IMO Awards Ceremony

IMO Awards Ceremony
27 November 2017
Speech by Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary General

Excellencies, President of the Assembly, Chair of the Council, Secretaries General Emeriti, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the IMO Awards Ceremony, bringing together this Organization's two most prestigious awards, which have become a true IMO tradition.

The International Maritime Prize was first presented in 1981, when the 1980 Prize was awarded to Mr. Modolv Hareide, Norway's former Director-General of Shipping and Navigation.

Since then we have seen a succession of highly-distinguished people receive the award, from across the world. The Prize recognizes an individual's significant contribution to the work and objectives of IMO. In this way, we honour those people who have not only dedicated their working lives to the IMO cause, but have been truly inspiring.

The IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is now in its eleventh year. The people who have received this award include seafarers and professional rescuers. But in all cases, they have, at the risk of losing their own life, performed acts of exceptional bravery, displaying outstanding courage in attempting to save life at sea or in attempting to prevent or mitigate damage to the marine environment.

Both awards, therefore, recognize individuals who have the IMO mission in their hearts: the safety of life at sea and pollution prevention. 

It is very exciting to have a joint special Awards evening to honour such exceptional people.

Later this evening we will present certificates of commendation and the main IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea. You will be told about specific incidents in which inspirational, brave and courageous people who have gone beyond the call of duty to save others and/or to avert an environmental disaster.

This year, for the first time, the main Award will go to two pilots, who I am very pleased to say are here with us this evening.

A very warm welcome, Captain Phillips and Captain McGee.

Maritime pilots make a key contribution to maritime safety in their daily work. They use their local knowledge to help ships navigate safely into and out of ports or through dangerous waters. They are people who have a vital role to play in the interface between ships and ports. So it is fitting that this year, with our World Maritime Day theme of "Connecting Ships, Ports and People", our Award will go to two people at the heart of this process.

They were faced with a challenge which was out of the ordinary and required great initiative and heroism.

Later this evening you will see a film which recounts what happened that night and I am sure you will agree that they are truly deserving of the Award.


But before that, I would like to move forward with the International Maritime Prize.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the winner of the Prize for 2016, someone who needs no introduction, as he is well known to all of us – Mr. Koji Sekimizu, IMO Secretary-General Emeritus, and Secretary General of IMO from 2012 through to the end of 2015.

Koji Sekimizu was born in Yokohama, Japan. Inspired by the ships trading to and from the port, he attended Osaka University, studying marine engineering and naval architecture.

He joined Japan's Maritime Administration as a ship inspector, later becoming Director of the Safety Standards Division, Maritime Technology and Safety Bureau.

Mr. Sekimizu's association with IMO began when he attended meetings with the delegation of Japan.

In 1989, he joined the IMO Secretariat, bringing his valuable expertise and knowledge from the field to both the Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Divisions. He held the post of Director for each before going on to be elected Secretary General.

Mr. Sekimizu's achievements are too numerous to mention them all, but I would like to highlight just a few.

During his time as Secretary General, Mr. Sekimizu oversaw the adoption of a number of key instruments. These included: the amendments to make the IMO Member State Audit Scheme mandatory, the Polar Code, and the Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety. He contributed greatly to the enforcement of anti piracy measures, including setting up the Djibouti Regional Training Centre.

On the environmental side, Mr. Sekimizu pushed forward with the work on the reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from ships. He oversaw work to develop measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention.

Mr. Sekimizu also worked to strengthen the governance and capacity of IMO's educational institutions, and the financial sustainability of the World Maritime University.

Within IMO, Mr. Sekimizu began a review and reform process which led to the restructuring of the IMO Sub Committees. We are seeing the benefits of that move in our work today.

Mr. Sekimizu also introduced revised working methods, including "PaperSmart" practices and oversaw enhancements in information and communication technology.

In making its nomination, the Government of Japan recognized Mr. Sekimizu's outstanding leadership and his enormous contribution to the work and objectives of IMO.

I am sure I speak for everybody here this evening when I say how much we would all like to echo those sentiments.

Mr. Sekimizu has dedicated his career and his lifetime to promoting safety of life at sea and protecting the marine and atmospheric environment. He is truly deserving of the International Maritime Prize and it is a great honour for me to present the Prize today.


Before we move on to the next award, I would like to bring your attention to the humanitarian tragedy of lives lost at sea through unsafe, mixed migration.

In the Mediterranean alone, hundreds of thousands of people who have set out on perilous crossings, in unsafe vessels. While the number of arrivals by sea has decreased since last year, we have still seen 156,266 arrivals in the Mediterranean, with nearly three thousand people dead or missing, 2,985 people to date.

The fact that the death toll is not much larger is testimony to the efforts made by coast guards, navies, search and rescue missions and the assistance of merchant vessels.

I was pleased to host a recent meeting on unsafe mixed migration by sea here at IMO Headquarters, bringing together representatives of UN agencies, the maritime industry and European Union naval forces. The record of views of that meeting is being fed into the Global Compact on Migration, a UN Member State-led process that emanated from the 19 September 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants approved by Heads of State during the UN General Assembly. This two-year long process is expected to culminate in the adoption of the Global Compact on Migration at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018.

Reports show that merchant vessels are called on in about one in ten rescues in the Mediterranean. For the rescued and seafarers alike, the experience can be harrowing. A modern merchant vessel is unsuited to carrying large numbers of survivors, offering inadequate shelter, medical care or sanitation in such situations, and with limited spare food and water on board.

The IMO Assembly has decided to give special recognition to merchant vessels and their crew involved in rescuing mixed migrants at sea, and has invited Member States to provide information on merchant vessels and their crew deserving commendation.

This year, IMO has issued five special certificates marking the commendation of the Assembly for bravery, professionalism and compassion.

The certificates have gone to the following*:

• Captain Joshua Peris Bhatt and the crew of the bulk carrier CS Caprice

• Captain Augusto P. Buenaventura and the crew of the container ship Hamburg Bridge

• Captain Michael Christopher Bower and the crew of the platform supply vessel OOC Jaguar

• Captain Gabriel Goga and the crew of the oil tanker Okyroe

• Captain Peter Griffiths and the crew of the oil tanker Al Salmi.

I would like to add my own recognition to these vessels and their crew, for displaying such courage, compassion and humanity.

Thank you.