Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) – 62nd session

Opening address


Good morning, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the sixty-second session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee.  I extend a particularly warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Committee for the first time. 
As has become customary for some time now, before addressing the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which the Council chooses for each particular year.  This year’s theme is “Piracy: orchestrating the response”. It aims at complementing that of last year, which was dedicated to seafarers. Our strong wish is that the momentum gained by the 2010 Year of the Seafarer will be sustained by future annual celebrations of the “Day of the Seafarer”, on the 25th of June, the date chosen to mark the adoption, by the 2010 Manila Conference, of important amendments to the STCW Convention and Code – the first celebration of which took place last month.
It is in the context of IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea that we have set, as the overall aim of the theme chosen for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy, as it presents itself off the coast of Somalia and in the western Indian Ocean – and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it.
While we remain focused on preventing merchant ships from falling into the hands of pirates through a multi-faceted action plan we have devised in co-operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers – 448 in total from 21 ships – who, at present, are held captive somewhere along Somalia’s coastline.  May they be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
Distinguished delegates,
Before I move on to specific items on your agenda this week, I wish to say a few words about a meeting of global dimensions that will attract the world’s attention next year.  I am, of course, referring to ‘Rio+20’, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which is scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The Conference will build on the outcomes of the 1992 Earth Summit, also held in Rio; of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg; and of other global events that have addressed the three pillars (economic, social and environmental) of sustainable development.
To that end, Rio+20 will focus on two related themes, namely, the creation of a ‘green economy’ in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and of a new institutional framework for sustainable development.  Ocean issues and the so-called ‘blue economy’, or even the ‘green economy in a blue world’, have been highlights of the preparations for Rio+20, in which the Secretariat is actively participating. The challenge of achieving sustainable development is daunting, given the pressures of a relentlessly growing world population on dwindling resources and, consequently, there is a need for mankind to secure alternative consumption patterns through, for example, renewable energy sources or enhanced energy efficiency.  Given this Committee’s work on the latter issue, it goes without saying that IMO will have a role to play in the coming Rio+20 Conference by providing leadership in ensuring environmentally sound shipping (both from the marine and atmospheric points of view).
Ship energy efficiency is a topic that has been at the core of IMO’s work to contribute to world efforts to stem climate change and global warming, by developing and enacting regulatory measures that will limit or reduce the emission of greenhouse gases – and, indeed, of air pollutants too – from international shipping.
You have before you a very large number of submissions on this topic alone and I am confident that your Chairman’s skills will ensure that, by working together, you will have an efficient, effective, balanced and fruitful debate on what are matters of great complexity and sensitivity. Of immediate interest to many, both within and outside IMO, will be your discussion, with a view to consideration for adoption, of proposed amendments to MARPOL Annex VI addressing the first two pillars of the Committee’s three-pronged GHG action plan, namely, the technical and operational measures, providing, respectively, for the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Design Index for new ships and of the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan for all ships over 400 gross tonnes.
Additionally, you will review the progress made by the third intersessional meeting of your Working Group on GHG Emissions from Ships on the third pillar of the action plan relating to market-based measures.
Putting your work on this issue within the global context to which it belongs, your work during this week will, of necessity, be guided by the imperative of IMO being able to present concrete results to the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is to meet in Durban, South Africa, in November/December.  Notwithstanding this, your decisions, over these five days, will project, to the wider world community, the image of an organization that is effective in the exercise of its regulatory mandate relating to the environment and united in its determination to ensure that international shipping remains the most environmentally sound mode of transport. 
Although my position on the issue of climate change and IMO’s response, from its perspective, to the worrying phenomena that accompany it is, more or less, known, I will use this, my last speech to your Committee before I take my leave at the end of the year, to make some recommendations – something that I consider to be not only my duty but also my responsibility.
I will start by asking you not to put political and other interests above those of the environment; and not to lose sight of what we have set out to do, and achieve, under the respective agenda item – which, I need hardly clarify, is but the protection of the environment against ship-generated GHG emissions. In attempting to do that, there is an imperative need that we think globally, and act globally – not narrowly, nationally and, by implication, selfishly.  Out of all this endeavour, let there be only one winner – and let that winner be none other than the environment. And, once we are convinced of the merits and values of doing so for the benefit of this and generations to come, then let us act – and act accordingly, with firmness and determination.
While pursuing the set objective, we should not jeopardize the unity of this Organization. A divided IMO cannot stand simply because the international character of the industry it serves cannot afford a divided membership that might opt for standards other than global.  We should think of our legacy and the responsibility on our shoulders.
How would we, and those to succeed us, feel if, having put other interests above the environment, we “succeeded” in breaking IMO’s unity?  We should, therefore, think hard and act accordingly.
But let me explain, lest I be misunderstood: through these words, I am not addressing a particular group of Members.  On the contrary, my intention is to address both sides of the argument – simply because, while I do not want to be, or be seen to be, dogmatic, I understand that, on serious matters such as those before the Committee this week, there can be no breakthrough unless those standing for each side of the argument accept that both have a point to make; and that, for a successful outcome, both will have to make concessions. If that proves to be what is needed in order to build consensus, so be it! A historical responsibility hangs over everybody in this room today and in the following four days. Let the dream that will galvanize, inspire and steer us all throughout this week be one of a united IMO come Friday; of an organization that has, once again, demonstrated its ability to make decisions by consensus – no matter how high the hurdles and insurmountable the obstacles may seem to be in the process: the environment needs it and the Organization deserves it!
To these words of advice, let me add that, in my urge to help you succeed this week, I am not motivated by the fear that, if IMO does not act, others will.  I would suggest to any, who may think otherwise, that, to promote the common cause, we should all try to be co-operative rather than antagonistic. IMO acts – and I hope the outcome of this week’s work will prove this to be the case – out of its own sensitivity and care about the environment, not because others say so.
To sum up, this is what I would encourage you all – and the Committee as a whole – to display this week:

