Facilitation Committee, 45th session (FAL 45), 1-7 June (opening remarks)



1 to 7 June 2021

 Excellencies, distinguished delegates, good morning, good afternoon, good evening:

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the 45th regular session of the Facilitation Committee which for the second time is conducted virtually. You will recall that your Committee was the first full IMO Committee meeting to be conducted virtually allowing the Organization to proceed with our agenda in spite of the limitations caused by the pandemic. I must appreciate your pioneering efforts.

While the Organization moved ahead with important progress   with regulations, we also had to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its serious impact on global trade and travel, and particularly on seafarers.

The Secretariat continued to work tirelessly, together with our UN sister organizations and industry partners, to address the fall-out of the pandemic, in particular encouraging Member States to recognize seafarers as "key workers", as also advocated by the UN General Assembly Resolution adopted in December 2020. In this regard, I would again impress on all Member States the need to designate seafarers as "key workers". So far we have received only 60 relevant notifications, marking about a third of our membership.

Another important action, essential to facilitate the movement of seafarers across borders, is the prioritization of their vaccination, and I wholeheartedly welcome the resolution on Recommended action to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination of seafarers adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee at its 103rd session. I am confident that this resolution will move Member States to consider the vaccination of seafarers as a priority matter.

Recently, we have observed a significant reduction in the number of seafarers awaiting repatriation or joining of ships, from 400,000 to 200,000, and I am sure that the actions taken by the Organization contributed in no small measure to getting the numbers down. However, much remains to be done and I am confident that by continuing to work together we will eventually overcome this difficult and challenging situation for global shipping. Rest assured that this Organization will continue to do all it can to assist the maritime community and in particular our seafarers.

We must translate our commitment to this year's world maritime theme: "Seafarers: at the core of shipping's future", into action. The theme provides a unique opportunity to send a clear message to the world to help protect seafarers' rights and raise awareness of their exceptional contribution as key and essential workers, always on the front line of delivering world trade despite the ongoing pandemic.

On a different note, in February this year, IMO, together with WISTA International, launched a study to collect and analyse data on the number of women employed in the maritime sector, a key practical outcome resulting from the 2019 World Maritime theme: "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community". Through Circular Letter No.4370, Member States, NGOs and IGOs are encouraged to support this initiative by participating in an online survey, to help shape the diverse future of our sector. I invite you all to fill in the questionnaire before the survey closes on 30 June 2021.

This will be another intense session of your Committee with a busy agenda, and where you will also have to consider agenda items and documents deferred from your previous session. 

One of the main topics at this session will be the finalization of the new version of the IMO Compendium, with new data sets related to the ship/port interface. The IMO Compendium is a critical instrument to accelerate digitalization in shipping business in the ship/port interface, and a matter of great importance which has gained enormously in significance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turning to the review of the Annex to the FAL Convention, another important item on your agenda, a dedicated Working Group will finalize the amendments to align the FAL Convention with electronic data exchange by moving away from paper forms and preparing relevant amendments to the Convention. It is expected that you will approve these amendments at this session, with a view to their adoption at FAL 46. The finalization of these amendments will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the facilitation of international maritime traffic and the acceleration of digitalization in the maritime sector.

We are also expecting good progress regarding other relevant guidance under development, such as the guidance to address maritime corruption, the tool to measure domestic implementation of the FAL Convention and the guidance for authentication, integrity and confidentiality of content for the purpose of exchange via maritime single window.

I am confident that the customary IMO spirit of cooperation will prevail during your deliberations and that, under the able leadership of your experienced Chair, Ms. Marina Angsell of Sweden, you will have open and informative discussions and will reach agreement on the agenda items under consideration."

Thank you.