International Conference on the Safety of Fishing Vessels (opening speech)

Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of an Agreement on the Implementation of the Provisions of Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977.

Opening Address by Mr. Koji Sekimizu,
International Maritime Organization

Excellencies, Honourable Minister, Chairman of the IMO Council, distinguished delegates, observers, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this International Conference convened by IMO to adopt an Agreement to bring into force the Torremolinos Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels. 

It is appropriate to start my short address by expressing my profound thanks, on behalf of the Organization and its Membership, to the Government of the Republic of South Africa and His Excellency, the President of South Africa, the Honourable Jacob Zuma for inviting us to hold our Diplomatic Conference here, in this iconic city of Cape Town, one of the most multicultural cities in the world and famous for its Harbour Bay, Table Mountain and Cape Point, to name just a few of its spectacular landmarks. 

I am most grateful for the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Dikobe Ben Martins for allocating his time to be here with us, representing the host government, I thank you, Minister. 

The provision of such excellent facilities and services should ensure the successful running and outcome of the Conference in the best traditions of IMO.  My special thanks go to the staff of the Ministry of Transport, particularly Ms. Nomusa Maeko and her colleagues, for shouldering the heavy task of dealing with all the logistics for this event, and to the Vice-Chairman of the IMO Council, Mr. Dumisani Ntuli, for his unswerving support from the London end.

Distinguished delegates,

It has been more than 30 years since the Torremolinos Convention was adopted by IMO which, in its own way, marked a significant development as it was the first-ever global instrument of its kind to address specifically the safety of fishing vessels.  On reflection, the expectations of Member States at that time were perhaps too high as its provisions have not entered into force internationally.  And, notwithstanding the work of the 1993 Diplomatic Conference that adopted its related Protocol in order to accommodate technological changes and also to facilitate ratification, after nearly 20 years, its entry-into-force internationally has also not materialized. 

Sadly, despite improved technology, the loss of life in the fishing industry remains unacceptably high.  This is the sole reason why we are serious to bring a globally binding regime into place that is both robust and workable in addressing and enhancing fishing vessel safety.  The significant changes in the fishing industry globally in the last 20 years call for renewed regulatory efforts, and I strongly believe the time is now ripe for an Agreement to be concluded such that its objectives can be met on an international basis. 

Such an Agreement would also significantly complement the binding international safety regime that is already in place for fishing vessel personnel, as provided by IMO's International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel.  As you may be aware, the so-called STCW-F Convention entered into force 10 days ago, on 29 September 2012, introducing mandatory standards for the certification and minimum training of crews of seagoing fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and above.  It now remains our task to ensure that the draft Agreement on implementation of the provisions of the 1993 Torremolinos Protocol, including an update of its technical regulations, is duly finalized and adopted by this Conference.

The base document for your consideration has been prepared and agreed by the Maritime Safety Committee over several sessions and presents the draft Agreement as a single, new, legally binding instrument. 

The only outstanding issues awaiting the decision of this Conference are provisions on exemption clauses and the entry-into-force requirements.  I am well aware that further discussion will be needed to strike the right balance between differing views so that a consensus may be reached, which is of course very important to the success of the Conference.  However, I am confident that, notwithstanding some of the complexities involved, these will not impede you in achieving a clear and unambiguous outcome that is widely acceptable and leaves Member States in no doubt as to their responsibilities.

Distinguished delegates,

Making, in all respects, decisions by consensus is clearly key and I therefore encourage you all to work together, in the renowned IMO spirit of cooperation, to ensure the best possible outcome – namely, one that ensures, without any further delay, the worldwide implementation of the fishing vessel safety standards today's fishermen are entitled to expect.  I trust that the officers you will shortly be invited to elect to lead the Conference will direct you to deliver just that, and all of you will do your utmost to help them in their task.

I wish to pay tribute to the valuable preparatory work that has been undertaken by the Maritime Safety Committee and the SLF Sub-Committee and their respective chairmen to bring us to the point where we are today and can consider a well-balanced and pragmatic Agreement for unanimous adoption.
I also take this opportunity to reflect on the sterling work undertaken by the IMO Secretariat staff over a number of years and, in particular, the tremendous commitment of Mr. Miguel Palomares of Spain, who has closely followed the progress of the Torremolinos Convention and the Organization's efforts to encourage its implementation throughout.  We are fortunate that we have his experience and expertise here with us for the Conference.

As time is very short, it remains for me to wish you all every success as you are about to embark on your work over the next three days. 

I now wish to close my address by reiterating our sincerest gratitude to the Republic of South Africa for its generosity hosting this Diplomatic Conference and for all the courtesies extended and the facilities made available, while, at the same time, ensuring that our stay in this beautiful and lively city is enjoyable. 

It now gives me great pleasure to declare this Conference open and to wish you all, and the Conference, every success and good luck.

Thank you.