21st IMPA Conference

21st IMPA Conference
Speech by Koji Sekimizu
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
24 September 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be with you this morning and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to say a few words to you. I always appreciate being able to spend time with representatives from different sectors of the industry and welcome the chance to share my views on key topics and, of course, to listen to yours.

The history of employing local pilots to use their local knowledge to help ships navigate safely into and out of ports or through dangerous waters is centuries old. Generations of shipmasters have had good cause to be thankful for the pilots who have arrived on board at just the right moment and helped them bring their vessels to their destinations or guided them through unfamiliar and hazardous passages.

In the modern era, pilots also provide effective communication with the shore and with tugs, often in the local language. Pilotage today is organized and regulated. Indeed, the importance of employing qualified pilots in approaches to ports and other areas where specialized local knowledge is required was formally recognized by IMO in 1968, when the Organization adopted an Assembly resolution on pilotage.

IMPA was conceived just two years later, when representatives from pilots’ associations met in Kiel, Germany; and it was born in the following year, in Amsterdam. Today, it represents more than 8,000 pilots from more than 60 pilots’ associations in over 50 countries. It is a truly global organization that not only provides a platform for pilots from the corners of the world to share knowledge and experience, but also a channel through which the community of pilots can have a formal voice in international fora, including IMO, with which IMPA has had consultative status for nearly 30 years. During that time, IMPA has brought its expertise to bear on many issues, and I know the membership of IMO has good cause to be grateful for its valuable contribution.

It does come as something of a surprise that this, the 21st IMPA congress is being held in London for the first time in the history of the event, given that your headquarters is here and that London remains one of the world’s great centres of the shipping industry, even if its best days as a major trading port are behind it. Perhaps, in 2012, you were inspired in your choice of location by other world-class events held here this summer? It has certainly been a busy time for London to receive athletes from around the world and has attracted hundreds of millions of people to excellent stages of games, performances and competition.

Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to take this opportunity to speak to you about a vision I have for the future of shipping, a vision in which pilots can play an important role.

It centres around the general need, not just within shipping, to find a way forward in which social development and economic growth can be achieved without degrading the environment that sustains us or using natural resources at a rate that would compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In short, the need for sustainable development.

The meaning of “sustainable development”, and the necessity of achieving it, is, I think, gradually becoming widely acknowledged and understood by the public worldwide. What was once an aspiration is now an expectation. 

In June, I attended the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, to re-affirm IMO’s commitment to sustainable maritime development. Together with the shipping industry, I used the event as a platform to draw attention to how shipping contributes significantly to the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

As a result of Rio+20, the United Nations is undertaking an initiative to identify, and set, so-called Sustainable Development Goals, goals that will, eventually, supersede and go beyond the Millennium Development Goals that were adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in New York.

What does all of this have to do with shipping, and with pilots, you may be wondering. Well, as the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for setting standards and for regulating international shipping, I believe IMO should prepare its own sustainable development goals for the maritime industries, as our contribution to the effort of the United Nations.

With this in mind, the IMO Council has adopted “Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20” as the theme of World Maritime Day for next year, 2013. I have also established an in-house mechanism, within the IMO Secretariat to make progress in this initiative.

My vision is that sustainable maritime development goals should encompass:

1. safety culture and environmental stewardship;
2. energy efficiency;
3. new technology and innovation;
4. maritime education and training;
5. maritime security and anti-piracy actions;
6. maritime traffic management;
7. maritime infrastructure development; and
8. global standards to be developed and maintained by IMO.

These are, I believe, the primary pillars of a sustainable future for the maritime transport sector, and I am confident that, with the support of the industry, we can devise meaningful objectives for each of these pillar fields.

And it is in the 6th pillar of the sustainable maritime development, maritime traffic management, that pilots can be – must be – an influence for positive progress and a voice that should be heard.

The concept of traffic control in the maritime world is very different from that which prevails in the world of aviation, and reflects the differences in culture that exist between the two forms of transport. The comparatively younger aviation sector grew up with ground authorities having much greater control of aircraft movements, locations and flight paths; whereas the more traditional shipping sector has continued to invest more responsibility in the Master of the vessel itself.

In aviation, relatively fast-moving assets move along clearly defined routes and adhere to relatively tight timetables. In the open seas, the opposite is often true in shipping, and the level of precise active traffic control that now prevails in aviation has not been rigorously applied for shipping.

But increases in the number, size and speed of ships have driven an understanding that shipping needs to operate with a correspondingly increased level of shore-based support if navigational safety and environmental protection are to be maintained and enhanced. This is particularly so in and around choke points such as straits, narrows, shoal waters and port approaches.

I have no doubt that pilots will have an important contribution to make in the evolution of the overall navigational infrastructure for shipping, and of maritime traffic management in its broadest terms, within the context of sustainable maritime development.

This may seem like something of a departure from the pilotage community’s more traditional and familiar role. But we all need to change and to adapt. At IMO, for example, we have traditionally been focused primarily on regulation setting, in the fields of safety and environmental protection. But our mandate already includes the facilitation of maritime traffic, maritime security anti-piracy actions and technical cooperation, and all of these can help provide a foundation from which the Organization can move increasingly towards being a global centre of general policy formation for maritime matters, within a much broader scope.

IMO already plays a very active role in the development of maritime infrastructure and maritime traffic management.

Take, for example, our key role in the development of the Marine Electronic Highway (or MEH) concept in the Malacca and Singapore Straits, which passed a key milestone in August this year when the MEH Information Technology System at Batam Island was formally handed over to the Government of Indonesia.

The MEH is a bold conceptual step, aimed at harnessing the ever-increasing sophistication and accessibility of information technology to provide a comprehensive decision-making support system. It will integrate and display information from a variety of sources, such as AIS, radar, electronic charts, weather stations, wind and tide sensors and so on, to offer previously unimagined levels of functionality, accuracy, resolution and quality to those responsible for vessel navigation.

At the same time, it will also incorporate data on local ecological conditions, such as the extent of coral reefs and mangrove forests, which, together with hydrodynamic and oil-spill models, will also create an invaluable resource for shore authorities whose job is to deal with the consequences of any accident or mishap that might occur.

IMO already takes an active role in the development of the maritime infrastructure in the broader sense of the term. Through its technical cooperation activities, IMO helps build capacity to enable developing countries to participate fully in maritime activities. This generates wealth, jobs and economic activity not only in the maritime sector but in other areas that rely on maritime trade for access to global markets.

In order to provide the best possible assistance to developing countries, and thus ensure the most effective and cost-efficient delivery of IMO’s technical cooperation activities, I am now encouraging a more targeted approach to be adopted when planning such activities, to make them more closely aligned to the real needs of developing countries. 

A useful tool for identifying high-priority needs would be the development of individual country profiles, based on clearly defined capacity-building requirements. Furthermore, I believe it would be useful to assist developing countries with the formulation of a national transport strategy and policy in order to provide a springboard for the development of maritime clusters in those countries.

I envisage that Member States would play a key role by providing information and feedback on what their most important priorities are. I would also envisage positive contributions from NGOs, wherever their particular expertise would be beneficial; and I have no doubt that IMPA will be an important influence as we move towards a sustainable future for Maritime Traffic Management.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have a great deal of technical, operational and political matters to discuss and debate over the next five days. So I will take up no more time, other than to leave you with a final thought. Shipping is an essential component of activity of mankind and, therefore, for any programme for sustainable development.

The world relies on a safe, secure, efficient and clean international shipping industry.  The work of pilots all over the world would make an important contribution towards ensuring sustainable shipping and the sustainable development of the world.

Thank you.