37th Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties (London Convention 1972) and 10th Meeting of Contracting Parties (London Protocol 1996), 12-16 October 2015 (opening address)


London, 12 to 16 October 2015
Mr Koji Sekimizu, IMO Secretary-General

Thank you, Mr Chairman, and good morning, distinguished delegates and observers. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you once again to this joint session of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the London Protocol.

As you may know, these opening remarks will be my last as Secretary-General, as I will be retiring at the end of this year.

It has been truly a great honour and a privilege for me to serve the Organization and the maritime community, and I did it with a strong sense of duty and pride. I appreciate your cooperation and support not only during my tenure as the Secretary-General, but also during my entire professional service for the last 26 years in the Secretariat.

In that time IMO has achieved much in terms of protecting the marine environment, and the work of the London Convention and its Protocol are excellent examples of these achievements. When I was Director of the Marine Environment Division, I had the advantage of observing the work of these two instruments at first hand and I was particularly proud of the vigour with which new and emerging issues were mapped out and addressed, a demonstration of a truly productive and proactive approach.

The one concern I had then and I still have is the disappointing - and somewhat surprising - slow pace of ratifications of the London Protocol and its amendments. To date only 45 States have ratified or acceded to the Protocol, most of which are already Parties to the London Convention. However there are still 53 Convention Parties who have not moved to the more modern Protocol. To me, this is the most critical issue facing the ocean and maritime community in the immediate future.

Therefore, it remains urgent, both from the perspective of the credibility of IMO as the depositary Organization and in the interests of the environment, that we make every possible effort to continue to encourage States, whether or not they are a Party to the London Convention, to become a Party to the London Protocol as the principal global instrument for the protection of the marine environment from the harmful disposal of wastes at sea, thereby eventually phasing out the London Convention completely, as a matter of highest priority. 

The London Protocol must grow steadily if it wants to be recognized as the global regulatory framework for new and emerging marine environment issues, such as geoengineering or mining wastes resulting from mining operations either on land or in the deep sea. There are parts of the world where rapid economic development requires that we act now to reach out to States, particularly in South and South East Asia as well as in Africa.

As you may be aware, several States in fact implement regulations for disposal of wastes at sea based on the London Convention or Protocol under various regional arrangements. These States should be encouraged to become part of the global regulatory regime embodied in the Protocol, giving them access to the information sharing network which goes beyond any regional system and becoming part of a dynamic instrument that is at the forefront of addressing emerging issues such as geoengineering and carbon capture and sequestration.


Distinguished delegates,

Turning now to the agenda for this session, I can see that there are many issues to be discussed and I am sure that this week will be very busy and every effort will be required to ensure that it will be another productive session. As time is limited, I will provide my remarks only on two issues, the first, the development of your new Strategic Plan and the second, work addressing emerging threats to the marine environment, such as disposal of wastes from mining operations.

With regard to work on finalizing the Strategic Plan for the instruments, it remains crucial to prioritize efforts to reach out to prospective parties, as well as setting out a comprehensive long-term vision for all Parties to work forward.

Secondly, the Plan also needs to address the issue of non-compliance and reporting, which continues to be at an all-time low and is a serious cause of concern for the credibility of the instruments, and is even being highlighted in the United Nations Regular Process Report (First World Ocean Assessment), which is being prepared for publication. While you are actively pursuing avenues to address this issue, you may wish to consider ways to strengthen the compliance and enforcement mechanism of the treaties, for example the use of auditing of existing Parties to establish the reasons for such non-compliance. As you may know, IMO introduced auditing a number of years ago, as a voluntary scheme for member Governments to assist them in monitoring and enhancing their performance in fulfilling their obligations as contracting parties to a number of IMO conventions. Now we have already decided that the IMO Member State Audit Scheme will become mandatory from January 2016.

In my view, a similar scheme may be valuable in facilitating national implementation efforts with respect to the instruments under your purview – and possibly also to build familiarity with, and confidence in, the London Protocol.

Similarly, as was expected, the London Convention and Protocol, through their comprehensive and forward-looking approach to the preservation and protection of the marine environment, must play a central role in efforts to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda, which were agreed by Heads of State at the Sustainable Development Summit in New York last month.  I would like to reiterate that bringing into force the pending amendments to the London Protocol pertaining to the transboundary movement of carbon dioxide waste streams, and the amendment regarding the placement of matter for ocean fertilization and other marine geoengineering activities, would further strengthen the Protocol’s position in the United Nations wide agenda on oceans.

Distinguished delegates,

The work you are undertaking in respect to the disposal of wastes at sea arising from mining operations, is undoubtedly a mark of true foresight and leadership. While recognizing that the disposal of wastes via pipelines would, strictly speaking, not fall within the scope of the instruments, such disposal activities would nonetheless be regulated if such wastes are loaded onto a vessel and dumped at sea. It is this type of boundary issue that the instruments can quickly address, and using the wealth of experience in these matters can contribute significantly to reducing or eliminating impacts to the marine environment. I encourage you to continue to reach out and work with other international bodies, such as the International Seabed Authority and key industry bodies, to develop sound environmental policy and technical advice on these matters as soon as possible.

Mr. Chairman, I understand this is your first joint session at the helm of the meetings of the governing bodies, and the first Chairman of the governing bodies from Africa, which demonstrates the increasing importance of the London Protocol in your region, a region which is undergoing rapid development along its coastline fringes and maritime space. I am sure your role as Chairman of these bodies will catalyse other African States to accede to the Protocol in the near future.

Distinguished delegates,

Your workload for this week is considerable and your time is at a premium. I wish the Meetings every success and I'm confident that all of you will give your full support and cooperation to the Chairman. Please rest assured that the Secretariat, on its part, will support the meeting to the best of its abilities and to the required high standards.

Before concluding, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that the first phase of the replacement of the Simultaneous Interpretation system in the Main Hall has now been completed according to the technical specifications in a very tight timeframe. It includes the new equipment, main control unit, new consoles in the interpretation booths, new cables, new microphones, and new electric sockets for the desks. All the wiring has been upgraded to the latest UK standards. All the network connection and power supply sockets are in service now.

You might have noticed the new microphones and panels in front of you, which are specifically designed and built to produce better sound quality and to avoid interference from laptops and mobile phones. The length of the microphone stems has been increased in order to make them easier to use. I hope you will agree with me that the overall sound quality is much better than that of the old system. 

Additionally, the main power sockets and data connection points have been moved to the front of the desk allowing you to have more work space.

Two performance tests were conducted on Monday, 5 and Wednesday, 7 October respectively and found the new system functional. However, this is the first meeting in which the new system will be tested and we greatly appreciate your understanding and collaboration during this period of trial use when fine-tuning may still be needed.

The Secretariat will do its best to assist you. Thank you very much and we hope you enjoy the benefits of this new sound system.

I now hand over to you, Mr. Chairman, but before I do, I have the pleasure of inviting you all to an informal drinks reception after close of business this evening, at 5.45 p.m., in the Delegates Lounge on the first floor.

Thank you.