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The Royal Institution of Naval Architects - Annual Dinner


The Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Annual Dinner,  20 April 2016
Speech by Secretary-General Kitack Lim
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here with you this evening at your annual dinner, and I am grateful to Mr. Bruce Rosenblatt, for giving me the opportunity to say a few words at this prestigious occasion.

When I was invited, I was pleased to take the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with such an august professional body in the maritime world.

Ladies and gentlemen, yours is a fascinating and rewarding profession. And most of you here this evening have been fortunate to be active in perhaps the most exciting period ever in which to be a naval architect.

In the last 40 years, whole new ship categories have emerged that were once unheard of but are now familiar sights all around the world. Radical shapes and configurations continue to be developed and pioneering concepts continue to emerge.

But the essential objective for the ship designer, at least where cargo ships are concerned, is basically the same as it always has been – how to maximise the carrying capacity of the ship, meet all the regulatory requirements concerning safety and environmental protection and ensure the resulting design is as efficient as it can possibly be.

The relationship between the regulator and the designer is an interesting one. Part of the regulator's role is to set boundaries. Rules such as those in the Load Lines and SOLAS Conventions are designed to establish an envelope of safety. And part of the naval architect's role is to "push the envelope" – to extract the maximum possible advantage while remaining within the established boundaries.

At the same time, your input and assistance in the process of developing the rules is invaluable. IMO works constantly towards the elimination of sub-standard ships and very often that means moving design concepts forward – while ensuring the highest standards of safety and environmental protection are met.

Over the years, countless design-based improvements affecting vessel safety have been made and almost all of them have been either conceptualized or fine-tuned, or both, by members of your profession, and I believe you deserve great credit for that.

Shipping and trade go hand-in-hand – and we all know that the global economy has been slow for some years now.

But the long-term prospects for world trade are good, with a global population now over 7 billion and an increasingly aspirational middle class emerging in the newly industrialized countries.

Sooner or later – hopefully sooner – we will begin to see stronger growth in the global economy and, at some stage, this will be reflected in demand for shipping.

If that coincides with a change in the current situation in which there is an excess of tonnage in the industry, then there could be some much better years ahead for shipping.

Growth in world trade is usually accompanied by an upswing in the shipping markets, and that is usually good news for the professions and industries that serve shipping – like shipbuilding and naval architecture.

Shipping is the only viable delivery mechanism that can support global trade and the global economy – and IMO is the only body that ensures shipping can operate safely and sustainably within a fair and equitable, global, regulatory regime.

IMO is as relevant and as necessary today as it was when it first began operations in 1959. Of course, it was a completely different world back then. At that time, shipping lacked a framework of international standards and regulations, safety levels in the industry were not high, seafarer training was not regulated and the negative impact of shipping on the environment was not even on the radar.

Since then, IMO has tackled these and many other issues. International shipping has an effective regulatory regime that promotes safety, security, environmental protection and efficiency within the industry. And, today, IMO is still adapting the regulatory framework to ensure that the issues generated by the digital age – e-navigation and cyber security, for example – are also properly addressed.

As we move forward, this regulatory framework will inevitably need to be amended and upgraded, to keep pace with technological developments and with the changing expectations of our Member Governments and the populations they serve.

We see this, for example, in the increasing scrutiny being placed on our work to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and thereby contribute to the global imperative to tackle climate change.

I think we can be pleased with our progress on this so far – and you, as naval architects, will be very familiar with measures like the SEEMP and particularly the EEDI.

But more needs to be done, and developing an appropriate and effective way forward on climate change will continue to be at the top of our agenda for the foreseeable future.

The enhancement of maritime safety and security and the protection of the marine environment remain at the core of IMO's objectives and they dictate the broad thrust of the Organization's activities.

The continuing development of goal-based standards for vessel construction is an important case in point and it has a particular relevance to you, as ship designers. The philosophy behind goal-based standards is to allow and encourage innovation but, at the same time, ensure that ships are constructed in such a manner that, if properly maintained, they could remain safe for their entire economic life.

It is a deliberate move away from prescriptive regulations, which tend to become less and less relevant over time and can hold back ship designers, who are technically innovative, from being able to properly address future design challenges.

Other key areas that we are addressing include passenger ship safety – both the giant modern cruise ships of today and the domestic ferries on which so many in the developing world depend – the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention and the application of the Polar Code, which becomes mandatory from the beginning of next year.

A vital tool in supporting IMO's regulatory work is the Member State Audit Scheme, which became mandatory at the beginning of this year. I have no doubt that the audit process will be of great benefit both to the Member States themselves and to the regulatory process overall, as the lessons learnt are dissected and acted upon.

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

But there are a number of clear areas that I would like to see the Organization concentrate on during the coming years. Let us call them "directions of travel".

The first is implementation. 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.

My next priority is capacity building, especially to help developing countries. By doing this, we can help 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.

My third priority is communication. I want to raise the profile of IMO and of shipping as a whole. For me, this is especially important. It is vital that, as a maritime community, we look to raise our profile among key influencers and policymakers outside of our regular community.

Indeed, this year's World Maritime Day theme – "Shipping: indispensable to the world" – was chosen to focus on the critical link between shipping and global society and to raise awareness of the relevance of the role of IMO as the global regulatory body for international shipping. The importance of shipping in supporting and sustaining today's global society gives IMO's work a significance that reaches far beyond the industry itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, whenever the causes of maritime casualties are analysed, "human error" always comes high on the list – and, of course, we address this by setting standards for training, for operational practices and for management practices, such as the ISM Code.

But this is the 21st century and, more than ever, we rely on technology.

Naval architects are uniquely placed to take a strong lead in ensuring that cutting-edge technology and design are effectively integrated into everyday ship operations, and that the potential benefits they offer are properly harnessed.

That is why your profession and this Organization are so important; and I urge you, in your work, always to be driven by the knowledge that ship design is an essential component of safety at sea and the protection of the marine environment.

In conclusion, let me stress that RINA's contribution to IMO's work is greatly valued and much appreciated. Not only do you help us frame the rules and regulations that shape the shipping industry, you also ensure that they are translated into real life and implemented at the sharp end of shipping, where they really matter.

RINA was granted consultative status with IMO in 2001 and since then you have actively participated in many of the technical meetings and their respective working and drafting groups, submitting ideas and proposals and providing welcome specialist advice.  Indeed, you have even established a special IMO Committee, consisting of eminent experts in the field of naval architecture and currently chaired by John de Rose who is well known in the IMO community, to organize this work and liaise with the Organization.  Mr. Tom Allan, I am sure our close cooperation will continue to our mutual benefit.

We are partners, with shared goals and common objectives. The issues we are engaged in affect not just the shipping world but the entire global community; and I feel very strongly that the entire shipping community should be very proud of what they have achieved, through IMO, to ensure shipping has become progressively safer, cleaner and more efficient over many decades.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am determined to build on the good work of my predecessors and I know I can count on the support of the entire IMO family – including RINA – as we work toward our shared objectives. If you have the opportunity, do come and visit IMO. I wish RINA and you all the best.

Thank you