10th German National Maritime Conference

10th German National Maritime Conference
Hamburg, 4 April 2017
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you today and grateful for the opportunity to address such an important and prestigious event.

Despite having only a relatively short coastline, Germany provides ample proof that maritime activity can both drive and support a growing national and global economy, and that efforts to promote investment, growth and improvement in the maritime sectors can have benefits that reach far beyond shipping itself.

As the only really cost-effective way to transport the vast majority of international trade, shipping will be central to sustainable global development and growth in the future. A safe, secure, clean and efficient international shipping industry is indispensable to the modern world. Governments all over the world have an obligation to create a regulatory framework that allows that to happen.

IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, created by governments to enable them to do this. At IMO, the world's governments come together to turn that obligation into something more tangible. They turn it into a regulatory imperative. They take the broad-based yet unspecific agreement that "something must be done" as a starting point and turn it into a set of understandable, achievable and effective regulations that set out, very specifically, "what must be done."

IMO’s overall mission is to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping. We do this in two ways. First, we develop and adopt a global regulatory regime for shipping that embraces 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.

This framework of global standards and regulations, developed by governments at IMO, enables shipping to operate safely, securely, cleanly and efficiently. And it is the Member States, supported by the industry, who are ultimately responsible for implementing IMO measures.

For IMO, 2016 was another year of considerable progress on many key areas of our work. Among the highlights were agreement on the date for a global reduction in the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil; adopting mandatory requirements for ships to collect and report data on the fuel they use, and approving a road map to develop a comprehensive strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships. 2016 saw important progress on verifying goal-based construction standards for new oil tankers and bulk carriers, and was also the year when ratifications of the Ballast Water Management Convention triggered the entry into force of that important instrument later this year.

If properly implemented and built upon, all these measures will have a considerable positive effect on the environment, the ocean and human health.

Looking ahead, in the future we will continue to pursue these goals, alongside the rest of our mandate. Traditional issues such as the human element, training and education will continue to develop but within new contexts such as enhanced digital connectivity, cyber security and the increasingly urgent search for green technologies.

I am particularly keen, this year, to highlight the importance of ‘joined-up’ maritime development across all sectors and how this can bring great benefits in terms of development, especially in the context of the global Sustainable Development Goals.

With this in mind, our theme for this year is “Connecting ships, ports and people” and we will be using it as an opportunity to highlight the value of integration in the maritime and logistics sectors – both from a policy and a practical perspective. IMO’s role as the global regulator of the shipping industry can enhance this integration: consistent, uniform regulation facilitates the free flow of commerce.


Today, we live in a world in which new technology seems poised to have a transforming impact on all our lives. Shipping is no exception, and therefore IMO's regulatory framework has to continuously adapt.

New technologies have already brought significant changes in the way ships are designed, constructed and operated. 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.

I believe technology holds the key to a safer and more sustainable future for shipping. I don’t expect one single breakthrough that will solve all our problems at once. But what we will see is real progress through the collective effect of marginal gains in many different areas.

Thanks to the opportunities afforded by new technology, shipping is, potentially, on the brink of a new era. The technologies emerging around fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction and so many other areas, can drive new generations of ships that bring step-change improvements in all the areas that IMO regulates.

At IMO, we also want to focus on improving the actual process of developing regulations, so we can make them more effective. “Big Data” is often referred to as the 4th industrial revolution and, in the coming years, we, too, will be looking at gathering more data, and then being better and smarter at using it when we make decisions.

Across the board, we will be looking at improving feedback from Member States and the industry and enhancing the way we learn from experience and feed those lessons back into the regulatory process.

Ladies and gentlemen, the so-called ‘blue economy’ is a large and growing sector. But the global marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale, and conflicts in the use of ocean space and resources among the various stakeholders are increasing.

To be sustainable, human activities have to be balanced with the oceans’ capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term. A major part of IMO’s role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting that delicate balance.

The world is no longer prepared to accept services or industries that are simply cost effective. We now demand them to be safe, green and clean, as well as efficient. Through IMO, governments have sought to ensure that shipping responds to this challenge. And the significant improvements in casualty and pollution figures from ships over several decades clearly show that we have achieved considerable success. Yet, still, we seek further improvements.

Perhaps the fundamental challenge for shipping today is to remain sustainable while meeting the increasingly stringent demands of its customers, and of society as a whole, with regard to safety and environmental performance.

Shipping will have to continually adjust to new expectations – and this, incidentally, may also drive changes in the global fleet, encouraging older vessels to be phased out, promoting new and more efficient ship designs and streamlining vessel operations.

Many of these new expectations are reflected in the regulatory regime developed and adopted by IMO. This in itself may sometimes feel like an unnecessary burden to the shipping industry. But IMO represents the collective views and decisions of its 172 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.

So, when IMO regulates issues like emission reductions, ship design and construction, cleaner fuel, ballast water management, container safety and so on, the overarching objective is to ensure that the people of the world can continue to enjoy the benefits of shipping, in a manner that fully meets modern expectations.

Finding consensus on these and other issues, through a process of discussion among all stakeholders, is one of the great strengths of IMO. Shipping has to be regulated on a global basis.

Global regulations apply equally to all. No-one can gain an advantage either by cutting corners or by imposing unilateral requirements. They create a level playing field by ensuring 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.

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.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you.