ICS International Shipping Conference - Keynote speech

ICS International Shipping Conference
10 September 2014
Keynote speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a pleasure to be here today. 

In today's interdependent and globalized world, efficient and cost-effective transportation systems that make up the global supply chain are the engine for economic development and prosperity throughout the entire world, and shipping is at the very heart of such systems. In June 2012, ICS stood alongside IMO at the United Nations 'Rio+20' Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. 

One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by States to launch a process to develop Sustainable Development Goals. At the global level, the United Nations is working to translate this important concept into something truly tangible and IMO has launched the concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System. 

The concept of a sustainable maritime transportation system is, by definition, complex and multi-faceted. It cuts across a great multitude of business sectors, professional disciplines, policy and governance concerns and many more. The different players will have to see and understand how their own world is connected to others and that their own interests are shared interests. Investment will be needed, investment in human resources, in infrastructure, in research and development. Communication among different stakeholders will need to be strengthened. Policy coordination will be vital, and I believe that IMO can provide the institutional framework required to take this vital concept forward to fruition.

IMO is in transition. Internally, we are making changes within the Secretariat designed to improve efficiency and transparency. We have to recognize the current financial circumstances of our Member States. Expectations and resources have to be matched, and the Secretariat needs to evolve accordingly. We are currently implementing the processes and strategies that will support such evolution, and structural reforms are already pursued to ensure we are properly equipped to meet tomorrow's challenges.

Operationally, this year is our first year with the revised sub-committee structure, ensuring efficiency of work to meet current and future challenges in regulatory fields. 

We are transitioning towards a mandatory audit scheme for IMO Member States, something which should help to ensure that the quality of shipping can be maintained at the required standards.

Technical cooperation, which helps the improved global implementation of IMO's norms and instruments, has also been reformed to better identify real capacity-building needs of developing countries. Our technical cooperation activities will flow directly from the new country maritime profiles, provided by the Member States themselves. Looking further down the line at the wider socio-economic impact of the maritime sector, I am actively encouraging the establishment of national maritime transportation policies for developing countries.

In our long-running initiative to counter piracy off the east coast of Africa, we are now engaged in a process to transition the implementation of the highly-successful Djibouti Code of Conduct from IMO to a new, regional structure designed to enable the region to develop its own capacity to keep a lid on piracy. At the same time, we are taking actions to deal with the increasingly worrying situation in western Africa and the Gulf of Guinea – for which a similar Code of Conduct was adopted last year, in Yaounde. Proper implementation of the ISPS Code must be pursued further to protect ships and seafarers against any kind of threat to shipping and I believe that this should have a positive contribution in our response to the Ebola virus outbreak.

On the subject of new challenges, I should like to mention three – none of which is strictly new but all of which, I believe, require prompt attention and action. 

The first is the question of migrants, people who feel forced to flee their homes in order to find a better life or escape from conflicts or civil war. The countries of the Mediterranean have been experiencing a dramatic increase in people seeking to migrate from northern Africa into Europe. Reports suggested that another 100,000 to 150,000 such migrants were expected to try to make the passage to Europe during the second part of this year, typically in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats that are clearly not fit for purpose. This has created a genuine humanitarian crisis. Experience to date has shown that coastguard and rescue vessels simply cannot deal with the large amount of people at sea, and there is clearly a limit in seeking more assistance from merchant vessels. 

IMO has done a great deal of work over the last decade on the rescue side of the problem. We are still making efforts to create a better regional system to deal with persons from the Mediterranean Sea.

However, the rescue system can no longer cope with the magnitude of the problem. We must put further effort on the prevention side of the problem.

Obviously, this cannot be done only by IMO. The United Nations and all nations facing this problem must put further effort into preventing unlawful, unregulated and unsafe human passage at sea aboard small craft.

In order to provide a contribution to the efforts of the United Nations in dealing with the issues of migration of large numbers of people and of maritime migrants, I have arranged additional resources in the Maritime Security Sub-Division. I will continue to raise the issue of maritime migrants, and persons who need to be rescued at sea, within the wider United Nations system.

The second "new" challenge concerns the safety of domestic ferries. Earlier this year, the world was saddened by the loss of life in yet another tragedy of a domestic ferry, the Sewol. 

