​IMO-Singapore Future of Shipping Conference

IMO-Singapore Future of Shipping Conference

23 April 2021 

Keynote speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General,

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to this important "Future of Shipping" Conference jointly organized by IMO and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.  This event is in furtherance of IMO's efforts to be a forum for discussions and the development of innovative solutions on the key topics that will shape the future of shipping - digitalization and decarbonization.

Before addressing these topics, I wish to take the opportunity in the presence of key players in the maritime industry to highlight the ongoing impact of the COVID pandemic on seafarers' wellbeing. We have seen an improvement in the number of seafarers that remain stranded on board ships and those waiting to join ships since the start of the year but the crisis is still far from over. Over 200,000 seafarers remain stranded. Even as the vaccination rollout holds out some promise of a way out of the crew change crisis.  

Recognizing seafarers as "key workers" and prioritizing their vaccination will help facilitate seafarers' safe movement across borders.

IMO, along with our Member States and industry partners, continues to advocate for seafarers throughout 2021 with our World Maritime Theme of "Seafarers at the core of shipping's future".

This focus, along with our discussion of a fair future for seafarers for our Day of the Seafarer celebrations, will spotlight the challenges that these maritime professionals face.  And I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all IMO Member States that have designated seafarers as key workers and would encourage all others to follow suit. I would also ask you for your support in our efforts to facilitate the vaccination of our seafarers. In this regard, I would like to recognize Singapore for their collaboration with IMO and industry stakeholders to secure vaccines to a network of seaports that can assist in the vaccination of international seafarers.

Seafarers cannot work from home, unlike many of us, who have seen the benefits of technology for remote working. But shipping needs digitalization. 

Exchange of information between ships and ports over digital platforms is mandatory under IMO's Facilitation Convention - and is efficient and COVID-secure.

Digitalization is a solution – but the challenge is to ensure it is fully implemented across all nations and all ports.

The wider endorsement of the maritime single window concept is needed to strengthen efficiencies by allowing submission of all information required by various government agencies through one single portal, streamlining port activities to benefit the supply chain.

IMO's Facilitation Committee is preparing amendments to the Facilitation Convention to make the use of the single window mandatory – with anticipated adoption in 2022. Preparation for this is essential.

IMO has developed a generic open-source single window system for small ports with Norway.

We are now also working with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore on a pilot project to develop a single window system for Member States with bigger ports, known as the Single Window for Facilitation of Trade Project, or SWiFT.

Sharing experiences and know-how is vital to ensure that no country is left behind. 

More advanced use of pre-arrival information can also assist in reducing emissions from ships with "just-in-time" arrival.

This leads us on to the biggest challenge of our time - the fight against climate change.

IMO's initial GHG strategy has set a course to phase out GHG emissions from shipping.

We must build on the achievements so far.

IMO adopted the first mandatory measures to improve energy efficiency of new build ships nearly 10 years ago - this June IMO is expected to adopt important short-term measures to cut carbon intensity of all ships. The adoption of any mandatory measures is being supported by a comprehensive impact assessment of the measures on States, paying particular attention to the needs of developing countries.

We will also see key discussions on how to structure the work plan in relation to GHG matters, as well as proposals from Member States and industry for candidate mid- and long-term measures to incentivize the move away from fossil fuels to low-carbon fuels to achieve decarbonization of international shipping.

Shipping will undoubtedly need new technologies, new fuels and innovation. There needs to be investment in R&D, infrastructure and trials.

Besides the regulatory developments, IMO wants to further promote and accelerate research and development into low- and zero-carbon marine fuels. We want to build partnerships between stakeholders, among public and private sectors, not only in the shipping industry and ports but also private and development banks, and academia.

We need even more commitment from stakeholders, donor countries, partners and industry, so that our capacity-building work and various partnership projects continue to support developing countries.

Our ongoing partnership initiatives include:

  • the IMO-EU Global MTCC Network Project,

  • the IMO-Norway GreenVoyage2050 project and its Global Industry Alliance,

  • the IMO-Republic of Korea GHG SMART project,

  • the IMO-UNEP Maritime Innovation Forum,

  • the IMO-EBRD-World Bank FINSMART Roundtable and

  • the IMO-Germany Blue Solutions Project for Asia.

These all have one common goal – to strengthen partnerships, build capacity and accelerate innovation and technology uptake, and to address the decarbonisation challenges faced by developing countries and in particular the small island developing States and least developed countries.

And IMO is pleased to partner with Singapore on our NextGEN initiative - where GEN stands for Green and Efficient Navigation. NextGEN will create a collaborative global ecosystem of maritime decarbonization initiatives, aiming to facilitate information sharing on decarbonization initiatives and identify opportunities and gaps. We want to focus on collaboration on initiatives that address the needs of developing countries.

I am very pleased that the inaugural NextGEN Workshop will take place later today.

No single stakeholder can make decarbonization of shipping a reality by acting alone. This conference and the NextGEN workshop are significant in bringing together many different stakeholders in the maritime sector to achieve a common goal.

We all have a part to play in addressing challenges and pushing blue sky thinking to develop and implement solutions.

To keep pace with the demands of the global economy and the expectations for sustainable growth, the maritime world needs be in the forefront of transformational change. We need to facilitate decarbonization and enhance digitalization for safer, more environmentally friendly, and efficient shipping. We need to work together to combat climate change through development of low and zero carbon fuels.

At the same time, we need to utilize the opportunities brought on by digitalization to facilitate frictionless and efficient shipping in support of global trade and across the supply chain. Meeting these ambitious goals will require cooperation and collaboration of all maritime stakeholder so that we can develop innovative solutions, together.

This is a very timely Conference to discuss and exchange views on these key policy issues. I wish you all a very successful meeting.

Thank you.