56th Session of Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation (NAV 56)

Opening speech

(26 to 30 July 2010)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers,
It is also a pleasure for me to welcome you to the fifty-sixth session of the Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation. I extend a particular welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
Before I address some of the most important items on your agenda, I wish to say a few words about this year's World Maritime Day theme, which is "2010: Year of the Seafarer". By choosing this theme, the Council aimed at giving the Organization, throughout the year, the opportunity, together with the maritime community at large, to pay tribute to the more than 1.5 million seafarers from all over the world for their unique contribution to society and in recognition of the risks they shoulder in the execution of their daily tasks and duties in an often hostile environment.
Among the various components of the action plan designed to celebrate the Year of the Seafarer, the culmination of the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code takes pride of place. This was achieved by means of a Diplomatic Conference, which adopted by consensus the 2010 Manila Amendments, named after the Philippine' Capital City, where the Conference took place. The aim of the amendments is to ensure that, once in force (on 1 January 2012, as expected), seafarers will be educated and trained to standards that will enable them to operate, with the required degree of safety and security and with due regard to their responsibilities vis-à-vis the environment, today's technologically advanced ships for some time to come.
Another milestone of the Conference was its decision to declare the day on which it adopted the STCW amendments, the 25th of June, as the "Day of the Seafarer" for celebration every year from now on. This was a fitting decision taken during the year dedicated to the seafarer, made in the country that supplies more than a quarter of the entire population of seafarers on a worldwide basis. I would encourage Member Governments, shipping organizations and companies, ship owners, operators, managers and all other parties concerned, together with seafarer representative organizations, to duly and appropriately promote the Day as from next year. This would be the least we could do for those to whom we owe so much.
Distinguished delegates,
Since your last session, twelve months ago, the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee have each met once and, under agenda item 2, you will be informed of their decisions, which are relevant to your work.
Of the important items on your agenda this week, I would single out that on e-navigation. Since you developed a strategy on this topic two years ago, your work has progressed well reaching an advanced stage of development. This is true also on the implementation plan, which you sought to develop in co operation with the COMSAR and STW Sub Committees. In considering the plan further this week, you should take into account the comprehensive report prepared by your ad hoc correspondence group, which, in turn, took into account relevant input from the COMSAR Sub-Committee concerning communication and spectrum issues. This would enable you to make progress not only from the safety of navigation viewpoint but also from those relating to radiocommunications, search and rescue and training.
Under the same agenda item, you are expected to consider for endorsement the list of user needs prepared by the correspondence group and the recommendations of COMSAR 14 concerning system architecture and initial gap, cost-benefit and risk analyses. In addition, you should consider common maritime information and data structure issues as well as proposals relating to a terrestrial back-up electronic position-fixing system.
While considering these and, possibly, other related matters this week, you should remain focused on the principal reason behind IMO's decision to embark on the development and implementation of a global strategy for e-navigation, namely, the need for new shipboard technologies to be incorporated in a holistic system in a structured manner that would be transparent, user-friendly and cost-effective and would, at the same time, ensure compatibility with the various navigational and communication technologies and services already available and in use nowadays.
When proceeding along the lines I just outlined, you should not lose sight of the overriding concern we should always show for the human element that lies at the very heart of all our work on e-navigation. The e navigation strategy encompasses training, competency, language skills, workload and motivation features that should not be overlooked in any new venture undertaken by IMO. E-navigation is a new concept that cannot produce the results envisaged without an all-embracing input from the human element.
Another important item on your agenda this week is the development of amendments to the performance standards for Voyage Data Recorders and Simplified VDRs. One cannot argue over the value of lessons learned for the prevention of the recurrence of accidents at sea from data obtained from shipboard Voyage Data Recorders in the process of marine casualty investigations. In January this year, the Casualty Investigation Code developed by the Organization became mandatory under the SOLAS Convention and, seen in this context, your work on the amendments I just mentioned is of particular importance.