The Sewol was the most recent in a worrying succession of serious accidents involving domestic ferries in developing countries, which have accounted for nearly three thousand lives lost over just two and a half years. Under its Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme, IMO is engaged in a project specifically dealing with domestic ferry safety. I am of the opinion that the time has now come for IMO to take further action to improve the safety of passenger ships carrying hundreds of the general public, regardless of the nature of their voyage, whether domestic or international. Only IMO can take such action to improve safety at sea. I am now taking steps to strengthen IMO's Technical Cooperation Programme on domestic ferry safety with a view to providing safety recommendations and guidelines to maritime Administrations in developing countries. I am also preparing for a major conference on domestic ferry safety in April next year in the Philippines, to discuss how IMO and the maritime community will be able to tackle this issue.

The third "new" challenge is an initiative to instigate a fresh look at containership safety, prompted by the structural failure and sinking last year of the Bahamas flagged containership MOL Comfort. This incident prompted a very quick response within IACS, with an expert group formed to undertake an open discussion and exchange of information on the state of the art structural design, construction, operation and survey of containerships – and, as a result, IACS has decided to develop unified functional requirements relating to load cases and hull girder strength for containerships. I look forward to submissions by IACS to IMO's relevant bodies on its findings and further information. 

The safety of large containerships is an important issue for IMO and I would appreciate any contribution on the matter from the industry that may lead to concrete proposals on large containership safety.


Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to turn now to two issues that have been on the agenda for some considerable time – too long, in fact; namely ballast water management and ship recycling.

With regard to the former, it is clear that, despite the further progress made at the last session of the MEPC, significant challenges remain. I told the Committee at its last meeting that we must recognize the industry's concerns about the uncertainty regarding type-approved systems already installed. I know that, in this context, ICS has tabled a submission on the industry's concerns, including a draft MEPC resolution, to the next MEPC meeting, to be held in October. 

In this connection, I am encouraged by the outcome of the III Sub-Committee which approved the Guidelines for port State control inspection for compliance with the BWM Convention with a view to having these adopted by MEPC 67. Undoubtedly, this should have a positive effect on the outcome of the debate and I look forward to a detailed and fruitful discussion.
In the meantime, I maintain my request to Member Governments to continue to accelerate their ratification process so that the BWM Convention can come into force as soon as possible. I believe all these issues would be better settled with the BWM Convention in force. Yesterday, I received an instrument of ratification from Jordan and at least two more countries are in the final stage of the process of ratification. The industry, too, can play its part in preparation for the entry into force and global implementation in the near future.

I am equally keen that the Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling should gain ratifications and enter into force as soon as possible. Since its unanimous adoption five years ago, the Convention has only attracted three ratifications, by Norway, Congo and France. The Hong Kong Convention seeks to improve safety and environmental standards throughout the entire ship-recycling industry. It is my view that it is the only workable instrument on ship recycling currently available for international shipping. It would both improve the safety of workers in this industry and enhance protection of the environment. Any efforts and initiatives of individual countries, or regional groups of countries to facilitate the early ratification of the Hong Kong Convention, are of course to be welcomed; however, they should be in line with the Convention's framework and not seek to impose different or additional requirements. 


Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, each year we select a special theme for World Maritime Day. This year we are focusing on the importance of effective implementation of IMO conventions, and I have touched already on my hopes that the Ballast Water Management and Ship-Recycling Conventions can enter into force with minimal delay.

Next year, our theme will be "maritime education and training", a subject that is very close to my heart and which I know is seen by the industry as vital to its long-term sustainability. Indeed, it is impossible to stress how important an issue this is. Without a quality labour force, motivated, trained and skilled to the appropriate international standards, the industry cannot thrive. 

At IMO, we are unique among UN agencies to have two affiliated educational institutions – the World Maritime University and the International Maritime Law Institute. We are very proud of these and of the many graduates they have produced who now hold positions of responsibility and influence within the maritime community.

I hope that next year will provide good opportunities for all stakeholders in shipping to debate how we might bring future generations into the maritime industry, as it is on them that we will all eventually rely in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are so many other aspects of our work at IMO that I could talk about but time does not permit. At IMO, our focus was once almost exclusively on developing a regulatory framework, now we are moving more towards implementation, education and capacity building. Maritime safety remains our core area of involvement but, increasingly, other topics such as environmental protection, operational efficiency, facilitation, fishing safety and sustainability, maritime security, counter-piracy, prevention of illegal maritime migration and transport sustainability are now becoming key elements of the Organization's engagement as we move forward. 

At ICS, given your hands-on involvement with the nuts and bolts of vessel operation, you will be more aware than most that, despite the huge advances that have been made in recent years, each new generation of vessels brings fresh challenges and the world – your working environment – is changing. This reinforces the need for continual improvement and new ideas through which the sustainable future of the maritime community can be explored.

IMO will be leading the way to that future, and I have every confidence that ICS will be there to assist and support us, every step of the way.

Thank you.