4 June 2018
Opening address by Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here at what is unquestionably one of the shipping industry's leading trade gatherings, in one of the most important global centres of commercial shipping.
My appreciation goes to the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, the Union of Greek Ship-owners and the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping for organizing such an impressive event, and I am grateful to them for the opportunity to speak.
I would like to begin with a few words about IMO. This is a special year for us, as we celebrate not one, but two, major anniversaries: 70 years since the IMO Convention was adopted and 60 years since it entered into force.
Our theme for the year – "Our Heritage: Better Shipping for a Better Future" – reflects on the past and looks into the years that lie ahead.
IMO can be justifiably proud of its record of steering the shipping industry, through regulation, to being ever safer, greener and cleaner.
Since its beginnings, IMO has worked to ensure that the people of the world can continue to benefit from shipping in a manner that meets the needs of the global economy, but also changing expectations about safety, security, environmental protection, social responsibility and more.
There is a long list of achievements – too many to mention here – but even in very recent times we can cite our work on reducing harmful emissions, ballast water management, the Polar Code, container safety, combating maritime crime and strengthening seafarers' rights as among many significant examples of IMO helping to move shipping towards a more sustainable future.
And it is the Member States, including Greece – a long-serving Member of the IMO Council – which must take the credit for that.
But we cannot rest on past achievements. Our main focus has to be firmly on the future. And as we look ahead, we see a series of new challenges.
We must, for example, continue to build on the momentous achievements made so far to address climate change and promote the development and uptake of new and renewable energy sources that can revolutionise shipping.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the most recent accomplishment at IMO which has been acclaimed as a development of historic global significance, and I am refereeing to the adoption, in April, of the Initial Strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.
For the first time, there is a clear policy commitment to a complete phase out of GHG emissions from ships, a specific linkage to the Paris Agreement and a series of clear levels of ambition including at least a 50 per cent cut in emissions from the sector by 2050.
I cannot stress enough how important this is in political terms. IMO is not a body that can simply issue directives. It needs to bring its Member States together in agreement, or as near to agreement as possible.
We must ensure that the opportunities presented by modern "mega trends" like digitalization, artificial intelligence and the so-called "fourth industrial revolution" are carefully integrated into shipping's framework, balancing the benefits against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment, on international trade, and on the human element.
And we must make sure the reform process underway within the United Nations is echoed within IMO. United Nations Secretary-General Guterres has spoken of the need to do away with "fragmented structures, byzantine procedures and endless red tape" and to "simplify procedures and decentralize decisions". This must be reflected within IMO, too. Again, to quote Secretary-General Guterres, "To serve the people we support and the people who support us, we must be nimble and effective, flexible and efficient".
So much for IMO – what are the specific challenges that face shipping today? The list is familiar to us all: climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; the forthcoming reduction in the global limit of permissible sulphur content in ships' fuel oil – known throughout the industry as "IMO 2020"; automation and autonomous ships; the human element; cyber security; piracy, security and migration issues.
Some of these challenges may sound futuristic but, in reality, they are all with us now. And IMO is addressing them. Last year, IMO adopted a new Strategic Plan for the years 2018 to 2023 which confirms that IMO will "promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation" and "uphold its leadership role as the global regulator of shipping".
More specifically, the Plan enshrines seven specific strategic directions which lay the foundations for IMO Member States, IGOs and NGOs to work together to address these and other challenges.
Ladies and Gentleman, Greece is one of the most important IMO Member States. It has been continuously contributing to the work of IMO in all aspects: policy and technical issues.
I would like to take this opportunity today to express my deep appreciation to the government of Greece and its shipping industry for the devoted participation and support.
In conclusion, once again let me thank the organizers for the opportunity to be here with you. I know that the attractions of Posidonia are many and varied, and that, of all the major industry events, this one is a lot more than a trade show! Let me wish you all a successful, fruitful and, most definitely, a very enjoyable Posidonia!