• a firm determination to serve the best interests of the environment;

• a clear demonstration of willingness to preserve the unity of the membership;

• a preparedness to negotiate in good faith;

• a readiness to compromise; and

• a commitment to build, throughout your deliberations, and achieve, at the end of the day, consensus.
Durban may be a long distance away from London but it is less than five months away – and time cannot wait!
It is also because time cannot wait that, in the Secretariat, we are energetically pursuing a proactive policy of promoting technical assistance to developing countries in relation to energy efficient shipping.  An allocation of US$400,000 from the Technical Co-operation Fund to provide such support in the next biennium has already been approved by the Council, in addition to US$700,000 donated by the Republic of Korea for a project aimed at building capacity on this topic within the east Asian countries – and I hope that more funds will be committed to this most worthy cause.
Distinguished delegates,
While we cannot underestimate the importance and significance of the Committee’s decisions on GHG emissions, we should not disregard the importance of other items on its agenda.  For us to pay due attention to them, we should endeavour to get the former out of the way as reasonably fast as possible – and move on.
Your work to further protect the environment through provisions in the MARPOL Convention, extends to a series of other matters, including:
• the adoption of amendments to MARPOL Annex IV aiming at creating special areas, where discharges, from passenger ships, of sewage effluent containing nutrients, will be prohibited; and designating the Baltic Sea as such an Area;
• the adoption of a revised MARPOL Annex V to better regulate the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships; and
• with respect to air pollution from ships under the revised MARPOL Annex VI:
o the adoption of the United States Caribbean sea area as a NOx Emission Control Area;
o the adoption of Guidelines for shore-based reception facilities;
o the approval of proposed amendments to the 2008 NOx Technical Code, pertaining to engines fitted with selective catalytic reduction systems;
o the consideration of a possible new planned output on the regulation of black carbon emissions from ships in the Arctic; and
o the consideration of terms of reference for a review of the status of technological developments aimed at implementing the Tier III NOx emission standard.
I will now turn to your work to facilitate the voluntary early implementation of the 2009 Hong Kong Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.
Three new sets of Guidelines to support this process are awaiting finalization at this session and, while I recognize that it will not be easy to complete their development in the time available, I hope you will be aided in this by the significant progress made intersessionally by your ad hoc correspondence group. By finalizing all three sets – which address recycling facilities, the Ship Recycling Plan and authorization of recycling facilities – you will provide a strong stimulus so that both ships and recycling facilities apply the Hong Kong Convention ahead of its entry into force date; and also for Members, which have not done so yet, to expedite their ratification process.
Meanwhile, it is encouraging that many ships have already been provided with inventories of hazardous materials, well ahead of the Convention’s entry into force date, as recommended, for both new and existing ships, by the related Guidelines the Committee adopted two years ago. At this session, you are expected to consider amendments to those Guidelines, making good use of the experience gained from their application thus far, thereby enhancing the early implementation process I referred to earlier.
Distinguished delegates,
It is of increasing concern that the Ballast Water Management Convention has yet to come into force, seven years after it was adopted. Since my last report to you, at MEPC 61, only two countries have acceded to the Convention, bringing the total number of Contracting Governments to 28 with a combined fleet constituting 26.37% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping. While any new addition to the list of parties to the Convention is a welcome development, the figures I just mentioned still fall short of the requisite number of 30 States representing 35% of the world gross tonnage. I, therefore, take this opportunity to ask you, once again, to do whatever you can to assist in this important Convention coming into force without further delay.
Given the improved commercial availability of treatment technologies that meet the requirements of the BWM Convention, there is now ample justification for encouraging more ratifications of that instrument. Not only have seven new Type Approval Certificates been issued by four different Administrations since your last session (thus bringing the number of commercially available technologies to 17), 11 new technologies have already been reviewed by the GESAMP Ballast Water Working Group and its reports will assist you in deciding which of them you should give approval to.
Adoption, at this session, of the draft resolution on Procedure for approving other methods of ballast water management in accordance with regulation B-3.7 of the BWM Convention, and approval of the Guidance on scaling of ballast water management systems, will also send the right signal about IMO’s determination to be proactive in promoting new concepts and technologies to treat ships’ ballast water.
Many other important items feature on your extensive agenda this week, which time does not allow me to elaborate upon but all of which deserve careful consideration.  From amongst them, I would highlight:
• one, the adoption of Guidelines for the control and management of ships' biofouling to minimize the transfer of invasive aquatic species;
