Facilitation Committee, 43rd session (opening remarks)


8 to 12 April 2019

Good morning Madame Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates.

First of all, I wish to congratulate you, Madam Chair, for chairing this important committee for the first time.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the forty-third session of the Facilitation Committee.  I extend a particular welcome to those of you who are attending this Committee for the first time.

I am delighted to inform you that this year Costa Rica has acceded to the FAL Convention, bringing the total of Contracting Governments to 121.


I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about this year's World Maritime Day theme "Empowering women in the maritime community". It recognizes the professional contribution of women to the maritime industry, at sea, as naval architects, maritime lawyers, or, in any capacity, here in this room, challenging traditional expectations of shipping as a male-oriented industry. The participation of women in the economy, political decision-making and society is key to addressing maritime challenges, but gender equality in the maritime sector is an issue too often overlooked. The maritime sector needs “all hands on deck”, both male and female, if it is to take on the challenges of carrying the world's goods in an efficient, safe and clean manner.

This year's World Maritime Day will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 26 September, and the annual parallel event will be organized by the Government of Colombia in Cartagena from 15 to 17 September. While I look forward to your participation in some or all of those events, I would also encourage you to embrace this year’s theme and use it to promote greater participation of women in shipping activities.

Last week I travelled to Ghana to attend the 6th WISTA Africa Regional Conference. I was very pleased to see such a high level of participation and such motivated and enthusiastic delegates. The event was impeccably organized and I wish to thank the Government of Ghana for hosting it.


Distinguished delegates,

It has always been my firm belief that the maritime sector, which includes shipping, ports and the people who operate them, can and should play a significant role in helping Member States to create the conditions necessary for increased employment, prosperity and stability ashore through the promotion of trade by sea; enhancing the port and maritime sectors as wealth creators both on land and, through the development of a sustainable blue economy, at sea. We should be aware of, and recognize, the contribution of the Organization and the maritime sector to the world economy, through the development and effective implementation of international measures to further improve the efficiency of shipping. Shipping is the lifeblood of the global economy. Without shipping, international trade, the transport of raw materials, food and goods, would simply not be possible.


Distinguished delegates,

Tomorrow, on Tuesday 9 April, a new mandatory requirement of the FAL Convention enters into force, whereby all Public Authorities have to establish systems for the electronic exchange of information. This new provision brings a very significant change to the maritime industry and ports in a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport.

The FAL Committee has made significant progress in the harmonization and standardization of electronic messaging in the last few years, and I am confident that this work will continue in the future, with new challenges.

I wish to emphazise the importance that the FAL Convention has, in particular for its role in respect to ports and logistics. I have taken note with great pleasure of the increased collaboration between the shipping and ports industries. This is bringing significant benefits to the maritime sector both on safety and environmental issues. There is now a stronger engagement by the port industry, represented by the International Association of Ports and Harbours. Communication with the port industry is of vital importance and, in this regard, I wish to inform you that a new staff member has been recruited at the Secretariat to deal with issues related to FAL and ports. I am sure that this new IMO officer will further enhance the cooperation and collaboration between IMO, the ship and port industries.


I would now like to highlight some key issues among the various items on the agenda of FAL 43.

You will commence the revision of the Annex to the FAL Convention to ensure a harmonized and more effective application of its provisions, and I encourage you to work diligently to make good progress at this session.

As to the single window, it is expected that the Guidelines for setting up a single window system in maritime transport will be completed at this session.

A joint presentation by Norway and Antigua and Barbuda on the IMO maritime single window project implemented in Antigua and Barbuda will be held at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The project was launched in October 2017 and has been implemented in 19 months. I believe that this system will assist Member States, in particular SIDS, in complying with the new requirement of the FAL Convention. At this stage, I would like to commend Norway for the project and its generous offer of the source code developed for the system established in Antigua and Barbuda to other interested Member States.

With regard to the progress of the review of the IMO Compendium, I would like to highlight the importance of the work on the harmonization and standardization of the data elements of the FAL Forms, to guarantee the interoperability of maritime single windows. It is expected that phase 1 of the review of the Compendium, affecting data elements of the FAL Convention, will be completed at this session, and phase 2 will start at this session, with data elements beyond the FAL Convention.

A new subject for the consideration of the Committee is the regulatory scoping exercise for the use of maritime autonomous surface ships, the so called MASS. MSC, MEPC and LEG have already started work on this matter, and you will consider the plan of work and procedures for the regulatory scoping exercise of the FAL Committee at this session, based on the plan approved by MSC 100.


Distinguished delegates,

The agenda for this session places heavy demands on you during the coming four meeting days, where you are expected to make progress on a large number of important issues.  I am confident that, with your unswerving commitment to promote the facilitation of international maritime traffic, and with the customary IMO spirit of cooperation, you will make the sound, balanced and timely decisions that have been the hallmark of the Committee over the years.

You may be aware that your Vice-Chair, Captain Moises de Gracia of Panama, is not available for re-election. Therefore, the Committee will elect a new Vice-Chair for 2019 immediately after this address.

I am sure that the leadership skills of your Chair, Ms. Marina Angsell of Sweden, supported by the newly elected Vice-Chair, will guarantee that the agenda of this session will be tackled successfully. I am also sure that all of you will assist them, so that the Committee may reach the best and most widely acceptable outcomes.

In the past three years I have strongly emphazised, to both colleagues from the IMO Secretariat and external stakeholders,  the importance of the FAL Committee and of all the aspects dealt through it, such as safety, logistics, cyber security and welfare of seafarers, to name a few.

With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations and look forward to welcoming you all to the customary drinks reception I will be hosting after close of business today in the Delegates’ Lounge.

Thank you.