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Briefing to Member States at IMO Headquarters


​Briefing to Member States
2 June 2016
Speech by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, 

It is really a great pleasure to be with you here today at this, my first briefing to you all: Ambassadors, High Commissioners, permanent representatives to IMO, maritime liaison officers and staff from the permanent missions here in London and others.

I have been looking forward to continuing the tradition established by my predecessor of holding these briefings. This time we meet here in the Main Hall, as the audio systems in the committee rooms upstairs are currently being upgraded.

This briefing gives me an opportunity to outline my thoughts on where we stand and where we should go on our “voyage together”.

I do apologize for the postponement of the date of this meeting and I am truly pleased to see so many of you here today.

I have decided to change the format of the briefing slightly. I will start out by providing you with an update of activities at IMO and a few thoughts about the future of IMO. To look ahead is something for which the regular meetings rarely provide an opportunity. I will then invite you to participate in a discussion and invite you to ask questions and engage in dialogue with me and some members of my senior management team who are sitting alongside me.

So without further ado, I will give you my update and then we can open the floor for questions. 


It has been a busy year so far for the Organization. 

To date, we have had five sub-committee meetings and three main committee meetings this year. For me, as the new Secretary-General, it has been truly impressive to see the dedication and expert work that goes on in the plenary as well as working and drafting groups. A lot has already been achieved, but amongst the highlights I will mention:

• the adoption of the revised FAL Annex;  
• the completion of the GBS (goal-based standards) verification audit;
• the progress made at the recent MSC on cyber-security, which is an emerging issue for the industry; and
• the approval of the mandatory data collection system by the MEPC, meaning we have shown the world that IMO is continuing with its work on climate change matters, reflecting the positive work by States to act on the Paris Agreement on climate change.

We have seen the fabled IMO spirit of cooperation at work on more than one occasion. This is a tribute to the traditions of this Organization, as well as every single individual involved in the work. It is so important that we maintain the cooperation and understanding amongst all stakeholders in order to reach joint decisions that are applied globally to the maritime industry.

Allow me to express my sincere thanks to all in the IMO family: Member States, IGOs, NGOs, the industry at large and not at least the seafarers. To me it is very important that we all remember that we are part of the IMO family and listen to each other to keep on delivering results.

Coming up in the next months, we have ahead of us sessions of LEG, the Council and III before the summer, and then in the autumn CCC, LC/LP, TCC, MSC 97, MEPC 70 and another session of the Council. I have seen the IMO family at work - delegates and the Secretariat - and I know the forthcoming meetings will be just as fruitful and productive.  


Now, I would like to share with you some of my own thoughts for IMO.

The first months in the office on the 7th floor have entailed a steep learning curve. I can tell you that no matter how much time you spend here as a delegate, to move to the other side of the podium gives a very different experience of IMO’s work.

Of course, I personally don’t dictate the Organization’s policies or even its agenda. That is your prerogative, as IMO Member States.

But as Secretary-General, I believe it is my role to develop my strategies and vision to support the decision–making process of the Member States. There are a number of areas that I would like to see the Organization concentrate on during the coming years.

Let us call them “directions of travel”. I have four in mind, with the acronym ICCD:

1. Implementation;
2. Capacity-building;
3. Communication; and
4. Data management

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. In this process we need to listen to those at the sharp end. The ones we are regulating or affected by our regulation should be heard, so that any challenges in implementation can be addressed before they turn into problems.

This leads directly onto my next priority - 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. 

Both implementation and capacity-building are fundamental to IMO. 

As you know, the Council next month will be considering the document setting out the trends, developments and challenges (or “TDCs”) facing the Organization and the maritime community in the 2018-2023 period.

You will have already seen the Council document presenting the draft TDCs and I know some of you will be participating in the second session of the Working Group on the Development of a new Strategic Framework which will meet just before the Council. 

I fully support the thrust of the TDCs. We need to consider the big picture and trends in order to shape the future of IMO and to develop our strategic directions, as well as those activities we are to undertake to achieve our strategic goals. There will be difficult compromises ahead. But if we are to make an impact, we need to focus on a few areas and make sure we make real progress in these areas in the 6 year period of the new strategic framework.