Once again, the consideration of ships' routeing, ship reporting and other relevant measures will constitute an important part of your work this week. A substantial number of proposals for measures such as traffic separation schemes, other routeing measures and mandatory ship reporting systems (all aiming at improving the safety and efficiency of navigation in regions around the world where the density of traffic and related navigational hazards warrant the introduction of such measures) have been tabled and will certainly occupy a considerable segment of your time. I am confident that you will approach your task in the usual expert and responsible manner that has marked distinctly the success of this Sub-Committee since its inception. The vast expertise you have accumulated over the years in handling ships' routeing systems and measures matters so satisfactorily should prove its worth especially in your consideration of the proposed establishment of Areas to Be Avoided around offshore structures and wellheads in waters off the coasts of Ghana and Mexico. The increase we observe these days in offshore oil exploration and exploitation activities and the impact such a development may have on safety of navigation, in particular in restricted areas, in relation to the number of platforms, rigs and FPSO units installed therein, coupled with the need to protect the marine environment should something go wrong, makes any relevant exercise all the more important.
Another item relating to navigational safety in restricted areas concerns the development of guidelines for the establishment of safety zones wider than 500 metres around artificial islands, installations and structures in Exclusive Economic Zones. In its report, your ad hoc correspondence group proposes two approaches to deal with the issue:
- either to amend the General Provisions on Ships' Routeing ; or
- to address the issue by means of an SN circular.
Given the complexity of the topic (which has ramifications in areas such as offshore wind farming, oil wellheads and platforms), you should approach it with due diligence so that you might eventually arrive at solutions that will successfully combine all the relevant parameters of the issue in a pragmatic, workable and balanced manner.
Several other important issues on your agenda will also demand your careful attention. Among those, I would highlight:
 matters concerning the carriage requirement for speed log devices for ships of 50,000 gross tonnage and upwards;
the finalization of Guidance on procedures for updating shipborne navigation and communication equipment;
the review of vague expressions in SOLAS regulation V/22;
the development of new symbols for AIS aids to navigation;
ITU matters, including those of the Radiocommunications ITU-R Study Group 8, with a view to developing relevant liaison statements to ITU; and
the consideration of proposed amendments to the world-wide radionavigation system.
As always, in all your work addressing these and other topics, you should, as I stressed when referring to e-navigation, keep in mind the human element, as repeatedly emphasized by the MSC and the MEPC and specifically called for in the Committees' guidelines on the organization and method of their work and that of their subsidiary bodies. This aspect of your work is all the more relevant and important in this, the Year of the Seafarer.
Before I conclude, I shall briefly invite your attention, once again, to two issues of a more general nature.
The first concerns security during meetings - on which I would appreciate your continued co operation at any given instance. These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed in their evil aims.
The second concerns the need to seek continued progress in the implementation of the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme so that its benefits may be enjoyed by all Member States. I am pleased that the Assembly, at its session in November of last year, decided that the Scheme should move to a more substantive phase of development engaging all Members party to a list of specified IMO conventions, and I know that I can count on your support and contribution to the success of the process leading to the new phase.
Distinguished delegates,
I have highlighted a few of the issues you are expected to tackle as part of your agenda this week and, once again, you will have a busy session. While conducting your business, you should feel encouraged by the progress that has been made, on several of the items on your agenda, by correspondence groups working intersessionally. I wish to take this opportunity to thank all the Governments and organizations that participated in the groups for making their expertise, time and other resources available to facilitate the work in the pursuit of the Organization's goals; and, particularly, to thank the coordinator of each.
With your usual commitment to the causes of safety of navigation and environmental protection, and with the customary IMO spirit of co operation, you will, I am sure, succeed in all your objectives and reach sound, balanced and timely decisions on which to base your advice to the MSC and the MEPC, as appropriate. The experience and leadership skills of your Chairman, Mr. Sollosi of the United States, will guarantee a successful outcome, and I am confident that both you and the Secretariat will assist him to lead the Sub-Committee successfully throughout the session. I wish you every success in your deliberations and good luck.
Thank you.