipping industry – are vital collaborators for us. We need to ensure that any challenges in implementation can be addressed before they turn into problems.

Which brings me directly to my third priority: communication.

The need for genuinely connected thinking and planning across all aspects of the transportation chain is vital; and not just for the efficiency of the supply chain itself, but also to ensure that wider issues such as sustainability, environmental protection and the fair and equitable use of the oceans are fully embraced and properly considered.

Communication is one of the most valuable tools we have to achieve this. By sharing our thoughts, our experiences, our problems and our successes – this is how we make progress.

Which is why I am keen to raise IMO's visibility, not just among those who already know us, but also among those who do not. I want to raise awareness among officials, ministers and decision-makers both within and outside of our regular community. I want IMO to be recognized as the active, engaging and outward-looking organization that it is.

And, as I said a few moments ago, it's not just about telling – it's about listening, too. I want to listen to and learn from people who are affected in their daily lives by the work that IMO does; and that will help me, when I am speaking to the policymakers and decision-takers, to emphasize the real importance, to them and their constituents, of the issues we are dealing with.

One of my major priorities as Secretary-General will be to enhance the general understanding and appreciation, among a far wider constituency, of the vital role played by shipping within the whole global supply chain. This is the very essence of the global economy and something on which we all depend. Indeed, this is reflected in the theme we have chosen for World Maritime Day 2016, namely "Shipping: indispensable to the world".

This gives all of us the opportunity to tell the story about shipping and its role and importance and to communicate this to a wider audience. Almost everyone in the world today relies on shipping to some extent, but very few are aware of it. I hope that all those involved in this vital industry will join me in spreading the news that shipping really is – indispensable to the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fourth of my top priorities is data-management.

The world is hungry for data. In 2015, Chinese businessman Ma Yun said:

"Data will become the biggest production material in the future, it will become a public resource like water, electricity and oil […]. With computing capabilities and data, mankind will go through changes that flip heaven and earth."

At IMO we collect data through our Global Integrated Shipping Information System, or GISIS. In this, we rely on Member States, IGOs and NGOs to provide up-to-date and accurate data.

We also receive data from many other sources, including reports and documents submitted to us by Member States, by the industry and by many other bodies and organizations.

But I think we need to analyse and utilise that data in a much better and more systematic way. We need to think more about how we manage and use the data we already have – and the data we will collect in the future.

I am, for example, particularly interested in looking more closely at casualty information and ensuring we conduct proper analysis of the causes of accidents, particularly the human element, in order to create better regulations in the future, and possibly predict future areas where action needs to be taken.

Ladies and gentlemen,

IMO currently faces an array of challenges and issues. These include implementing the Member State Audit Scheme, tackling emissions from ships, the further development of Goal Based Standards, increasing traffic in polar waters, introduction of e-navigation, the Ballast Water Management Convention, counter-piracy activities, cyber security and safety standards for passenger ships and fishing vessels – and there are many more, as a glance at the busy agendas of all our committee and sub-committee meetings will confirm.

With the collective wisdom and insight of IMO Member States and other stakeholders, I am confident we can meet these challenges and continue to forge a future in which shipping meets the needs of the world in a safe, secure and sustainable way, building on the substantial efforts and achievements of IMO to date.

My vision for the Organization is one of strengthened partnerships – between developing and developed countries, between governments and industry, between IMO Member States and regions. I will also endeavour to strengthen communication between the maritime industry and the general public, I see IMO acting as a bridge between all these stakeholders in what I have referred to as "a voyage together".

I have said many times that I believe shipping and related maritime activities are essential components of future sustainable growth for the earth's 7 billion-plus inhabitants. But the search for growth in this sector – blue growth – is a balancing act. The overall health of the seas and oceans themselves is clearly a cause for concern.

Collaboration within and across different sectors to address impacts and ensure a joint approach is vital. An integrated approach, with a long-term focus – an approach that responds to the world's resource, climate and environmental challenges – is essential. 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.

I believe that IMO is the place to integrate maritime policies on a global scale. Indeed, an inclusive process to identify the trends, developments and challenges facing the Organization and the maritime community was launched at IMO and based on the discussion at the last Council the Organization's new strategic framework for the 2018-2023 period will be developed.

We need to consider the big picture and trends in order to shape the future of IMO. There will be difficult compromises ahead. But, if we are to make an impact, we need to focus on key areas and ensure we make real progress in these areas in the years ahead.

It is essential that IMO should have a forward-looking strategy to prepare shipping and, indeed, the larger maritime community for the challenges they will face in the future; and it is my intention to ensure the Organization is properly equipped to deliver effectively the objectives that its Member States set for it, and which global society demands from it.

Thank you.