Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW 4), 30 January-3 February 2017 (opening speech)


(30 January - 3 February 2017)

Good morning, distinguished delegates, I am very pleased to welcome you to the fourth session of the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping. I particularly welcome those delegates who may be attending this Sub-Committee for the first time. Since it is still January of 2017, I wish you all, and the maritime community at large, a happy, healthy, productive, successful and accident-free new year.

IMO's goals and objectives can only be achieved when all Member States join together to implement IMO standards effectively in a uniform and harmonious manner. I urge you to continue working together globally, throughout the year, to create and sustain an even safer, more secure, more environmentally friendly and more efficient maritime world. I will continue my effort in acting as a bridge among Member States to ensure communication and understanding, while pursuing a more efficient Organization, flexibly adapting our resources to the changing needs.


Before turning to the most important items on your agenda for this week, I wish to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime Day theme, which is "Connecting Ships, Ports and People". The theme has been selected to build on the theme of 2016, "Shipping: indispensable to the world", by focussing on helping Member States to develop and implement maritime strategies that invest in a joined-up, interagency approach to address a whole range of issues, including facilitation of maritime transport, increasing efficiency, navigational safety, protection of the marine environment and maritime security.

I believe that the theme will provide a good opportunity to improve cooperation between ports and ships and develop a closer partnership between the two sectors; to raise global standards and set norms for the safety, security and efficiency of ports; and to standardize port procedures through identifying and developing best practice guidance and training materials.

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 conditions for increased employment, prosperity and stability ashore through promoting trade by sea; enhancing the port and maritime sector as wealth creators both on land and, through developing a sustainable blue economy, at sea.

However, I want to single out the most important pillar which is "the people". The people, or in other words, seafarers, who are the core element of this industry. Competent and appropriately trained and qualified manpower is what the maritime industry needs most both afloat and ashore for safe, secure, environment sensitive operations thereby developing and sustaining the blue economy.

It is important that shipping is portrayed as an industry that can provide a career path matching the aspirations of the ambitious and capable young people it urgently needs to attract and retain. Safety, security, shipping's environmental credentials and the entire future sustainability of the shipping industry are overwhelmingly dependent on the availability of a competent and capable workforce. Therefore, if the global pool of competent and efficient seafarers is to meet demand, then seafaring must be presented to young generations for their future careers at sea, or in the management of maritime industry on shore, based on their expertise and experience at sea.

Your Sub-Committee's principal role is to ensure that seafarers who operate and manage the sophisticated ships of today are appropriately trained and qualified, and continue to prove their competence.

In this context, I would also like to remind you of the agreement reached by the Council in its session in December 2016 on the new strategic plan for the Organization. While the overall plan will have only 7 strategic directions, in order to ensure that we can focus our efforts and monitor our performance in these 7 areas, the Council also agreed that people, and in particular seafarers and those in the maritime sector, are of vital importance in everything we do.


Distinguished delegates,

Now, I would like to highlight some key issues amongst the various agenda items for HTW 4. According to maritime casualty statistics, the overwhelming majority of the root causes of casualty incidents at sea is related to human factors. 

In this regard, an important factor affecting seafarers is fatigue, which has been increasingly recognized by the industry as a major human element hazard that affects most aspects of a seafarer's ability to perform effectively and safely.

The effects of fatigue can lead to undesirable situations with devastating effects. I encourage you to continue your work to revise and update the Guidelines on Fatigue to improve better understanding of fatigue and fatigue risk management, and to reflect current fatigue and sleep research, and best practices of fatigue mitigation, to support the well-being of seafarers, whilst enhancing safety at sea.

I would also like to recall the instruction of the Committee to your Sub-Committee to develop new ways to improve the dissemination of lessons learned from maritime casualties with a view to enhancing seafarers' training. I encourage you to explore ways of developing a methodology to utilize lessons learned to form part of seafarers' training and education so that the information could be used more effectively to improve seafarer competence.

Another important item is to address the alarmingly high loss of fishermen's lives and of fishing vessels every year. Your Sub-Committee has already initiated the work on the comprehensive review of the 1995 STCW-F Convention, which entered into force in 2012.

You will continue your work on the comprehensive review of the 1995 STCW-F Convention, which is aimed at providing better standards of training for fishing vessel personnel. In this regard, I would urge those Governments that have not yet done so, to accede to this Convention that will promote safety of life and property in this important industry through better training. 

Among the other important issues before you this week I would like to highlight:

- the validation of the model courses that provide guidance to enhance seafarers' training programmes;
- the development of a framework for a new STCW-related GISIS module to reduce administrative burdens; and
- the development of relevant guidance for the effective implementation of the 2010 Manila Amendments.

Distinguished delegates,

I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully, inspired by the customary IMO spirit of cooperation and under the able leadership of your Chair, Ms. Mayte Medina of the United States, ably supported by the staff of the Secretariat as always, you will make sound, balanced and timely decisions. I extend best wishes to all of you for success in your deliberations.

Finally, as is customary, all of you are cordially invited to a cocktail reception hosted by me in the delegates' lounge this evening.

Thank you.