Sub-Committee on Implementation of IMO Instruments (III), 13-17 July 2015 (opening speech)

(13 to 17 July 2015)

Good morning distinguished delegates. As you know, this is my last opening remarks to your Sub-Committee since I am retiring at the end of this year.

I would just like to reflect my view of the activities of this very important Sub-Committee with a bit of a historical perspective, and also touch upon my expectations for the future.

You may recall, at the beginning of the 1990s, the newly appointed Secretary-General, Mr. William O’Neil took the helm of this Organization. During his tenure, he took a number of important initiatives.

One of them was his vision that IMO should move, more and more, into the field of implementation, rather than creating new regulations. That was his clear vision and he encouraged IMO Member Governments to really think about how to change the work of this Organization and move into the field of implementation. His efforts created momentum and the first joint session of MSC-MEPC was held in 1993. The clear outcome of the debate at that meeting provided additional focus for the newly established Sub Committee on Flag State Implementation, which marked a historical development, more than 20 years ago.

The initial period of activities and discussion at FSI covered survey and certification and port state control, which are both very important activities of flag State implementation. 

At that time, the discussion always reflected some diverging views between flag States and port States. The discussion on differences in policy was always reflected at FSI. One time, I remember a former Chairman of FSI mention that FSI was the most political body of the Organization because it handled the debate between port states and flag states.

That was in the mid-1990s and around this time, the Sub-Committee managed to get the self-assessment format for the performance of the flag state and continuously discussed the elements of port state control and sub-standard vessels. But who could have imagined that 20 years later, IMO would agree, by consensus, to move into the Mandatory Audit Scheme. Nobody could have imagined that 20 years ago. In my view, this is a significant development of this Organization.

Over the course of its history, IMO has achieved a global system of shared responsibility under the IMO Convention, responsibility shared by flag States, port States, coastal States and also States which provide training to seafarers. But knowing there is still the presence of sub standard ships, and sub-standard operation, we should recognize that we have not yet successfully eradicated sub-standard shipping and the need for capacity building in developing countries. In my view, the established system of responsibility sharing at IMO under the IMO Convention should continuously work towards the eradication of sub-standard ships and sub standard ship operations in order to ensure the future of sustainable shipping.

I have stated several times that we should aim at a significant reduction of maritime casualties and nowadays statistics show that we encounter more than 1000 maritime casualties each year. I challenged Member Governments to reduce this significantly by half, and in this context, the activity of this body, III, will make a significant contribution towards reducing these figures. 

We now have restructured sub-committees, thanks to your support and I have also reformed the Secretariat, establishing a new Department for Member State Audit and Implementation Support. More importantly, amendments to SOLAS and MARPOL and other relevant technical conventions were adopted in order to carry out the mandatory Member State audits.

Those are the really clear foundations of the future work of your Sub-Committee. You have all mechanisms for improving the level of implementation. The work of the III Sub-Committee will be of paramount importance in the work of IMO towards achieving its objectives in the coming decades. Who knows? In the future, the III Sub-Committee may have committee-level authority or status. That would require amendments to the IMO Convention.

I wish you all the best for the future, to take care of international shipping. With that, I would now like to provide some specific comments on issues on the agenda for this session.

First of all on non-convention ships standards. You may recall my statement at MSC 93 that the time has come to take a further step forward to improve safety of passenger ships regardless of the nature of navigation, either international or domestic. I express condolences, once again, for the victims of the Philippine inter-islands ferry which capsized ten days ago. The work of the Sub-Committee on global regulation is appreciated. I have launched, as you may be aware, a new TC project to strengthen the current project on domestic ferry safety with a view to establishing recommendations and guidelines for Administrations on domestic ferry safety and which led, in April 2015, to the Conference on the enhancement of safety of ships carrying passengers on non-international voyages in Manila. I hope that the work which has been completed and is now presented to your Sub-Committee, and the outcome of the efforts of the Sub-Committee, should complement, as appropriate, the ongoing initiative to improve the safety of passenger ships, carrying hundreds of people, regardless of their nature, international or domestic.

Secondly, casualty analysis and statistics is an important field of activities of this Sub-Committee. While it is always appropriate to review well-established processes, such as the one on casualty analysis, in order to strive for continuous improvement, I am grateful to Member States and organizations that make resources available in order to carry out the analysing process. Casualty data should be used, together with other relevant sources of data, to identify trends and to develop risk-based recommendations. Casualty investigation is the responsibility of the flag State and the timely and swift action by flag States and their submission of reports to IMO must be ensured. In this context, any discussion on improvements is welcome.

Thirdly, PSC-related activities are essential as the second line of defence against non-compliance with international standards. The harmonization of such activities is paramount and can be achieved in full cooperation with PSC regimes, and the III Sub-Committee is the sole coordinating organ.

Fourthly, I welcome the development of new GISIS facilities to support the delivery of the audit programme, which will assist Member States, audit teams and the Secretariat. The new module will significantly improve and facilitate full analysis of the data from audits as requested by the Sub-Committee.

With this, distinguished delegates, I would like to conclude my opening remarks and before we move to the first item on the agenda of the Sub-Committee, I would like to invite everybody to join the usual cocktail reception, which will be held at the end of the day today.

Thank you.