36th Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties (London Convention 1972) and 9th Meeting of Contracting Parties (London Protocol 1996) (Opening address)

Delivered on behalf of the IMO Secretary-General by Mr. Andy Winbow, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Maritime Safety Division)


London, 3 to 7 November 2014

(delivered on behalf of the IMO Secretary-General by Mr. Andy Winbow, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Maritime Safety Division)

Thank you, Madam Chairman, and good morning, distinguished delegates and observers.

It is a pleasure to welcome you all, on behalf of the IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, to this joint session of Contracting Parties to the London Convention and the London Protocol.  As your Chairman has just mentioned, the Secretary-General was at the graduation ceremony of the World Maritime University yesterday and he is travelling back as we speak so that is why I am here on his behalf.  

Last month, on the occasion of the sixty-seventh session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee , a special presentation took place on the recently published report of the Global Ocean Commission, titled “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean”.  As you may know, the independent Global Ocean Commission was launched in February last year with the aim of raising public debate about the future of the high seas, focusing on four key issues – overfishing, large-scale loss of habitat and biodiversity, lack of effective management and enforcement, and perceived deficiencies in high seas governance.  Addressing the delegates at MEPC, one of the three Co-Chairs of the Commission, Mr. Jose Maria Figueres, highlighted lack of international coordination as “a major issue” hampering good ocean governance.  

In his response, the Secretary-General highlighted the relevance of IMO’s regulatory work, in tandem with capacity-building efforts to facilitate uniform and effective implementation of IMO-adopted global standards for safe, secure, efficient and clean shipping.  As regards pollution reduction, the London Convention and the London Protocol are of course key multilateral environmental instruments, alongside the MARPOL Convention, for improved protection of the global oceans against harmful, man-made activities.  

The London Convention and Protocol, through their comprehensive and forward-looking approach to the preservation and protection of the marine environment, are indeed instruments that can – and should - play a central role in our future efforts in this regard, including the forthcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda.  I do believe, that bringing into force the pending amendments to the London Protocol would further strengthen the Protocol’s position in the global regulatory regime.
Distinguished delegates,

Before I move on to the substance of this week’s agenda, I wish to reiterate the importance of promoting the London Protocol as widely as possible through appropriate outreach activities and, in this context, I would draw your attention to the continued need to accelerate ratification of the Protocol.  

The number of Contracting Parties has increased to 45 since the Protocol came into force on 24 March 2006, more than 8 years ago.  However, the pace of ratification continues to be rather slow – so far this year two States, Uruguay and the Republic of Congo, have acceded to the Protocol.  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 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 Convention completely.  

I purposefully referred to the Parties to the London Convention as they, too, should urgently consider moving to the London Protocol, the more modern instrument. It is therefore important to demonstrate to non-parties that, eight years after the entry into force of the Protocol, London Convention Parties have had sufficient time and experience with the provisions of the Protocol to evaluate the benefits and conclude that the Protocol is the instrument of choice.  The Protocol is not a lesser instrument than the London Convention, in fact it is exactly the opposite: it’s more comprehensive, it’s dynamic and it is the most advanced international regulatory instrument addressing both present and emerging human impacts on the marine environment from a global ocean perspective.  It is therefore time to look forward and build on the legacy of the London Convention through promoting the London Protocol as the legitimate successor to the Convention.

Further in this regard, you are aware of the recent important amendments to the Protocol pertaining to such complex issues as carbon capture and sequestration in sub-seabed geological formations and ocean fertilization.  Their adoption, undoubtedly, was a mark of true leadership in global standard-setting.  However, the fact is that only two Parties of the 45 London Protocol Parties have accepted the 2009 amendment pertaining to the transboundary movement of carbon dioxide waste streams, which is a long way from fulfilment of the entry into force requirements.  In a similar vein, not one London Protocol Party has accepted the amendment adopted last year regarding the placement of matter for ocean fertilization and other marine geoengineering activities.  As you know, entry into force of both these amendments is conditional on explicit acceptance by two thirds of London Protocol Parties.  

While the 2013 amendment requires further work, which you will undertake during this week, the 2009 amendment deserves immediate attention if we are to make an effective contribution to the mitigation of climate change through minimizing the threat of acidification of the oceans.  Therefore, the importance of securing its entry into force cannot be over-emphasized.  As regards the important work to be done at this meeting to finalize arrangements related to the 2013 amendment, I would encourage you to resolve the two outstanding issues and conclude your deliberations this week.

Distinguished delegates,

While your work to address important emerging issues is on-going, it is equally important that you continue to focus on a number of critical issues for both the Convention and the Protocol.  Issues such as: developing advice on action lists and action levels and developing low-technology approaches to monitoring and sampling; addressing boundary issues with the work of MEPC; updating the Guidelines for the application of the ‘de minimis’ concept; and discussing obsolete chemical munitions. 

I understand that you also plan to work on further developing a Strategic Plan for the instruments, analogous to the IMO’s own Strategic Plan.  This is particularly important in view of the need to redouble efforts to reach out to prospective parties, as well as setting out a coherent future vision for all Parties to work towards – with the aim of addressing gaps in international regulation and thereby delivering on the objective of the instruments - to protect the marine environment from all sources of actual and potential harm.  

As part of this Strategic Plan you may wish to consider the matter of auditing.  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.  The audit results have also been useful in identifying needs for capacity building at the national level and in this context IMO’s Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme is now also being redesigned to respond more effectively to requests for technical assistance from member States, based on information submitted by the Governments concerned in so-called Country Maritime Profiles.

The IMO Member State Audit Scheme will become mandatory from January 2016.  The necessary legal work has been completed by both the Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Protection Committees, involving relevant amendments to all the major IMO conventions.  In addition, the Secretary-General has put in place internal measures to strengthen the Secretariat's structure in order to ensure optimal use of the available resources in support of the scheme.

A similar scheme, possibly involving a gradual transition from a voluntary to a mandatory audit, could 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. Something I understand that you have had provisional thoughts on already.

Distinguished delegates,

I now wish to conclude this opening address by wishing you all, and especially your Chairman, Mrs. Milburn-Hopwood of Canada, every success in making this meeting productive and effective.

Madam Chairman, I understand this is your last joint session at the helm of the meetings of the governing bodies, so allow me to say that I hope that others who take up this position in the future may draw lessons from the way you handled the crucial preparatory meetings paving the way for the adoption of the 2013 amendment on marine geoengineering, and from your excellent leadership at the meeting that adopted the amendment.  You have set an example of the highest standard for all of us and we thank you wholeheartedly for that.

I can assure you that the IMO Secretariat, as always, will support both you and the Parties attending this week’s meetings to the best of its abilities.

I now hand over to you, Madam Chairman, but not before having 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.