Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) - 15TH session, 7-11 March 2011

Opening speech

(7 to 11 February 2011)
Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the fifteenth session of the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases.  I extend a particular warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
As it has become customary for some time now, before I address the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which the Council chooses for each particular year.  This year’s theme is "Piracy: orchestrating the response" and aims at complementing and coming as a sequel to last year’s theme, which was dedicated to seafarers. 
It is in the context of IMO’s principal and paramount concern about safeguarding human life at sea that we have set, as the overall aim of the theme chosen for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it. To give substance to the campaign and make a difference, we will, in the course of 2011, seek to:
• one: increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;
• two: review and improve the IMO guidelines to Administrations and seafarers and promote compliance with industry best management practices and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;
• three: promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;
• four: promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;
• five: assist States to build capacity in piracy-infested regions of the world, and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and
• six:  provide care, during the post-traumatic period, for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.
To add emphasis to this year’s anti-piracy campaign, the action plan we have compiled, in co-operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, was launched by the UN Secretary-General, who, together with the Executive Heads of the World Food Programme and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, came to IMO last Thursday for this special purpose. The launching ceremony took place in the presence of High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to IMO of Member States, along with industry leaders and other dignitaries.  It is my sincere hope and strong wish that the action plan will generate the widest possible interest and that it will inspire and galvanize Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to act in the most appropriate and effective manner to eradicate the scourge of piracy, in particular off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.  I hope you will also support the campaign and assist in the delivery of its components as best as you can.
In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates.  May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
Distinguished delegates,
Since your last session, a year ago, the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee have each met twice and, under agenda item 2, you will be informed of decisions they took relevant to your work, along with decisions taken by other IMO bodies.
An important item that will, once again, demand serious attention is the prevention of incidents associated with the dangers of entering enclosed spaces aboard ships.  In this context, you are expected to consider draft Revised Recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships, as prepared by the DSC Sub-Committee and to submit your comments directly to MSC 89, with a view to adoption by the Assembly when it convenes later this year.  The dangers of entering enclosed spaces aboard ships are well known and yet, regrettably, they remain a common cause of seafarer deaths or life-threatening accidents.  It, therefore, goes without saying that the conditions, which, if unattended, may lead to the development of dangerous situations, should be closely monitored at all times and action to minimize them further should be taken in earnest at the regulatory level by the Organization and, at the practical level, by shipping companies and the seafarers themselves.  To such an end, the draft Revised Recommendations before you have been prepared in such a manner as to enhance effectiveness in whatever we may agree to, to the benefit of shipboard personnel.
Also this week, you are invited to consider a recommendation, formulated by the DSC Sub-Committee, that a separate set of guidelines be developed for entry into cargo spaces on tankers using inert gas systems, along with proposed amendments to the SOLAS Convention aiming at making drills in enclosed space entry and rescue mandatory.  Your expert advice on these issues will make an important contribution to enhanced protection of seafarers’ lives, bearing in mind also that the draft amendments are specifically designed to ensure that seafarers are familiar with the precautions they need to take prior to entering enclosed spaces and also with the most appropriate action they should take in the event of an accident. 
This will be the third session of the Sub-Committee reviewing non-mandatory instruments that are relevant to the revised MARPOL Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code with an aim to ensure effective, worldwide implementation of the two instruments’ most recent requirements, which are in force since July 2010.  This time, you will consider draft Guidelines for the certification of marine diesel engines fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction systems and a draft Framework for possible guidance on reception facilities for revised Annex VI-related wastes.
In the context of your continuous work on the assignment of pollution categories and carriage requirements for bulk chemicals under MARPOL Annex II and the IBC Code, the ESPH Working Group has asked you to consider draft amendments to chapters 17, 18 and 19 of the IBC Code – for subsequent approval and adoption by the MEPC and the MSC.
Also at this session, you are expected to consider assigning pollution categories and conditions of carriage for bio-fuel blends.  Making progress on this item, which has been on your agenda for some time, is of critical importance if we are to meet emerging needs in the industry.  To this effect, you are required to consider draft Guidelines for the carriage and blending of bio-fuel and petroleum-based oil mixtures, taking account of the latest outcome of the ESPH Working Group.  Once you finalize your work on them, the draft Guidelines will be forwarded, for approval and subsequent dissemination, to MEPC 62 in July.  In order to facilitate a smooth transition to the new regime, an extension of the validity of the current guidance to 1 September 2011 has been proposed, which you should consider, along with a new draft SOLAS chapter VI regulation aiming at prohibiting blending on board during a voyage.
