1st session of IHO Assembly, Monaco

1st session of IHO Assembly
24 April 2017, Monaco
Keynote Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here in Monaco for this important and somewhat historic occasion, which is the 1st IHO Assembly to be convened under the terms of your recently revised Convention.

Hydrographic services are absolutely central to maritime safety, which also remains rock-solid as one of the core objectives of IMO. That is why I am pleased to have this opportunity to represent IMO, to cement the solidarity that exists between our two Organizations, and to recognise the valuable contribution IHO makes to the work of IMO.

There is an old saying that “all ships should avoid hitting the sides of the ocean, particularly the bottom side.” Any ship that doesn’t know how deep the water under its keel is has the potential to find itself in trouble.

But not only is hydrography vital for supporting safe and efficient navigation of ships, it also plays a role in so many other areas of maritime activity. From fishing to mineral exploration, from marine science to tourism, from tsunami modelling to recreational boating – all these and more are reliant on good, accurate and up-to-date hydrographic data.

So I want to stress that I think it is important that the work of hydrographers should be recognised and valued in a much wider context than its purely technical dimension. Shipping and other maritime activities reIy on dependable and accurate hydrographic services – but the whole world relies on shipping and maritime activities. So, in a way, the whole world relies on hydrographers!

Indeed, hydrographic data is deemed to be so crucial that, since 2002, contracting governments to the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, are required to provide and maintain hydrographic services and products. New generations of ships with exceptionally deep draughts, new ports and coastal zone management plans are being developed due to changing trade patterns. This, coupled with the global mandate to protect the marine environment all combine to emphasise the importance of this obligation under SOLAS.

And yet, I think it would surprise many outside the profession to learn that around 90 per cent of the world’s oceans and 50 per cent of coastal waters have never had their depth measured. Of course, technology enables depths to be estimated with a reasonable degree of accuracy and confidence; but according to IHO’s own website, there are higher resolution maps of the Moon, Mars and Venus than for most of the world’s maritime areas. Almost all areas of the world are affected to some degree, including the waters of many developed countries.

In this context, the Polar Regions are becoming an increasing focus of hydrographic attention due to the intensified activity in these areas from shipping, tourism as well as other activities, such as energy exploration and extraction. Statistics show a lack of adequate hydrographic surveys for the majority of the Polar Regions. This has obvious implications, not only for the safe operation of an increasing number of ships, but also for the continued protection of the environment and for the sustainable management of the Polar Regions in general.

As you know, IMO has developed the Polar Code, which is a mandatory international code for ships operating in polar waters. The IHO contributed to the safety considerations contained within the Polar Code, related specifically to the generally unsatisfactory state of the hydrographic surveys from which existing nautical charts in the Polar Regions are derived. So I would like to thank you for that valuable contribution to what I believe is already proving to be an important step forward for safety and environmental protection.

Indeed, our Organizations generally have a great deal in common, from our shared pursuit of safer seas and more reliable navigation to the fact that most, if not all of your Member Governments are also members of IMO.

Given that your aim, and your mission, are to ensure that all the world's seas, oceans and navigable waters are surveyed and charted and to create a global environment in which States provide adequate and timely hydrographic data, products and services and ensure their widest possible use – it is no surprise that we also share a long history of cooperation and working together. Indeed, cooperation arrangements between IMO and IHO go back more than 50 years.

Our Secretariats attend and contribute to each other’s meetings. In particular, IHO’s World-Wide Navigational Warning Service Sub-Committee has been very important in relation to dissemination of Maritime Safety Information.
In recent years, our collaboration has been truly vital in a number of areas – one thinks, for example, of the development of electronic navigation charts and ECDIS. This technology, which seafarers all over the world now rely on every day, may have been driven by equipment manufacturers; but it was the development of standards, the push for harmonization and the adoption of a regulatory framework – by IHO and IMO – that turned an exciting technology into a reliable tool.

Today, we see a similar valuable collaboration in the development of e-navigation. As I have said on several occasions, e-navigation is the future; but it has been “the future” for a long time. The challenge now is to turn “the future” into “the present” so that all the benefits and advantages of e-navigation can be fully realised. IMO, IHO and other stakeholders are working under the e-navigation Strategy Implementation Plan to make this happen.

In this context, particularly important is IHO’s work to support the e-navigation concept through the availability, development and extension of IHO standard S-100, which will be the basis for future ECDIS and e-navigation, together with the development of the format and structure of Maritime Service Portfolios such as VTS services.

Capacity building is another vital component of the joint efforts made by IMO and IHO to support our common objectives. Development of hydrographic surveying and nautical charting capability is of fundamental importance and we have been delivering joint capacity-building activities over many years.

I firmly believe that helping states achieve the capacity required to participate effectively in maritime activities makes an important contribution towards the sustainable maritime transport system that we are all striving to realise.

Looking further afield, one of the most significant areas in which IMO and IHO share a common objective is in our support of the Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals, adopted in 2015, have been hailed as the mechanism to transform our world – ending poverty, reducing inequality and tackling climate change; building a better world in which no-one gets left behind. There can be few more noble yet ambitious objectives.

A sustainable shipping industry will be essential for the delivery of almost all of the 17 individual goals. But, for IMO and IHO, Goal 14 – to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development – has a particular resonance.

As I mentioned a few moments ago, hydrography and the detailed knowledge of the shape and depth of the seafloor underpin the proper, safe, sustainable and cost-effective use of the world’s seas, oceans and waterways. The work of hydrographers, whether in support of navigational safety, protection of the marine environment, coastal zone management, defence and security, resource exploration, or any other component of the blue economy, makes a valuable contribution to the delivery of SGD 14. 

The IHO, or its predecessor, the IHB, is nearly 100 years old – indeed, international cooperation in the field of hydrography goes back as far as the 19th century. But everything I have said so far only serves to emphasise how important and relevant IHO is today – and will continue to be, as we move into a future driven by the potential of digital technology.

I wish you a successful and fruitful first IHO Assembly, and I look forward to our joint efforts growing and strengthening in the years to come.

Thank you.