Reception to launch the 2014 theme for World Maritime Day “IMO conventions: effective implementation”

Reception to launch the 2014 theme for World Maritime Day
IMO Headquarters – 20 January 2014
By Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you here this evening to launch the World Maritime Day theme for 2014.
I’d like to begin by posing a question: what is the point of working for months, even for years, to develop and adopt an international convention if that convention doesn’t enter into force? What is the point of all the technical work, the debates and discussion, the negotiations and compromises required to create an instrument that can be universally adopted if that instrument does not then become part of the international legal framework? 
The answer, of course, is that there is very little point at all.
The adoption of an IMO convention cannot be the end of a process. A conference is held, the text agreed, there are handshakes all round. But it’s not the end of the process. It should be just the end of the beginning. Because an IMO convention is only worthwhile and meaningful if it is effectively and universally implemented.
Over the years, IMO has built up an enviable track record for developing and adopting new international conventions. There are some 53 in all.
While most of these are in force and have done so much to make shipping safer, more efficient and more environment friendly, there are still several conventions for which a slow pace of ratification and a lack of implementation are serious causes for concern.  I believe that we can, indeed must, do more in this respect.
This is why I believe that the theme selected for World Maritime Day 2014 – namely “IMO conventions: effective implementation” – is so important. Through it, we will have the opportunity to put a spotlight on those IMO treaty instruments which have not yet entered into force.
I think we all know which conventions are at the top of the list in this respect. The Ballast Water Management Convention, for example, was adopted a decade ago and is still not in force. But, with 38 contracting parties to date, the only outstanding entry-into-force condition is the tonnage requirement. And, as this is now very close to fulfilment, we ought to be optimistic that the convention will enter into force soon – particularly following the adoption by the Assembly last November of an operationally practicable agreement addressing the remaining concerns relating to its effective implementation.
Another IMO convention on my radar of concern with respect to the need for speedy ratification and implementation is the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. Having been adopted almost four years ago, it is disappointing that it has, to date, only attracted one ratification. This is despite the fact that the whole package is complete, including all guidelines identified by the Hong Kong Conference and required under the Convention.
The Hong Kong Convention may not be perfect; but it is the best and only workable instrument on ship recycling currently available for international shipping. Its entry into force would both improve the safety of workers in this industry and enhance protection of the environment.
The 1993 Protocol relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels is another important Convention that has yet to meet its entry-into-force criteria. The barriers to ratification of this Convention were addressed in the form of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012. This Agreement updates and amends a number of provisions of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol. Once this has entered into force, it will greatly enhance safety standards for fishermen and fishing vessels and, thereby, significantly reduce the number of fatalities.
And let us also not forget that the 2010 HNS Protocol and the 2007 Nairobi Convention on the removal of wrecks are among other conventions yet to enter into force.
The sooner these conventions enter into force, the sooner the benefits would be received by us and the international community. During the course of this year, under the banner of the World Maritime Day theme, we will do all we can to encourage the ratification and implementation of all these instruments.
As well as conventions yet to enter into force, the wider and more complete implementation of measures already in place will also be a major element of this year’s theme.  Energy efficiency measures for ships, the availability of fuel oil to meet increasingly stringent sulphur content requirements, and the verification of goal-based ship construction standards are all important activities for which we wish to make significant progress in the Organization’s work this year and will all contribute towards wider and more effective implementation of measures already agreed or in place.
Ladies and gentlemen, since its inception, IMO has made a significant contribution to the development of international law. The instruments developed by IMO do much to shape everyday working life in the shipping world.
Implementation of IMO measures is, ultimately, the responsibility of the Member States and the industry – and the forthcoming mandatory audit scheme for Member States will be an important tool for assessing Member States’ performance in meeting their obligations and responsibilities as flag, port and coastal States under the relevant IMO treaties.
But the Organization itself, including the Secretariat, also has a role to play. The extensive technical cooperation programme, in which we identify particular needs among Member States that may lack resources, expertise or both, and match them to offers of help and assistance from others, is a key element in this respect, helping States to meet their obligations fully and effectively. Under the technical cooperation programmes, the Organization is able to assist States in their ratification processes, as well as playing an important role in promoting uniform application of existing conventions and, in this year of implementation, we are planning a number of regional meetings in various parts of the world to discuss and promote effective implementation of IMO conventions under the technical cooperation programme.
It is my strong hope that, during the course of this year, our theme will enable us to make genuine progress towards effective and global implementation of all IMO conventions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you.