23rd International Maritime Pilots’ Association Congress, Seoul, Republic of Korea

23rd International Maritime Pilots’ Association Congress
Seoul, Republic of Korea, 26 September 2016
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

IMPA President and Secretary-General, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join you today for this 23rd congress of the International Maritime Pilots’ Association. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with such an important professional body.

If the world relies on shipping – as I believe it does – then shipping itself relies heavily on you, the pilots.

Since seafaring began, seafarers have used local people, with specialized knowledge, to help guide vessels safely into or out of ports, especially where navigation is hazardous and the shipmaster is unfamiliar with the area.

Today, this long tradition is continued by you, the maritime pilots. And, in the modern era, pilots also provide so much more – for example, 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. This recommended that Governments organize pilotage services, where appropriate, and define which ships would have to employ pilots as a mandatory requirement.

Today, IMO Assembly resolution A960 on pilotage recommends how pilotage should be set up and administered by Member States, and is the foundation of sound pilotage systems all over the world, endorsing the status of pilotage as a necessary and effective safety measure.

When IMO first became operational back in 1959, shipping lacked a framework of international standards and regulations; safety levels in the industry were not adequate, seafarer training was not regulated and the negative impact of shipping on the environment was not yet on the radar.

Since then, IMO has tackled these and a string of other issues. As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and implemented.

Regulations for shipping are developed and adopted by IMO Member States. But the technical input to this process from a wide range of NGO partners, such as IMPA, is a vital element in their effectiveness.

As a result, shipping today has a powerful regulatory regime that covers not just pilotage, but topics as diverse as oil spill response, liability and compensation, piracy at sea and ships' energy efficiency.

As we move forward, this regulatory framework will inevitably need to be updated and amended, to keep pace with technological developments and with the changing expectations of our Member Governments.

For example, we are actively engaged in ensuring that the issues generated by the digital age – e-navigation and cyber security, for example – are being properly addressed. In this, I know that IMO and IMPA share a great deal of common ground.

While IMPA's prime objective is to enhance safety outcomes within the scope of pilotage, I know that you are also heavily engaged in dialogue over many other diverse areas, such as e-navigation, VTS, bridge resource management and bridge design, autonomous vessels and mooring and towage arrangements.

And you are also actively working with other bodies on a range of topics not directly related to pilotage, such as accident investigations, climate change, cruise ship safety and the use of lower sulphur fuels. 

Your input on these and many other issues, through the various technical committees and sub-committees of IMO, brings a level of professional expertise that is greatly appreciated and certainly contributes to the excellent outcomes that these bodies consistently produce.

Aside from its regulatory function, IMO has another strong mandate: to assist Member States and the industry implement the regulatory framework and its provisions effectively and uniformly. By so doing, the Organization helps ensure that the ability to participate effectively in maritime activities is not just confined to the traditional shipping countries that can tap into rich seams of maritime experience and expertise. In this, I see a much wider benefit that gives IMO a broader significance than ever before.

One of my major priorities as Secretary-General will be to enhance the general understanding and appreciation, among a far wider constituency, of the vital role played by shipping within the global supply chain. This is the very essence of the global economy and something on which we all depend. Indeed, this is reflected in the theme we have chosen for World Maritime Day 2016, namely "Shipping: indispensable to the world", which we will celebrate this Thursday.

Despite the economic crisis of the last decade, seaborne trade continues to expand, bringing benefits to consumers across the world through competitive freight costs. There are more than 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. As pilots, you will be very familiar with these incredible feats of modern engineering, which support the never-ending movement of goods required to sustain the modern world.

This year's World Maritime Day theme was chosen to focus on the critical link between shipping and global society and to raise awareness of the relevance of the role of IMO as the global regulatory body for international shipping. The importance of shipping in supporting and sustaining today's global society gives the maritime community’s work a significance that reaches far beyond the industry itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, as Secretary-General of IMO, one of my key roles is to develop a vision and the associated strategies to support the decision–making process of the Organization’s Member States.

One thing is clear: with the regulatory framework for shipping now very comprehensive, we will see an increasing emphasis in the future on implementation and capacity building. These two go hand-in-hand, and are particularly important if developing countries are to participate fully in maritime activities.

Communication is one of the most valuable tools we have. By sharing our thoughts, our experiences, our problems and our successes – this is how we make progress.

I think this is something that in shipping we instinctively understand. But we also need quality data to verify what we know to be true.

To some extent, we are awash with data. At IMO, we collect it through our Global Integrated Shipping Information System, or GISIS, and from many other sources, including reports and documents submitted to us by Member States, by the industry and by many other bodies and organizations.

But we need to analyse and utilise that data in a much better and more systematic way, and this is one of my priorities as Secretary-General.

I strongly believe in decision-making based on detailed analysis of real data, and I will look to strengthen IMO’s ability to support its Members States in that respect.

I am, for example, particularly interested in looking more closely at casualty information and ensuring we conduct proper analysis of the causes of accidents to help create better regulations, and possibly predict areas where action will need to be taken in the future. I have no doubt that you, as pilots, will also share a keen interest in developing this idea further.

Ladies and gentlemen, IMPA today represents more than 8,000 pilots from over 60 pilots’ associations in more than 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.

During that time, IMPA has brought its expertise to many issues, and I know the membership of IMO is grateful for its valuable contribution.

Our work together is founded on a number of shared beliefs and objectives: that pursuing maritime safety should be free from commercial pressure; that IMO is the primary authority for safety matters affecting international shipping; that existing and emerging technology is key to enhancing on-board decision making but cannot replace the human element; and that increased communication and knowledge sharing is essential if we are to make real progress.

You have a busy programme ahead of you for this Congress, and I know you will be discussing a broad range of important topics. I have spoken during this keynote address about the invaluable input that you and other NGOs provide with your technical expertise, and I look forward to the outcomes of this Congress enhancing the work of IMO in the future. As we look ahead, I know that our shared beliefs will ensure that IMPA and IMO will continue our voyage together.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.