IALA Conference, keynote speech - 'Successful voyages, Sustainable planet – A New Era for Marine Aids to Navigation in a Connected World'

IALA Conference
Incheon, Republic of Korea, 27 May 2018
Keynote speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Conference theme: 'Successful voyages, Sustainable planet – A New Era for Marine Aids to Navigation in a Connected World'

Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me say first of all what a pleasure it is to be here, and to express my gratitude to IALA for giving me the opportunity to speak at this event.

I would like to start by thanking the Government of the Republic of Korea, the host country, and IALA for their hard work in planning and organizing this important conference.

So much is said and written these days about shipping and the environment that I sometimes think the "safety" side of the equation is in danger of being overlooked. Perhaps that is a reflection of the fact that those responsible for safety within the industry – and I include IALA among them – are doing such an effective job.

But, while that may be true in part, it is imperative that we should never allow our focus on safety to be anything other than pin-sharp. Not only is safety a mission-critical objective in its own right, it is also a major contributory factor to a successful environmental performance.

As IMO celebrates its 70 years since its establishment, IALA has continuously demonstrated to be an important contributor to the technical work of the Organization in improving maritime safety and protection of the marine environment, fostering international cooperation and harmonization of standards and best practices.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am particularly enthusiastic about the title you have selected for your Conference this year, as it picks up on some important broad themes, notably sustainability, a new era, and a connected world. These themes are increasingly shaping our thoughts and actions as we move forward.

Let me first of all say a few words about sustainability – and in particular, about sustainable development. This is a concept that may, at first glance, seem somewhat peripheral to IALA and its work but actually, I believe there is a strong and important connection.

In 2015, the nations of the world agreed and adopted the most far-sighted and important set of goals that mankind has ever conceived. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, set out to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

So what is the link to IALA? Well, by providing improved access to basic materials, goods and products, by facilitating commerce and helping create prosperity among nations and peoples, shipping is helping lift millions of people out of poverty.

And, in the absence of poverty, issues like hunger, equality, education and health become easier to tackle. Investment and development in transport infrastructure, and that includes aids to navigation, are therefore crucial to achieving sustainable development and empowering communities for the better future to which we all aspire.

Aids to Navigations provide a crucial value to prevent ships' navigation accidents, in particular in coastal areas.

Your Conference today focuses on a new era for marine aids to navigation. All around us, in every part of our lives, we are encountering radical new models for the way we live, usually driven by innovative digital technology or artificial intelligence. The only certainty is that nothing will look the same in the future.

We can expect artificial intelligence to have an impact on ships' navigation and operation. New players are getting involved and new alliances are being formed, developing "smart ship" concepts that could revolutionise how ships are designed, built and operated.

IALA had also clearly recognized that the maritime world is going through rapid technological development and change. IALA Members face the challenge of providing appropriate aids to navigation to cater for this evolution in shipping. In doing so, they draw on a strong foundation of operating at the cutting edge of technology. The unified Maritime Buoyage System, the Automatic Identification System, the World-Wide Radionavigation System including the Differential Global Navigation Satellite System (DGNSS), Vessel Traffic Services, and, more recently, the IMO‐led concept of e‐navigation have all been considered "state of the art" – and IALA has been instrumental in each of them.

Technology holds the key to a safer and more sustainable future for shipping. Thanks to new technology emerging in so many areas – such as fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction, shipping is indeed entering a new era.

But technological advances present challenges as well as opportunities. In IALA's world, for example, the increasing complexity and amount of information available to the navigator emphasizes the need to take into account the possibility of information overload and confusion during the design of new and innovative aids to navigation.

Their introduction into the regulatory framework, therefore, 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, the human element, that is their impact on personnel, both on board and ashore. It's important to never overlook how developments in technology will affect seafarers.

At IMO we continue to ensure that the benefits offered by these new and emerging technologies can be fully realized without compromising safety, security or environmental protection.

It is absolutely right that IMO should take a proactive and leading role in these new emerging issues. IMO is the only forum where such issues can be fully discussed, and aired, and where the appropriate actions can then be taken.

Cooperation and collaboration will be vital in these areas, as we move forward, and I have no doubt that IALA has an important role to play. It seems highly likely, for example, that IALA would bring important expertise and experience to any conversation about how autonomous vessels might affect shoreside infrastructure and services.

The SOLAS Convention places obligations on Contracting Governments with regard to providing aids to navigation and Vessel Traffic Services, and IMO Members have, for many years, sought and received technical assistance from IALA in fulfilling these obligations.

The IALA World‐Wide Academy, for example, has become firmly established as a global leader in developing and strengthening human and institutional resources through technical needs assessment missions and training events. I know these have been of great benefit to authorities responsible for providing navigational aids and vessel traffic systems, especially in developing countries which face considerable challenges in meeting their responsibilities.

I am sure this sort of collaboration will continue, and grow. Indeed, collaboration is, for me, absolutely vital if we are going to overcome the challenges we face as we pursue our shared objectives. In fact, this was one of the points I made in my manifesto when I was running for the position of Secretary-General. My concept then, as now, was of a "voyage together", developing joined-up policies that embrace the entire maritime sector.

The ocean is essential to the future well-being of mankind. And the use of the world's oceans is intensifying as a result of both the continuing increase in the exploitation and use of marine resources and the pressure to preserve marine spaces for all users, not just the shipping industry.

Responsible, sustainable use of the oceans clearly requires an integrated approach, with a long-term focus: an approach that responds to the world's resource, climate and environmental challenges.

The maritime community needs to ensure that growth is coordinated and planned, with input from all relevant stakeholders. We also need to look forward – beyond the immediate economic cycle – to future developments.

This was recognized last year by the IMO Member States when they agreed that engaging in ocean governance would be one of the key strategic directions that will steer IMO through the next few years.

Plans, policies and strategies for ocean use cannot be formulated in isolation. Organizations like IMO, and IALA, must be part of the global conversation to ensure that activities in the marine space are properly balanced with the capacity of the oceans to remain healthy and diverse in the long term.

Thank you.