2nd Maritime Administrators' Forum, Singapore - IMO 70: Our Heritage – Better Shipping for a Better Future

2nd Maritime Administrators' Forum
Singapore, 25 April 2018
IMO 70: Our Heritage – Better Shipping for a Better Future
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here in this truly vibrant, global trading city of Singapore during the celebration of Singapore Maritime Week.

The history of Singapore is a history of trade, and there can be very few places in the world today with a greater claim to be at the centre of global shipping. My thanks go to the Maritime and Port Authority for organizing this event and for inviting me to speak.

As I hope most of you here will know, this year is a particularly important one for IMO, as we celebrate two major anniversaries: 70 years since the IMO Convention was adopted and 60 years since it entered into force.

And I am particularly pleased that our theme for the year – "Our Heritage: Better Shipping for a Better Future" – has been selected as the theme for this Conference, too. It's a theme which looks both at the past and into the years that lie ahead. Specifically for IMO, it provides an opportunity to reflect and showcase how the Organization has developed and adapted while staying true to its overall mission – to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.

But, in a broader context, it also provides a platform for shipping and all its stakeholders to take stock at a time of great change.

IMO can be justifiably proud of its record of steering the shipping industry, through regulation, to being ever safer, greener and cleaner and sustainable. But we cannot rest on past achievements. Our main focus has to be firmly on the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first opportunity I have had to speak publicly since the historic adoption by IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee of an initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

I cannot stress strongly enough how significant this is. For the first time, there is a clear 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.

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. When you have more than 100 Member States with a wide range of shared and differing viewpoints, this is not easy to achieve. But that is exactly what happened at MEPC and all those involved deserve great credit for reaching this outcome. Now, of course, begins the hard work of agreeing the precise measures that will enable these ambitions to be achieved. But to have this overall framework within which the technical discussions can now take place is a truly historic breakthrough.

Responding to climate change is, of course, a central part of IMO's objectives for the coming years. Last year, IMO adopted a new Strategic Plan for the six-year period from 2018 to 2023. Part of the Plan is a mission statement, which confirms that IMO will "promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation", and a supporting vision statement which says IMO will "uphold its leadership role as the global regulator of shipping".

More specifically, the Plan enshrined seven specific strategic directions, namely: improve implementation, integrate new and advancing technologies in the regulatory framework, respond to climate change, engage in ocean governance, enhance global facilitation and security of international trade, ensure regulatory effectiveness, and ensure organizational effectiveness.

These seven strategic directions are paramount. But the Organization's Strategic Plan also refers to a number of other vital areas that will underlie its work in the coming period. These include the needs of developing countries, especially those of small island developing States and least developed countries, the competence and professionalism of personnel employed or engaged in the maritime sector, the needs and well-being of seafarers, the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and collaboration with other bodies in the United Nations system.

I mentioned just now the Sustainable Development Goals. These, as I am sure you know, have been adopted by world leaders as a set of targets to transform our world for the better. A sustainable, global shipping sector is essential to many of them and a factor in all of them.

But, to be truly sustainable, maritime activities have to be balanced with the oceans' capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term. The global marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale. A major part of IMO's role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting that delicate balance.

The world is no longer prepared to accept services or industries that are simply cost-effective. We now demand them to be green and clean and energy-efficient – as well as safe, of course. Through IMO, governments ensure that shipping responds to this challenge. And the significant improvements in casualty and pollution figures from ships over several decades clearly show that we have achieved considerable success in this regard. Yet, still, we seek further improvements.

Shipping must meet the increasingly stringent demands of its customers, and of society as a whole, with regard to environmental performance. It must continually adjust to new expectations – and this, incidentally, may also drive changes in the global fleet, encouraging older vessels to be phased out, promoting new and more efficient ship designs and streamlining vessel operations.

Many of these new expectations are reflected in the work we see being undertaken by IMO.

Greenhouse gas emissions, the sulphur content of ships fuel and ballast water management are just three recent examples of how IMO is responding to the challenges of environmental stewardship and sustainability. You could also add to them the adoption of the Polar Code, our involvement with the Global Partnership on Marine Litter and our leadership role in projects like GloMEEP, GloFouling and the GMN initiative – all designed to help countries, particularly in the developing world, to build the capacity to tackle these vital issues for themselves.

The overall objective is to ensure that the people of the world can continue to enjoy the benefits of shipping, in a manner that fully meets modern expectations. And that is something everyone benefits from.

IMO does not get involved in the economic or business side of shipping. Our mission is to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.

But here in Singapore, you will be especially aware of the benefits that maritime activity can bring. The maritime sector, which includes shipping, ports and the people that operate them, can and should play a significant role in creating conditions for increased employment, prosperity and stability.

As the only really cost-effective way to transport the vast majority of international trade, shipping will be vital to global sustainable development and growth in the future.

In this context, I should like to say how pleased I am that Singapore has today pledged a substantial increase to its already-generous contribution to IMO's technical cooperation activities, with an advanced package of fellowships, scholarships and training courses over the next five years. This additional assistance will be of considerable help to IMO in our efforts to improve the abilities of especially developing countries, to participate effectively as maritime nations and fulfil their obligations under IMO's regulatory regime. This is a really significant contribution and I am very grateful for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned earlier that this is a time of great change.

All around us, in every part of our lives, we are encountering radical new models for the way we live, usually driven by innovative digital technology or artificial intelligence.

Digital disruption will arrive in the shipping world very soon. The next 10 or 20 years will see as much change in shipping as we have experienced in the past 100 years.

For example, we can expect artificial intelligence to have an impact on ships' navigation and operation. New players, like Google, are getting involved, developing "smart ship" concepts that could revolutionise how ships are designed, built and operated.

Technology and data hold the key to a safer and more sustainable future for shipping. Thanks to new technology emerging in so many areas – such as fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction, shipping is entering a new era.

But technological advances present challenges as well as opportunities, so their introduction into the regulatory framework needs to be considered carefully. We need to balance the benefits against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment and on international trade, the potential costs to the industry and, not least, the human element, that is their impact on personnel, both on board and ashore.

IMO must be ready. Our challenge is to ensure that the benefits offered by these challenging technologies can be fully realized but without compromising safety, security or environmental protection.

It is absolutely right that IMO should take a proactive and leading role in these new emerging issues. IMO is the only forum where such issues can be fully discussed, and aired, and where the appropriate actions can then be taken.

In this anniversary year for IMO, let us recall that, since its beginning, 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, environmental protection, social responsibility and so on.

The world needs a viable shipping industry. Peoples' prosperity, their well-being and, in some cases, their very survival, depend on it.

IMO's heritage for 70 years has been to drive improvements in shipping to achieve a better world today. Our challenge for the years to come remains the same: to work in partnership with all stakeholders to create better shipping – for a better future.

Thank you.