Dubai Maritime Summit - "IMO and the regulatory environment"

Dubai Maritime Summit
2 November 2016
"IMO and the regulatory environment"
By Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Excellency, Minister, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here and I am grateful for the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you at the beginning of this prestigious maritime summit.

I know that this event is part of your ambitious plans to establish and promote a sustainable and integrated maritime sector here in the United Arab Emirates; and I am strongly of the opinion that maritime activity can both drive and support a growing national and regional economy. So efforts to promote investment, growth and improvement in the maritime sectors are to be applauded and encouraged.

As we all know, from a business perspective, this is a difficult time to be in shipping. Even though the global economy has returned to growth after the financial crisis of 2008, and so has world seaborne trade, overcapacity is keeping freight and charter rates low. According to recent estimates, the world fleet has grown by 50 per cent since the 2008 crisis.

Profit has been hard to find for shipping companies. Indeed, for most, survival has been the priority.

Yet the industry must find a sustainable and viable way forward. Because shipping, as the only really cost-effective way to transport the vast majority of international trade, will be central to global sustainable development and growth in the future.

The profitability of shipping is not, inherently, the business of IMO. Our role is to create the framework of standards and regulations that enables shipping to operate safely, securely, cleanly and efficiently.

But, because shipping and related maritime activities are essential components of future sustainable growth for the earth's 7 billion-plus inhabitants; and because they are key enabling factors in many of the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals, we do have a keen interest in helping shipping achieve its own sustainability - and that means being economically sustainable, too; profitable, in other words.

As a United Nations specialized agency, our mission is to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping. And we set about this in two ways.

First, we develop and adopt the highest practicable standards of maritime safety and security, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of pollution from ships.

And, second, we back this up with an extensive programme of technical assistance and capacity building to ensure that, once adopted, the standards can be implemented evenly and effectively.

Why is it so important for shipping to be regulated globally? Because global regulations apply equally to all participants. They do not allow anyone to gain an advantage either by cutting corners or by imposing unilateral requirements. They create a level playing field. And, perhaps most importantly, they ensure that ships have to comply with the same rules and technical standards wherever in the world they operate and regardless of which flag they fly.

Imagine how impractical it would be if different regulations applied to the same ship at either end of its voyage. It would place shipowners in an impossible situation and seriously jeopardize the flow of global trade.

These are important principles. Everybody suffers if they are undermined, not just the shipping industry but the billions of people all over the world who depend on it.

Ensuring that shipping is safe, environmentally sound, energy-efficient and secure are common objectives for both IMO and for the society as a whole. And there is no shortage of evidence to show that we have been successful in working towards many of these.

Nevertheless, we continue to look for further improvements in areas such as reducing harmful emissions from ships; implementing the Ballast Water Management Convention; the application of the Polar Code, which becomes mandatory from the beginning of next year; the development of e-navigation, and the continuing efforts to address security, piracy and other maritime crime.

Finding consensus on these and other issues, through a process of discussion, is one of the great strengths of IMO. And, looking ahead, it is essential that IMO itself should have a forward-looking strategy to prepare for the challenges that the Organization, shipping and, indeed, the larger maritime community will face in the future.

With this in mind, IMO is developing a new strategic framework for the 2018-2023 period, based on an inclusive process to identify the trends, developments and challenges facing the Organization and the maritime community.

At the moment, we can envisage a number of specific strategic directions for the Organization. Those strategic directions will be discussed in depth at the next meeting of the IMO Council in December, but I would like to mention a few of them now.

The first is improving implementation. IMO has developed more than 50 international treaties and related standards. But the full benefits of this extensive body of international law can only be realized if their provisions are effectively, efficiently and consistently implemented and enforced. More than that, a lack of uniform implementation prevents a level playing field and contributes to market distortions.

In this context, we aim to focus not only on implementation by Member States, but also by the industry, through capacity building and technical cooperation activities.

A second major priority will be dealing with new technology, which will undoubtedly have a transforming impact on all our lives in the coming years. IMO's regulatory framework has to continuously adapt to new technologies that will significantly affect shipping. New technologies have already brought significant changes in the way ships are designed, constructed and operated, impacting personnel, both on board and ashore. In the future, I expect technology will create a more interconnected and efficient industry, more closely integrated with the whole global supply chain.

But technological advances present challenges as well as opportunities, so their introduction into the regulatory framework needs to be considered carefully. We need to balance the benefits against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment and on international trade, the potential costs to the industry and, not least, their impact on personnel, both on board and ashore.

Responding to climate change will continue to be a vital strategic direction for the Organization. This is one of the greatest challenges of our era and one which we have been tackling for some time. In its role as the global regulator of international shipping, IMO will continue to develop appropriate, ambitious and realistic solutions to minimize shipping's contribution to air pollution and its impact on climate change.

IMO will also continue to engage in ocean governance, and by this I mean the processes and mechanisms by which the use of the oceans and their resources are regulated and controlled.

The so-called 'blue economy' is a very sizeable and growing industrial sector. But its success and growth is actually threatening the integrity of the very element that sustains it and supports it – the sea.

To be sustainable, human activities have to be balanced with the oceans' capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term. IMO needs to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting that delicate balance.

A further strategic goal will be to help international shipping operate more effectively from an administrative perspective. This means addressing issues like arrival and departure formalities, documentation and certification, and generally reducing the administrative burdens that surround ship operation. And, again, we want to make sure that technology is employed in the best possible way to achieve this.

In this context, next year, we plan to place particular emphasis on improving the ship/port interface, and have selected "Connecting Ships, Ports and People" as the theme for the 2017 World Maritime Day.

We also want to focus on improving the actual process of developing regulations. And we want to do this so we can make them more effective. So we'll be looking at gathering more data, and then being better and smarter at using it when we make decisions. We'll be looking at getting better feedback from Member States and the industry and improving the way we learn from experience and feed those lessons back into the regulatory process.

Finally, we plan to increase the overall effectiveness of the Organization to ensure we use our resources as effectively as possible, implement best working practices, and strengthen the linkages and the bonds that already exist between us.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you in the United Arab Emirates clearly recognize, if we are to thrive in the future we need to change and adapt in the present. Shipping will have to continue to adjust to the increasingly demanding expectations of its customers, and of society as a whole, with regard to safety and environmental performance. This, incidentally, may also drive beneficial changes in the global fleet, encouraging older vessels to be scrapped earlier, promoting new and more efficient ship designs and streamlining vessel operations.

Many of these new expectations are manifested in the regulatory regime developed and adopted by IMO. To some, this in itself may sometimes feel like an unnecessary burden. But we should always remember that IMO represents the collective views and decisions of its 171 Member Governments; and they represent the billions of ordinary people, all over the world, who rely on shipping every day of their lives, whether they realize it or not.

Those people need a viable, profitable shipping industry. Their prosperity, their well-being and, in some cases, their survival, depend on it.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you