Through the development of relevant guidelines, your Sub-Committee has been playing an important role in promoting the uniform implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention since its adoption seven years ago.  At this session, you are expected to work further on the issue, on the basis of the action plan you have developed.  You will consider, in particular, draft guidelines concerning the “Procedure for approving other methods of ballast water management in accordance with regulation B-3.7 of the BWM Convention”, as well as proposed guidance documents on the protocols for ballast water sampling and analysis and on scaling of ballast water management systems.  In carrying out your work on this item, you should give priority to finalizing the protocols I just mentioned, as this would enable the Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation, which is to meet later this month, to also complete its work on corresponding Guidelines for Port State Control. 
While all this work in the domain of the BWM Convention proceeds well, the fact that seven years (this month) after its adoption, the conditions for the Convention to come into force have not yet been met is a source of serious concern.  To date, 27 States, representing just over 25 % (25.32%) of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping, have ratified it and this compares with the entry into force requirement of 30 countries representing 35% of that tonnage.  I would, therefore, use, once again, this opportunity to reiterate my plea to Governments, that have not yet done so, to ratify the Convention at the earliest possible time.  Given the considerable, and increasing, numbers of ballast water management systems now available to the industry, we may conclude, not without justification, that a major barrier to the implementation process has now been removed and this should open the way for further ratifications of the Convention.  Such a development would not only hasten its entry into force but also attest to the maritime community taking the health of the oceans to heart and effectively assuming and responding to its environmental responsibilities.
In this same vein, it is important that you finalize, at this session, the draft Guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling aiming at minimizing the transfer of invasive aquatic species, so that they can be submitted to the July session of the MEPC for adoption.  Achieving this task is of particular importance as we, at IMO, must be, and seen to be, following, and committed to embracing, advances in scientific knowledge and to developing the necessary international measures to minimize the transfer of harmful aquatic species through ships’ biofouling. In achieving your objective on this, you should take advantage of the progress made intersessionally by your ad hoc correspondence group.
Having commenced work at BLG 14 on the development of provisions for a new Code of safety for ships using gas or other low-flash point fuels with properties similar to liquefied natural gas, you are expected to make further progress on this item at this session.  Your continued efforts in this respect will support the Organization in its ongoing endeavours to reduce the volume of harmful atmospheric emissions from international shipping, as well as underlining our commitment to respond, with new regulatory measures, to the anticipated continued increase in the use of natural gas as ships’ fuels.
Other items on your agenda that are equally important to those I have already mentioned include:
- the comprehensive revision of the International Gas Carrier Code;
- the development of a Code for the transport and handling of limited amounts of hazardous and noxious substances in bulk in offshore support vessels;
- IACS unified interpretations; and
- casualty analysis. 
These and all the items on your agenda deserve careful consideration given their importance, whether from the safety or environmental points of view, or from the perspective of crews on special type ships, who have to deal with hazardous and noxious substances as part of their daily work.  In dealing with them, you should keep uppermost in your mind the role of the human element, as repeatedly emphasized by both the MSC and MEPC and specifically called for in their Guidelines on the organization and methods of work.  In this context, you should note that, at its last session in November 2010, the MSC decided to incorporate human element principles into the Guidelines, with a view to ensuring that the human element is thoroughly taken into account when proposals for new outputs are considered.
As you go about your work this week, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the considerable progress made intersessionally, on several items of your agenda, by the various correspondence groups you established last time and to build on their successful outcome.  All the members of these groups, especially their coordinators, deserve our thanks for, and recognition of, their input.
Before I conclude, I will say, as I always do, a few words about security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be much appreciated.  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.
Distinguished delegates,
Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that this session will, once again, demand a lot of hard work from all of you as you are expected to finalize several of them while achieving progress on others.  I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully, guided by the constant commitment of all of us to this Organization’s twin causes of enhanced maritime safety and environmental protection and inspired by the customary IMO spirit of co-operation.  This, in turn, will ensure that you make sound, balanced and timely decisions on which to base your advice to the parent Committees.  I am confident that you will pursue your objectives vigorously and successfully, under the leadership of your experienced Chairman, Mr. Sveinung Oftedal of Norway.  As always, the Secretariat will give you all the support required.  I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.
Thank you.