Flagship conference European Shipping Week 2020 - Challenges and opportunities affecting the maritime industry and IMO's role

Flagship Conference European Shipping Week 2020

Challenges and opportunities affecting the maritime industry and IMO's role

European Shipping Week, Brussels, Belgium (20 February)

Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you at this important and prestigious occasion.

Shipping today is facing a time of challenges and opportunities.

One of the great things about the maritime industry is the ability to move with the times and embrace the changes it faces.

And, more than that, to use the trends, developments and challenges as a springboard to a better and brighter future.

At IMO, as part of the United Nations family, that is something we really share and support.

Member States use IMO to apply high-level policy ideals to the world of shipping: ideals like human health, safety and the protection of our environment.

It is also important to recognize that the IMO is an inclusive, collaborative body. The 174 Member States, the 64 Intergovernmental Organizations and the 81 Non-Governmental Organizations at IMO all work together. The decisions that come from IMO come from all of us, and I urge you to use your voice through your Member State or NGO to participate in the debate. 

IMO's main role is to develop and adopt a global regulatory regime to create a level playing field for the safety, security and environmental soundness of shipping and to enable the efficiency of shipping as well as the facilitation of trade.

Given the many challenges and opportunities facing the maritime community, the value of maritime safety should be highlighted.

The safety of shipping is vital for the people on board, both seafarers and passengers. The safety of ships is also essential to minimise the environmental damage of shipping.

You will have heard many times I am sure, that the shipping industry is the backbone of the global supply chain; the backbone of world trade. The sound development of the maritime industry is indispensable for sustainable economic growth.

So, what are some of the challenges and opportunities shipping faces today and what is the role of IMO in this respect?

I've said many times before that the major priority of all of us is the battle against global warming and climate change. Everyone has a responsibility, and shipping is no exception.

Decarbonization is the objective, and IMO has adopted a detailed initial strategy to achieve it, with clear goals and ambitions.

Our goal now is to ensure this strategy is implemented and its ambitions are realised.

There is now an urgent need to develop concrete measures to support IMO's initial strategy and I am looking forward to really productive discussions this year. This is the time for action.

IMO is helping to drive shipping's transformation towards decarbonization.

However, zero emission shipping requires the development, widespread availability and affordability of new zero-carbon marine fuels or propulsion technologies, such as renewable hydrogen, ammonia or wind propulsion.

Ambitious regulatory targets - adopted by IMO backed up by technical cooperation and capacity building activities - will act as the catalyst for technology, triggering research, development and innovation.

To achieve that, IMO is stepping up its efforts to act as the global forum and promoter of R&D in zero-carbon marine fuels, bringing together member States, the shipping industry, ports, shipyards, universities, and other interested parties from all over the world. The shipping industry has shown its commitment in this endeavour by proposing the creation of a new 5 billion US$ R&D fund based on a mandatory fuel levy. The industry's proposal will be considered by IMO next month.

IMO's regulatory framework can provide an additional push to stimulate new technologies and R&D. But I have to underline the importance of agreeing on mandatory measures at the international level to avoid that certain countries risk being left out and will miss the transition towards decarbonization.

Industry, governments, the financial sector and others all have their responsibilities and are expected to play their part.

We have seen such collaborative efforts before, many times.

In recent years, for example, IMO Member States and many other stakeholders worked tirelessly to pave the way for the harmonized and smooth entry into force of the reduced global sulphur limit in ships' fuel oil, usually referred to as "IMO 2020".

IMO took a proactive approach - initiating meetings, roundtable discussions and a symposium, bringing together all stakeholders from IMO Member States, the shipping, oil and bunker industries to ensure that the entry into force was as smooth as possible. Initial reports regarding implementation are encouraging. 

Now, continued uniform and effective implementation and enforcement are vital.

This is a really important measure to improve both health and the environment. It confirms IMO's strong environment credentials and sends a clear global message.

IMO will, of course, continue to monitor the situation; and I am sure that all of you will continue to meet the challenge of ensuring that implementation continues to run smoothly.

What of the other opportunities you - and we - face?

For example, digitalisation, big data, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics. These have potential to take shipping and the maritime community into a bright new era.

IMO is now working to ensure shipping can embrace the digital revolution - but not at the expense of safety, or environmental protection.

These are exciting times!

Another important area for IMO - but which rarely makes the headlines - is our work to enhance trade efficiency.

I'm sure you are all aware that, since April last year, it has been mandatory under the FAL Convention for ships and ports to exchange arrival and departure data electronically.

This year we will be putting a strong focus on achieving much better awareness and implementation of this FAL Convention requirement, including the so-called "single window" concept.

This is an effective way to make shipping - and the whole supply chain – much more efficient, for the more than 10 billion tons of goods that are traded annually by sea across the globe.

This may be the era of technology. But IMO will never forget the people onboard and ashore.

Seafarers are essential for safe and sustainable shipping. They are very often the final link in what we call the "implementation chain".

So, seafarers remain a major priority for IMO. Their health, education, well-being, safety and legal protection all are vital issues for us – and, I hope, for the industry as well.

We need to ensure that the human element is always one of the first considerations in any measures that are debated and adopted at IMO.

And this includes our continuing support for gender equality in the maritime world. Our work last year to empower women in maritime will continue into 2020 and beyond, and I look forward to your support in this, too.

This is an important objective that we must work together to achieve.

Indeed, what unites all of these challenges and opportunities is that, to be addressed properly, they all will require many different stakeholders to work together.

Communication, cooperation and collaboration: they hold the keys to our success.

Ladies and gentlemen,

we live in a time of fundamental shifts in the social and geopolitical order and growing uncertainty around trade. But shipping remains unchallenged as the carrier of the food, raw materials, commodities and finished products that people everywhere want, and need.

Shipping is entering a new era. If we all work together – governments, the shipping industry, ports, academia, technology suppliers and the many other related stakeholders – we can ensure that shipping has a truly sustainable future.

Thank you.