Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), 16th session, 12 to 16 March 2012

Opening remarks by IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu

(12 to 16 March 2012)

Thank you Mr. Chairman.
Good morning distinguished delegates.  It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the sixteenth session of the COMSAR Sub-Committee.
From the beginning of the year, I set my target and objectives:  a forward-looking Organization; strengthened authority in global standard setting; and an efficient and cost-conscious Organization. 
It is important for us to recognize that IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations.  I appreciate a sense of co-operation and joint effort, in order to improve our delivery mechanism. 
As I have already advised, I established an in-house mechanism called “Review & Reform”, with five sub-groups to deal with the work of the review.
• Sub-group 1 on Budget & Expenditure;
• Sub-group 2 on Human Resources;
• Sub-group 3 on Meeting Support Arrangement;
• Sub-group 4 on Technical Co-operation; and
• Sub-group 5 on Information Technology.
They are making progress but we are still in the early days and it is premature for me to indicate any progress.  I will provide a progress report to the Council.
Since the beginning of this year, I have conducted a number of missions.  In New York, I met UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban and discussed how we can strengthen our co operation, between the UN and IMO, for all aspects of the work of the Organization and, in particular, for capacity building for anti-piracy activities.
We met again on 22 February when Mr. Ban was in London to attend the Somalia Conference organized by UK Prime Minister Mr. David Cameron and we reconfirmed our approach.  Having been supported and encouraged by Mr. Ban, we are now preparing important events in mid-May. 
On 15 May, an IMO Conference on Capacity-building to Counter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia will be held and I will invite all UN Agencies and the EU to discuss how we can strengthen our co-operation for capacity-building efforts to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia.
On 16 May, we are holding a high-level segment of the MSC to discuss the issue of arms on-board ships.   This is an important issue, which requires high-level policy discussion, and I am requesting Member Governments to ensure high-level participants.  For these high-level events, the Secretariat has issued document MSC 90/20/5 on the substance of the issue of arms on-board, MSC 90/20/7 on the framework of the high-level segment and Circular letter No.3252 inviting participation to the IMO Conference on Capacity Building.  Delegations may wish to take a look at these documents.
Last week, I visited the European Commission and held meetings with Vice-President and Transport Commissioner Mr. Kallas; Environment Commissioner Mr. Potocnik; Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Mrs. Damanaki; Climate Action Commissioner Ms Hedegaard; and Managing Director Africa, European External Action Service, Mr. Westcott.
Subjects we discussed were wide-ranging, covering: Piracy; Costa Concordia; GHG issues; and the Torremolinos Agreement, which will be discussed in South Africa at the planned Diplomatic Conference this year.  It was a useful exchange of views and I reconfirmed that IMO is the global body to set regulations and confirmed our co-operation.
On the Costa Concordia accident, as I stated at the SLF Sub-Committee, we should not pre-empt or speculate but we should wait for the outcome of the casualty Investigation.  
Thanks to Italy, IMO will participate in the process of proceedings as an observer and I have set an additional agenda item at MSC 90 on Passenger Ship Safety.   
I have also opened a communication channel with the cruise industry and requested their own safety review process and to provide information to the Maritime Safety Committee.
Turning now to important items on your agenda, I wish to refer, first, to the Scoping exercise to establish the need for a review of the elements and procedures of the GMDSS.  You are expected to finalize the draft Work Plan for the Revision and modernization of the GMDSS, for submission to MSC 90 for approval. 
This is the issue of the utmost importance because this would provide the opportunity to start an in depth review of the GMDSS as soon as possible to take account of evolving technologies and to enhance safety communications for the future.  Issues, such as  the introduction of additional satellite service providers  the possible introduction of new digital technologies and newly developed systems; enhancing coverage in the Arctic region; and the identification of items that may be phased out from current carriage requirements are key elements of this work, and I am looking forward to receiving the outcome of your constructive debate.
An important issue on the Organization’s agenda is the Development of measures to protect the safety of persons rescued at sea. You will be informed on the progress made on this humanitarian measure  since the last session of your Sub-Committee and on the progress made on the development of a regional Memorandum of Understanding covering countries in the Mediterranean Region.
This regional Memorandum of Understanding, when finalized, could serve as a "model" and be the basis for similar MoUs to cover other parts of the world, if necessary.  I would like to stress the importance of this activity, not only for the Mediterranean region but for other regions of the world.
The Development of an e-navigation strategy implementation plan is again on your agenda. 
The timeline for the development of the plan has not been met and I am concerned that the gap analyses, which will form the basis for further work, and which should have been finalized last year, have still to be completed. 
Progress on this matter has been slow and I urge you to review your work and define the way forward.  Only with a clearly defined scope and strategy, will the Organization be in a position to deliver a realistic implementation plan, acceptable to Member Governments and within a reasonable time frame.
Following the decision of the MSC at its last session, from now on, your agenda will include the important matter of LRIT. The LRIT system has been successfully established and is nowadays operating satisfactorily, but there are still a considerable number of technical issues that would require further consideration. 
In this context, you will recall that, to help the work on the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships, the Organization has established the Information Distribution Facility (IDF), with the sole purpose of providing flag State LRIT information to security forces operating in waters of the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean. 
MSC 89 has already agreed on the addition of polling functionalities to the IDF and that this should be implemented as an "opt-in" arrangement in the LRIT system where each flag State would have the ability to determine which security force, if any, would be entitled to receive LRIT information from them through polling request messages. You are now invited to consider the technical aspects of adding polling functionalities to the IDF, to assist security forces to more accurately identify the current location of at-risk vessels from flag States who wish to participate in this facility.
Of the other important items featured on your agenda this week, I would just highlight:

• consideration of the outcome of ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2012; to identify areas of interest for IMO and the preparation of relevant input to ITU-R studies in preparation for the next Conference to take place in 2015;

• finalization of the major update and restructuring of the IAMSAR Manual; and

• consideration of operating anomalies identified within ECDIS, which are not only affecting the operational performance of some ECDIS systems but also leading to navigational safety concerns.
Before concluding my remarks, I would like to raise another important issue – “Beyond Politics”.  IMO is a technical body.  Our aim is to secure safe, environmentally friendly, efficient and sustainable shipping, in order to support world trade and the economy, achieve the Millennium Development Goals and contribute towards the prosperity of mankind on this planet while preserving the environment.
We have good causes: safety, the environment, efficiency and sustainability; and we should move forward beyond differences of opinion in searching for common ground.  Therefore, let us move forward.  I am sure that you are making progress at COMSAR.
With this, without taking more time now, all I have to say is all the best wishes for your deliberations and for a productive meeting.
Thank you.