Georgia International Maritime Forum (opening keynote address), Georgia

Georgia International Maritime Forum (GIMF)

Opening keynote address, 13 September,

By Kitack Lim, Secretary-General

International Maritime Organization


Ambassadors, Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today and I am grateful for the opportunity to address this Georgia International Maritime Forum. The patronage of Prime Minister Bakhtadze sends a strong signal about the importance of this event, and I would like to offer my gratitude to him for his interest.

By the same token, let me also express my gratitude to Ms. Tamar Beruchashvili, the Ambassador of Georgia to the UK, for the excellent support she showed to IMO when acting as Second Vice-President during 30th IMO Assembly last year. It was, and is, much appreciated.

Events such as this play a vital role in providing a forum for communication and collaboration between the many stakeholders in the maritime community. I am also keen to register my appreciation in particular for one of the key goals of the event, namely raising awareness of the World Maritime Day.

This forum is taking place at a crucial stage for the maritime community. After years of economic downturn, the global economy is growing again and it has a positive impact the whole maritime industry as we see a step-by-step recovery of the shipping economy.

The shipping industry is the backbone of the global supply chain. We need to seize the opportunity for shipping to boost economic growth, employment and innovation. For the shipping industry to reach its full potential, we need to address the trends, developments and challenges facing the maritime industry. And the best way to achieve this, it through close collaboration and communication between the IMO, as the global legislator of shipping, IGOs, NGOs as well as the shipping, port and logistics industries.


Ladies and gentlemen,

This year is also significant for the IMO. This year, the Organization, is celebrating two significant milestones – 70 years since the Organization was formed and 60 since it became operational.

Our theme for the year – "Our Heritage: Better Shipping for a Better Future" – looks both at the past and into the years that lie ahead. It provides an opportunity to reflect and showcase how the Organization has developed and adapted while staying true to its overall mission – to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.

The overall theme for this forum – Sailing towards the roaring twenties – fits perfectly with our own theme, acknowledging as it does the trends, developments and challenges that the maritime community can expect to meet in the coming decade.

Many of these will affect both IMO and shipping. Responding to climate change may be one of the most important of these; and the so-called fourth industrial revolution will impact on shipping very soon. New technology such as big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and the availability of new energy sources are taking shipping into a new era. But there is a strong need to balance the benefits of new technologies with safety and security concerns, in particular cyber security, and its impact on the environment and people.

In a wider context, IMO and the maritime community have important roles to play in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals. This is one of the most important initiatives of the United Nations, setting clear goals and targets to protect the planet and ensure prosperity and human rights.

IMO is already addressing many of these challenges. Over the last 70 years, IMO has improved the safety, security, environmental soundness, efficiency as well as sustainability of shipping. Through development and adoption of more than 50 international instruments on all relevant aspects of shipping, IMO has contributed to make shipping what it is today: A modern industry guided by high-level standards, and on many occasions setting an example for other industries.

As one of these examples, let me highlight the historic adoption by IMO earlier this year of an initial strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

I cannot stress strongly enough how significant this is. For the first time, there is a clear commitment to a complete phase out of GHG emissions from ships, a specific linkage to the Paris Agreement and a series of clear levels of ambition including at least a 50 per cent cut in emissions from the sector by 2050.

Another key IMO measure which is helping shipping secure its environmental sustainability is the forthcoming reduction in the global upper limit of permissible sulphur content in ships' fuel oil. January 1 2020 has been set as the date for a significant reduction in the sulphur content of the fuel oil used by ships, from the 3.5 per cent limit currently in place to 0.50 per cent.

This is a landmark decision for both the environment and for human health. It demonstrates a clear commitment by IMO to ensuring shipping meets its environmental obligations. The important thing now is to ensure consistent implementation of the 0.5 per cent sulphur limit. IMO is currently developing relevant implementation guidelines to this end.

IMO is also showing a strong commitment to tackling the onset of digitalization in shipping. For example we are currently assessing the regulatory aspects of autonomous vessels. A regulatory scoping exercise is looking into the regulatory aspects of autonomous vessels, from the aspects of safety, security, legal liability, responses to incidents and protection of the marine environment.

Let me express my deepest appreciation to all IMO Member States – including Georgia – and to the many IGOs and NGOs for their constructive collaboration and communication in these critical areas of IMO's work. The importance of collective efforts on these issues is vital.

IMO also needs to look ahead. The Organization needs to strengthen its ability to deliver on its main objectives, to "promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation" in light of the trends, development and challenges I mentioned a few moments ago. The human element and capacity building will be important enablers in this regard.

I mentioned earlier the Sustainable Development Goals, which today provide a global focus for efforts to make our world a better place. Shipping has an important role to play if these goals are to be achieved. IMO has worked, and will continue to work to ensure that the people of the world can benefit from shipping in a manner that meets the needs of the global economy, but also changing expectations about safety, environmental protection and social responsibility.

The maritime industry as a whole is a crucial part of the global supply chain, and communication and collaboration between shipping and the port and logistics industry should be encouraged and promoted.

As an agency of the United Nations, IMO is, as you would expect, firmly and strongly committed to the global Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our technical cooperation programme, with its emphasis on capacity building, enhancing partnerships and mobilizing resources among our members, is central to the Organization's response to the SDGs Indeed, supporting our members to achieve the SDGs is specifically mentioned in the Organization's latest vision statement, adopted by the Member States last year.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, let me express my appreciation to the government of Georgia for initiating and organizing this biennial event. It provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the trends, developments and challenges on the horizon and I hope and expect it will provide valuable input to IMO's work. I am very much looking forward to lively debates and discussions during the event, which I have no doubt will make a positive contribution towards the future of shipping.