• two, the endorsement (subject to final approval by MSC 90 next year) of the NAV Sub-Committee’s decision to approve recommended pilotage as an Associated Protective Measure for the Strait of Bonifacio, which MEPC has already designated, in principle, as a PSSA;
• three, the consideration of a proposal to designate the Saba Bank, in the Caribbean, as a PSSA;
• four, the consideration of the outcome of the twelfth session of the OPRC-HNS Technical Group, which met last week, and, relatedly, the approval of four manuals on OPRC matters; and
• five, the review of technical co-operation activities executed by the Marine Environment Division through the ITCP; the Globallast Partnerships; the Marine Electronic Highway in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore; the IMO-IPIECA Global Initiative (with emphasis on building response capacities in Africa); the SAFEMED project in the Mediterranean; and new programmes funded by Norway’s Norad and the Republic of Korea’s KOICA on marine environmental protection, ship recycling and energy efficiency.
Distinguished delegates,
None of us would not have felt great sympathy for Japan and her people over the loss of life and destruction inflicted by the unprecedented natural disaster of 11 March – a situation, which was, soon after, exacerbated by the radiation released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The effects of these events on international transportation were quickly ascertained and monitored, prompting a quick response from IMO, through a Secretariat team addressing concerns related to ships and cargo; the impact on the marine environment from the release of irradiated water into the sea; and ballast water exchange-related matters in affected areas. 
 In responding to the challenges posed by the event, we worked closely with several UN and other entities, under the umbrella of the Joint Radiation Plan of the International Organizations, the J Plan, which aimed at ensuring a coordinated and co-operative response in support of the Government of Japan’s efforts. We have also contributed to a UN system-wide study on the implications of the Fukushima accident, which aims at reviewing all aspects of the incident, including the international emergency response framework, of which IMO is a part. 
On behalf of the membership, staff and myself, I conveyed profound sentiments of sadness, sympathy and solidarity to the Ambassador of Japan in London; and I did the same at the end of May when we received the sad news of the passing of Mr. Yoshio Sasamura – a tireless and indefatigable servant of IMO and shipping.  Mr. Sasamura left behind a legacy of long and outstanding contribution to the attainment of the objectives of IMO, both as Director of the Marine Environment and Maritime Safety Divisions and Secretary of both this Committee and the MSC.  He was a professional of the highest standard, innovative, bright and brilliant, with a unique sense of humour.  He will be sorely missed but, no doubt, his memory will live on – especially for his instrumental work on the shaping of the MARPOL Convention and its annexes.
And, since I am referring to people whose passing from IMO has left behind a strong mark of lasting contribution to enhanced safety and environmental protection, I am sure the Committee will be pleased to know of the Council’s unanimous decision, ten days ago, to award, posthumously, to Lindy Johnson of the United States, an influential figure at MEPC meetings over many years, the 2010 International Maritime Prize for her work in support of the IMO objectives – in particular, those related to the environment.  The ceremony to present the Award to Lindy’s husband will take place this evening, following the closure of the session.  It will be followed by a reception in the delegates lounge hosted by the United States delegation. 
Before concluding, I will say, as I always do, a few words about security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be much appreciated. These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed.
Distinguished delegates,
Some 220 documents have been submitted to this session, amounting to over 2,500 pages.  This presents an exceptionally heavy workload – a record, in fact – and a great challenge to deal with them all in the available five days.
I am, however, confident that, notwithstanding the hurdles, you will conclude your business successfully.  I place my confidence in your ability to rise to the circumstances – no matter how insurmountable the odds may seem to be – and on the exceptional record of successful management and leadership your Chairman, Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou of Cyprus, has, and has been providing during his many years of association with IMO and this Committee, in particular.  His extensive and deep knowledge of IMO affairs, coupled with an undeniable sense, and proven record, of impartiality, will, I am sure, serve him well, once again, in tackling the tasks before the Committee with the required expediency.  For him to succeed in his unenviable mission will need all your support and co-operation – which, I am sure, you will not deny him.
For its part, the Secretariat will play its role in supporting both him and the meeting to the best of its abilities – including through the provision of sound legal advice if and when needed. 
This is the first time that the Marine Environment Division’s preparation for, and running of, an MEPC session are coordinated by Mr. Jo Espinoza, who was appointed MED Director, to succeed Mr. Miguel Palomares, with effect from 1 January of this year.  I am equally sure you will give him all the support and co-operation he may need to succeed in the discharge of the duties and responsibilities he has been entrusted with – and I thank you for that.
With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.
Thank you.