35th International Standards Organization, Technical Committee on Ships and Marine Technology, Beijing, China

35th International Standards Organization, Technical Committee on Ships and Marine Technology
Beijing, China
27 September 2016
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here with you today and I am delighted to have the opportunity to say a few words to you at this meeting of your Technical Committee on Ships and Marine Technology.

IMO and ISO have a long and productive history of collaboration, going right back to 1961, when ISO gained consultative status with IMO.

Since then, ISO has been a regular participant and valued contributor to IMO meetings.

Representatives from this ISO Technical Committee frequently attend meetings of all of the Organization’s technical committees and sub-committees. They provide regular updates on the development of international standards that are of relevance to IMO and the maritime community, and these are very valuable. Recent examples include ISO’s work on important topics such as polar shipping, offshore issues and anti-piracy measures, to name a just a few.

Our collaboration is mutually beneficial. Many ISO standards support IMO’s goals of safer and more efficient shipping on clean oceans. They act as an important technical complement to different areas of IMO’s work, but especially to the regulatory framework we develop and adopt.

In return, IMO and its Member States provide technical input to the ISO’s own processes, helping ensure that your output is relevant and appropriate.

I have been asked today to tell you about IMO, and the process by which IMO regulations are evolved. Let me begin by putting IMO and its work in their global context.

Shipping today transports more than 80 per cent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. It provides a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples.

A safe, secure and efficient international shipping industry is indispensable to the modern world – and this is provided by the measures and standards developed and maintained by IMO.

IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. As such, its membership consists of the national governments of its Member States. It is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping and its main role is to create a regulatory framework that is fair and effective, universally adopted and implemented.

The important thing to bear in mind is this: it is the Member States themselves who develop and adopt this regulatory framework. The IMO Secretariat in London helps to facilitate that process; and the many inter governmental and non-governmental bodies in consultative status – like ISO – provide valuable technical input. But, ultimately, it is the Member States themselves who decide what regulations are needed for shipping, and exactly what form they will take.

The Member States send their representatives to meetings of committees and sub-committees at IMO Headquarters. These meetings provide a forum for discussion in which all Member States are represented in order to ensure that all voices are heard when developing and adopted international regulations. It is through this structure of committees and subcommittees that IMO’s regulatory work is carried out.

The direct output of this process is a comprehensive body of international conventions, supported by literally hundreds of guidelines and recommendations that, between them, govern just about every facet of the shipping industry – from the designer’s drawing board to the recycling facility.

These regulations are then taken by the Member States and written into their own national legal framework. In this way, enforcement remains the responsibility of national governments.

However, aside from its regulatory function, IMO has another strong mandate: that is, to assist its Member States and the industry implement the regulatory framework and its provisions effectively and uniformly.

Not all countries have an equal ability to fulfil their obligations under the various IMO instruments. Some, particularly in the developing world, lack the technical knowledge and resources that are needed to comply with international rules and standards. Not only can this act as a barrier to ratification and entry into force, it also prevents these countries from participating fully in maritime activities, something I believe is essential for sustainable economic growth.

To assist developing countries build their maritime capacity, IMO has a very pro-active programme of technical assistance, focusing especially on developing human and institutional capacity. Given that the regulatory framework developed by IMO is now very comprehensive, the Organization’s emphasis in the coming years will be increasingly on the closely related areas of implementation and capacity building.

Implementation and capacity-building go hand in hand; one supports the other. We have a strong mandate to help our Member States and the industry ensure that the regulatory framework and its provisions are effectively and uniformly implemented. And, by so doing, IMO 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 – something that is very important for us, as a UN agency.

Finding consensus from disagreement, through a process of discussion, is one of the great strengths of IMO. All our Member States have an equal say in the process.

In this process, it is fundamental that IMO takes time to listen to its stakeholders, particularly those who are affected by our regulations or who are responsible for implementing them. Shipowners and ship operators are vital collaborators for IMO. We need to ensure that any challenges in implementation can be addressed proactively – and their input is crucial in this respect.

But IMO does not represent or speak for the shipping industry. IMO represents the collective views and decisions of its 171 Member Governments; and they represent the billions of ordinary people, all over the world, who rely on shipping every day of their lives.

Those people need a viable, profitable shipping industry. Their prosperity, their well-being and, in some cases, their survival, depend on it.

IMO’s main role to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and implemented, enables shipping to operate safely, securely, cleanly and efficiently; and, because it applies equally to all participants, it does not allow anyone to gain an advantage either by cutting corners or by imposing unilateral requirements.

This is an important principle. Everybody suffers if it is undermined, not just the shipping industry but the billions of people all over the world who depend on it.

So, when IMO regulates about issues like how ships are designed and built, the reduction of emissions, the use of cleaner fuel, ballast water management, container safety and so on, the overarching objective is to ensure that the people – for whom shipping is indispensable – can continue to enjoy the benefits of this industry – this activity – on which they rely. And, in a manner that meets modern expectations about safety, environmental protection and so on.

Nevertheless, in the 21st century, more than ever, we do rely on technology. And the world must invest in technology if we are to address the complex challenges we face today. I believe that technology really does hold the key to a sustainable future.

Indeed, if we think of the technologies emerging around fuel and energy use, automation and vessel management, materials and construction and so many other areas, it is not difficult to envisage new generations of ships that bring step-change improvements in all the areas that IMO regulates – and, yes, in economic viability and profitability too.

To make the most of them, and to ensure they are safe, all these developments will need to be introduced against a background of international regulation and technical standards. And that is why the collaboration between our two organizations is, and will remain, so important.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope these few words have helped to give you a broader insight of IMO and why I believe the Organization is more relevant today than it has ever been. IMO is currently in a process of changing its strategic framework. Through input from Member States, IGOS and NGOs we have formed a vision of the challenges we face. In December, the Council will discuss the future strategic direction. While it will not change IMO completely, it will ensure that IMO continues to evolve.

I could say more about our work in other areas with a strong beneficial impact at a global level. Our work to preserve marine biodiversity and protect the oceans; our contribution to the UN’s system for global ocean governance and our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals are all examples.

But I can see you have a busy agenda and a lot to get through, so I will detain you no longer.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak today; I thank you for the long history of valuable and fruitful collaboration between IMO and ISO, and I look forward to our two Organizations taking a proactive approach to strengthening our relationships in the future.

Thank you.