IMO should have a forward-looking strategy to prepare shipping and indeed the larger maritime community for the future and strengthen that community's position in global trade.

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 sector.

In this context, I want to praise the media for continuously providing a platform for IMO to share information on the initiatives we take, and ensure that relevant stakeholders and the general public are aware of our achievements. It is a priority of mine, to also engage with general media outlets and not just the maritime media, to explain about the importance of international shipping.

In these first five months I have travelled extensively, meeting officials and representatives from governments, the maritime industry, environmental organizations and many more, engaging in debates, listening to the concerns of IMO's many and varied stakeholders and opening up new lines of communication with so many people who are vital to the continued success of the Organization.

I have also met many of you here at IMO and have continued the dialogue with other UN agencies, as well as the European Commission. It is paramount for me to have open channels of communication to ensure that different organizations work together, and each provide their part for the global good. We need to work together to achieve results.

At my invitation, we received UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at IMO here in London in early February, where he added his support to this year’s World Maritime Day Theme amongst others.

We also were able to hear from Indonesian President Mr Joko Widodo during the MEPC meeting in April. This was the first visit from a Head of State to IMO in a very long time and is an important element in raising the profile of IMO and of the beneficial work we do here.  I would welcome the opportunity to also receive the heads of State of other IMO Member States in the future. Please do know that I have an open door policy and would be thrilled to host them here at the Organization.

As you will recall, the World Maritime Day theme this year is “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 with 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. I look forward to events here at IMO and the parallel event in Turkey later this year. 

Looking further ahead in 2018 we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the IMO Convention entering into force, and the 70th anniversary of its adoption. This will provide a number of opportunities for us to look back at IMO’s history and also look ahead to its future. What will the next 60/70 years bring?

And also coming soon, on 25 June, we will have our annual Day of the Seafarer and the message this year is “hashtag - At Sea for All”. Please join the campaign and spread the word. 

Here, I would like to commend the IMO Maritime Ambassadors, now numbering some 40. I cannot praise them highly enough for their enthusiasm and dedication to promoting the maritime world.
I would encourage any Member State which has not yet done so, to put forward a nomination for an IMO Maritime Ambassador. 

So returning to my I C C D priorities, let’s talk about data.

The world is hungry for data.

Chinese businessman and Alibaba founder Ma Yun (also known as Jack Ma), said in 2015:

“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 have data and we are collecting more data through GISIS. In this, we are partnering with Member States, IGOs and NGOs to provide up-to-date and accurate data.

Further, we also receive data from many other sources, including reports and documents submitted to us. 

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 data we will collect in the future.  Evaluating IMO’s performance will come from analysing the data. 

I am particularly interested in looking more closely at our 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 need to be taken. 

I also think we can do a lot more to re-focus our efforts in relation to people, and not at least seafarers who are literally the beating heart of the shipping industry.

If the shipping industry is to recruit and retain officers so as to avoid the continuing shortfall in officers that was unveiled in the recent 2015 ICS/BIMCO manpower survey, then we need to strengthen our efforts, along with our colleagues in ILO, to look at the capability of seafarers, their welfare, their training and their management. 

Ladies and gentlemen, on 1 January 2017 we will see the Polar Code enter into force. This is a prime example of how IMO has responded to trends in shipping and the opening up of trade routes by acting to preserve and protect the Polar regions, pristine natural areas with distinctive, beautiful and harsh environments.   

While we need to strive for 100% protection of all sensitive areas, areas such as the Polar regions, where infrastructure such as SAR services are scarce, warrant our special attention. 


As I conclude my speech and the initial part of this briefing, allow me to say that as the Secretary-General of this prestigious Organization, I am fully committed to serve you, the Member States of IMO, to the best of my ability. And as we face the current and future challenges, I hope to be able to count on your continued support for the best of the Organization.

Now, I would like to open the floor for questions to me or to my senior managers.

Thank you.