Assembly 31st session, 25 November-4 December 2019 (opening address)

Opening address to the 31st regular session of the IMO Assembly

IMO Headquarters, 25 November 2019

by Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General

Mr. President,



Distinguished delegates and observers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to IMO Headquarters for the 31st session of the Organization's biennial Assembly.

First, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all IMO Member States for your support, dedication and great contribution towards the important work carried out by the Organization over the last two years, for the benefit of the shipping industry and society as a whole. I truly admire and cherish the immense level of cooperation and collaboration between all of you and how this enables IMO to make progress on our major policy issues. I sincerely thank you all for this!

Allow me to start by giving you an outline of some of the many things to come during the next week and a half.

You will be provided with extensive reports on the Organization's work over the past two years. You will hear that, during this biennium, we have been active and engaged, facing and meeting many challenges within our mandate, as well as preparing ourselves for the future.

You will be requested to approve the work programme and the necessary budget to deliver this programme for the next biennium, as well as to elect a new Council to administer IMO until the next Assembly.

You will also consider the substantive progress made on the Council reform, following your instructions at our last session, another example of steps taken to transform IMO into a more proactive organization, ready to maintain its leadership as the only global regulator for international shipping.

You will also be asked to adopt a resolution on "preserving the legacy of the World Maritime theme 2019 and achieving a barrier-free working environment for women in the maritime sector". With this resolution, you point the way for future efforts on gender equality.

Overall, during this Assembly, you will make important decisions that will determine how the Organization operates over the next two years.

Ladies and gentlemen,

While we always have to and will deliver on the mission of IMO to ensure maritime safety and security, environmental protection and the efficiency of shipping, we are also facing key challenges, such as the tangible threats from climate change, a universal effort to steer our world into a future of sustainable development, the increasing benefits and risks from digitalization and the need to preserve our oceans.

The shipping industry is going through fundamental changes as it responds to these challenges. Not surprisingly, this is one of the busiest and most productive periods in IMO's long history.

On a global level, arguably the most talked about topics are the impact of climate change and other issues affecting human health and the environment.

In the last biennium, IMO Member States and all stakeholders have worked tirelessly to pave the way for a harmonized and smooth entry into force of the global sulphur limit, referred to as "IMO 2020".

We have taken a proactive approach and initiated meetings, roundtable discussions and a symposium, bringing together all stakeholder from IMO Member States, the shipping, oil and bunker industries to facilitate the entry into force.

I am sure that in 2020, all of you will continue to support our efforts and cooperation to ensure the smooth implementation of this important, global regulatory standard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2018, all IMO stakeholders, Member States, IGOs, NGOs and the whole maritime industry came to a mutual understanding and adopted an initial strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping.

Indeed, this mutual effort was recognized by UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the Climate Summit last September when he highlighted, from among all transport sectors, the progress made by shipping in reducing emissions. We can all be very proud of what we have achieved together!

But we must now accelerate progress towards the implementation of the initial strategy, looking at new fuels from renewable and sustainable sources, new methods of propulsion, and new ways of maximizing the efficiency of existing propulsion methods.

IMO continues to lead the way, not only in the regulatory work but also with the successful implementation of a portfolio of practical projects.

I would like to reiterate my sincere appreciation to all Member States, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries, as well as IGOs, NGOs and the maritime industry for their continued collaboration and communication in order to achieve our goals in this critical area of IMO's work. It is a true reflection of the spirit of IMO!

Our oceans are under threat from pollution and overfishing. And even though we have already adopted regulations to protect the discharge of damaging substances and rubbish into the sea, IMO has acknowledged that more has to be done.

To this end, we initiated and made considerable progress on the issue of marine plastic litter from ships, in particular with the adoption of an action plan.

The importance of this topic has also been highlighted by the participation of a record number of Member States in the Ministerial Conference on fishing vessel, safety and IUU fishing, that took place in Torremolinos, Spain in October.

To ensure that our efforts and the outcome of the Conference are a complete success, I urge all Member States to ratify the Cape Town Agreement as soon as possible, in order to provide a global legal framework to further enhance our contribution in protecting the ocean.

Moving away from the ever-important environmental topics, I would like to address another core activity of this Organization: safety of life at sea.

The well-being of over 1.6 million seafarers working on board seagoing ships every day, to deliver goods to people around the world is, and will remain, a priority.

I believe that we all are passionate about the safety of shipping and seafarers as well as seafarer rights, including fair treatment of seafarers in the event of a maritime accident.

We have to recognize the need to keep regulations and guidance up to date, as seafarers have to adapt to the increasing demands, many driven by technology, which have a significant impact on their day-to-day life.

I am certain that together, in particular with the cooperation of the maritime industry, we will make further progress!

The world is constantly changing. Threats to the port and shipping sectors like piracy and armed robbery, in particular in the Gulf of Guinea, but also emerging issues like cyber security, are continuously evolving.

There is a need for global and regional efforts to fight these threats. IMO, through the cooperation among littoral States, is making good progress in strengthening its support to countries around the world to boost their maritime security capacities. One example is the very successful Global Maritime Security Conference that took place in Abuja, Nigeria in October. I am sure that we will continue our cooperation with similar efforts in the future.

IMO is also showing a strong commitment to address the rise of digitalization and automation in the maritime industry to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of shipping.

IMO must also ensure that technologies which increase connectivity and efficiency of working practices in maritime transport are adopted; be it in marine communications or the exchange of information; through approaches like the maritime single window or in ship-to-ship as well as ship-to-shore interfaces.

Cooperation and communication between shipping, ports and logistics will be vital to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of shipping and therefore facilitate trade and foster economic growth and prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

we will only be able to achieve all our ambitious goals and objectives and lead shipping and the maritime community into the future by leaving no one behind.

Through our technical cooperation strategy and our major projects, we are working effectively in supporting developing countries to build their resources across a wide spectrum of maritime issues.

In the coming biennium, we will strengthen our efforts by enhancing the financial sustainability of our programmes.

I trust you will use this Assembly as an opportunity not only to strengthen this Organization, but also to reaffirm your collective commitment to achieving its objectives.

In so many areas, we are now at a crossroads. In the next biennium, IMO will need to deliver tangible and concrete action – to ensure our strategies, plans and roadmaps are achieved. I am confident that, together, we can succeed.

I cannot stress enough the need to continue our established collaboration and cooperation, and I will do my utmost to increase even further our communication channels, which are paramount to facing any challenge that may lie ahead.

As we move forward along this path, the whole of the IMO community will play a positive role.

Shipping will be an enabling factor for good. We have before us an opportunity to revolutionize an industry that is truly indispensable to the world, its economy and its people. Let us continue to seize that opportunity!

It only remains for me to welcome you all to IMO. You have a busy and challenging time ahead of you – so let me wish you another successful and productive IMO Assembly.

Thank you.