"Maritime security in the 21st century" symposium

"Maritime security in the 21st century" symposium

20 July, Brazilian Naval War College

Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General

International Maritime Organization



Ladies and gentlemen,


I am pleased to be with you today and I would like to express my thanks to the organizers for the opportunity to speak at this symposium. The subject matter is of great importance both for the maritime community and for IMO.

IMO is an agency of the United Nations, responsible for safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable international civilian shipping. Our main task is to develop, adopt and promote the regulatory framework within which international shipping operates.

Our mandate was originally limited to safety-related issues, but subsequently this remit has expanded to embrace environmental considerations, legal matters, technical cooperation, maritime security and other issues that affect the overall efficiency of shipping.

Within the context of shipping, IMO's work can, and does, have huge implications. New regulations adopted by IMO usually become mandatory throughout the industry, in the form of international conventions or treaties to which Governments, both flag States and port States, become parties. As such, they affect both day-to-day operations and long‑term policy decisions for the shipping industry.

Turning to the theme of this symposium, ensuring that trade and travel by sea are as secure as possible is a key element of IMO's work and mandate today.

Overall, our approach is to help our Member States enhance maritime security, focusing on what the civil maritime industry, both the shipping and port sectors, can do to protect itself and to assist Governments to protect global maritime trade.  The emphasis is on preventive security through risk management, deterrence and threat transfer.

More specifically, there are several concurrent and related strands to our work under this topic. IMO looks at security issues related to preventing terrorism but also in the context of combatting a considerable and growing range of maritime crimes. And, perhaps not surprisingly in the current climate, cyber security has now joined the list of topics we address in this broad area.

One cannot talk about maritime security today without beginning with the International Ship and Port facility Security Code – known throughout shipping as the ISPS Code. This was IMO's response to the infamous attacks on New York's World Trade Centre in 2001, and proved to be a real game-changer for shipping and for ports.

The ISPS Code consolidated and added to all the previous IMO guidance on maritime security. Essentially, it was about reassuring port States that ships entering their waters did not pose a threat; and reassuring flag States that ships flying their flag would be protected while in other States' ports and territorial waters.

From IMO's perspective, it not only confirmed that its Member States could legitimately extend IMO's regulatory sphere beyond just ships if they chose to do so, it also demonstrated beyond doubt that IMO could respond with great speed if the circumstances demanded it.

The ISPS Code and other related measures were adopted in December 2002 – a little over a year after the dreadful incident which triggered them.

I mentioned earlier that the ISPS Code was a game-changer for maritime security. Experience has shown that the main challenges regarding its practical implementation are actually in the port facilities. Unlike on ships, where an existing safety culture was relatively easy to evolve into a security culture, the security structure in ports is generally far more complex. It involves many players from different governmental, law-enforcement and private entities. Without clear national and local legislation, policies and direction to coordinate the activities of all key stakeholders, security responses in port facilities are, at best, fragmented.

Today, it is recognised that a well-coordinated, risk based preventive strategy is critical to the success of port and port facility security regimes, be they for protecting port infrastructure against terrorist attack, countering theft and other criminal activity, or preventing access to ships by terrorists, drug smugglers or stowaways – and that is a key part of our strategy at IMO.

The threat posed by piracy and armed robbery against ships has been on IMO's agenda since the early 1980s. In the late 1990s and the early 2000s the focus was on the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

More recently, since the focus of piracy activity shifted from Asia back to Africa, IMO has developed guidance on the suppression of piracy for both governments and shipowners/operators, supplemented by industry-developed "Best Management Practices". Guidance has also been issued on investigating piracy incidents, calling on states to investigate and persecute suspected perpetrators, and on using privately contracted armed security personnel, leading to an international standard being developed by the ISO.

IMO maintains close working relationships with naval forces engaged in counter-piracy patrols and we also work closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and others to help countries develop counter-piracy legislation. IMO has also authorized long-range ship tracking data, known as LRIT, to be used by security forces to counter piracy off Somalia.

Regional cooperation among States also has an important role to play.

In the 2000s, IMO helped broker a tripartite agreement between the littoral states of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and has fully supported the information sharing centre established in Singapore under the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

In January 2009, an important regional agreement was adopted in Djibouti, in eastern Africa, by States in the region, at a high-level meeting convened by IMO. The 20 signatory States to the Djibouti Code of Conduct declared their intention to cooperate to the fullest possible extent to repress piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region. Then, in 2013, a similar Code of Conduct for west and central Africa was formally adopted by a Heads of State meeting in Yaoundé, and the scope of the Djibouti Code was expanded to address the full spectrum of maritime threats in January 2017.

While there is no room for complacency in addressing maritime piracy, the collective weight of IMO's activities, with support and cooperation from the shipping industry and from navies, has undoubtedly helped to curb the activity and reduce its negative impacts, worldwide.

The world, and especially the security landscape, continues to change. Threats to the port and shipping sectors are constantly evolving and so is IMO's response. Emerging issues include challenges posed by the embarkation and carriage of armed guards, their weapons and equipment; more widespread terrorism and violent extremism; the increasingly urgent need to address destructive and unsustainable levels of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as well as trafficking in weapons, drugs, people and illegal wildlife products.

IMO is addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by the so-called "fourth industrial revolution", the digital revolution, in all aspects of its work, to ensure that the benefits offered by these new and emerging technologies can be fully realized without compromising safety, security and environmental protection.

Currently, for example, IMO is currently assessing the regulatory aspects of autonomous vessels, looking into the subject, from the aspects of safety, security, legal liability, responses to incidents and protection of the marine environment.

This, of course, highlights the growing concerns about cyber security. It is clear that a ship's on-board information technology and operational technology systems can be hacked just as easily as systems ashore. Such security breaches have the potential to do considerable harm to the safety and security of ships, ports, marine facilities and other elements of the maritime transportation system.

In response, IMO has taken the initiative to raise awareness across the industry on how to tackle risks by promoting a maritime cyber risk management approach.

This involves identifying, analysing, assessing and communicating a cyber-related risk and accepting, avoiding, transferring or mitigating it to an acceptable level, bearing in mind the costs and benefits of any actions taken.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I conclude I just want to draw your attention to two significant milestones IMO is celebrating this year – 70 years since the Organization was formed and 60 since it became operational.

Our theme for the year – "Our Heritage: Better Shipping for a Better Future" – looks both at the past and into the years that lie ahead.

Communication and collaboration in the maritime community have been central to IMO's achievements, and it is one of my main objectives as Secretary-General of IMO that we should make every effort to develop joined-up policies that embrace the entire maritime community, to overcome the challenges and maximise the benefits as we address the rapid changes our industry is experiencing.

It is imperative that we retain our focus on safety and security. Not only are they mission-critical objectives in their own right, they are also major contributory factors to a successful environmental performance.

Billions of people all over the world rely on a safe, secure and clean shipping industry. Shipping is a crucial part of the global supply chain and essential for sustainable development. The maritime industry can both drive and support a growing economy and help achieve a truly better world.

The safety and security of shipping is, therefore, of key significance to a far wider constituency than just the industry itself.

And, with that, let me give you my best wishes for a successful symposium which, I am sure, will generate a useful input to future debates on this vital topic.


Thank you.