Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 63rd session, 27 February to 2 March 2012

Opening address by IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu

(27 February to 2 March 2012)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers.  Welcome to the sixty-third session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee. 
This is the first of two MEPC meetings to be held this year and the first time I address the Committee in my capacity as Secretary-General.  I therefore wish to share with you some of my thoughts on the challenges facing the Organization in the coming years and, in particular, how I aim to improve the delivery mechanism in the Secretariat to handle our ever-increasing workload as we seek to address newly emerging priorities.  I refer, in particular, to the new demands upon the Organization from high-level policy concerns, such as our counter-piracy campaign and the transition to the mandatory Member State Audit Scheme.  We are also facing ever-more complex environmental challenges, such as the development of market-based measures for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping and the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention and the Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling, all of which are, of course, very relevant to this meeting.
Dealing with all the high-priority items will require effective human resource deployment, the creation of new, pro-active and transparent ways of handling our work and improvements to our existing working methods.  It will also require close co-operation between the Secretariat and Member Governments to implement the tight expenditure controls requested by the Council, and I know that I can count on your support in this endeavour.  As you may be aware, I have already made various changes in the senior management to support me in meeting the budgetary challenges and in leading to a forward-looking Organization.  I have every confidence in the management qualities of my senior colleagues and in the abilities of all IMO Staff, all of whom are fully committed to play their part in an efficient and cost effective Secretariat, as expected by the Membership.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
I wish to take the opportunity of my opening address to provide an update on developments related to the grounding and subsequent capsize of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy last month.  I have urged the Italian Administration to carry out its investigation into the casualty and to report its findings to the Organization as soon as possible.  In this respect, I have pledged that the Organization will consider seriously the lessons to be learned and will take action, as appropriate, in the light of those findings.  I am grateful to the Italian authorities for agreeing to my request for the Organization to be represented, as an observer, on the body overseeing the casualty investigation, in order for us to monitor progress closely and remain abreast of emerging issues, as they arise.  Meanwhile, passenger ship safety will be included as an additional item on the agenda of the Maritime Safety Committee’s next session in May, which will give Member Governments as well as international organizations the opportunity to consider any issues arising and to put forward their contributions.
Distinguished delegates,
Having taken over the helm at IMO at the start of the year, I see the promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development as one of the major priorities of my tenure.  The Rio+20 Conference in June will give us all a good opportunity to reflect on these vital issues for the future well-being and prosperity of the world community and decide how we, at IMO, can create our own way forward and extend the Organization’s leadership for environmentally sound shipping to the wider context of more sustainable development and a ‘greener’ world economy.
As is also acknowledged in UNEP’s report, entitled “Green economy in a blue world”, IMO is uniquely placed to play a key role in the transition towards a low-carbon society, thanks to its global regulatory mandate pertaining to international shipping.
As the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio led to valuable and effective work by IMO under Agenda 21, we should now support the Rio+20 process.  In particular, the Rio+20 Conference will focus on two related themes, namely, the creation of a ‘green economy’ in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and a new institutional framework for sustainable development.  Rio+20 is an opportunity to launch a vision for sustainable maritime development that will underpin future maritime developments within a green economy in which IMO should play a major and significant role.  I look forward to hearing your views on the subject.
Turning now to other important items on your agenda, I wish to refer, first, to the Ballast Water Management Convention and stress the critical importance of the entering into force of the Convention as soon as possible.  It is a source of my great concern and disappointment that after eight years since the Convention’s adoption, ratification still falls short of the required 35% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping.  While I recognize that there may be a number of reasons for this, I wish to stress that any further delays will be a disincentive to the industry to make the required investments.  Postponement also risks creating bottlenecks in shipyards when the Convention’s deadlines for the retrofitting of existing ships approach.  With only seven years left before the last ships in the existing merchant fleet will have to be retrofitted, time is running out.
On a positive note, I am pleased to note that since your last session four new Type Approval Certificates have been issued by Administrations, thus bringing the number of commercially available treatment technologies to 21.  So there is no barrier for countries to ratify the Convention on account of availability of technologies.  Therefore, I urge all countries that have not yet ratified the Convention and, in particular, major flag States to do so at their earliest opportunity.
Distinguished delegates,
IMO will continue to make its contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the context of the ongoing UN-wide debate on climate change.  We will continue to co-operate closely with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and with other relevant UN bodies, as appropriate.  Also in this context, IMO will evaluate the implications for shipping of any mechanism to be established for the envisaged Green Climate Fund and impress upon the UNFCCC that any contributions must be proportionate to shipping’s contribution to the global emission of greenhouse gases.
While participating in the Climate Change debate at the UN, IMO will proceed in parallel with its own programme of work.  In this respect, it is encouraging that last December’s Durban Conference on climate change welcomed the progress made by IMO. 
Now, I would wish to make my observations on the way forward.
Firstly, now that technical and operational measures to improve ships’ energy efficiency have been adopted by Parties to MARPOL Annex VI, the next high priority is their full and effective implementation, bearing in mind also that the new regulations will enter into force barely 10 months from now, on 1 January 2013.  I sincerely thank the members of the intersessional working group and its Chairman, Mr. Koichi Yoshida of Japan, for their hard work in finalizing the three sets of draft guidelines to support uniform implementation.  Their adoption, at this session, would provide the necessary support for effective entry into force of the new energy efficiency regulations as from January of next year and send a clear message to the world that IMO is serious in providing continued, global leadership and that, true to our words, we have delivered – and we will continue to deliver.
In a similar vein, by further advancing the work, this week, on EEDI frameworks for those ships that are not covered by the current formula, such as passenger ships and ro-ro ships, you will ensure greater coverage of the EEDI to the shipping industry.
The Organization, as always, stands ready, with the resources available to it, to respond to Member Governments’ requests for technical assistance in the implementation of IMO instruments.  In this respect, I look forward to the Committee adopting, at this session, the draft MEPC resolution on capacity building, technical assistance and transfer of technology related to energy efficiency measures for ships, as prepared by your Chairman.
Secondly, I would encourage the Committee to intensify its efforts to make meaningful progress in the work on a global market-based measure, which should be applied to all ships engaged in international trade in the context of energy efficiency.  As analytical studies have shown, the application of the EEDI and operational measures alone will not achieve an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from ships in the longer term.  Other incentives are also needed, because the predicted continued growth in world trade will bring an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.
The next step is the conduct of a comprehensive impact assessment in line with your Chairman’s proposal which should aim to establish the possible impacts of different types of market-based measures on economic development and growth in developing countries.  This is a task of considerable magnitude and complexity, which requires additional funding if it is to be completed in the current biennium.  I, therefore, urge both Members and organizations to make financial and human resource contributions towards the work that needs to be carried out.
Thirdly, after the Durban Conference, I believe it is timely for the Committee to decide on a clear road map for the completion of the work still pending.  Let us work together and set ourselves the challenge of completing all the work on the establishment of a market-based measure by a target year of 2015.  This would demonstrate that IMO is fully in line with the historic agreement reached at the Durban Conference to identify the path towards the future, global legal framework on the mitigation of climate change that will cover all nations of the world.  In a remarkable departure from the past, it was agreed between developing and industrialized countries to launch a new round of negotiations to develop a universal legal agreement and to set a deadline of 2015 for their conclusion.  In order to complete all the necessary work here at IMO within this time frame, we must start the impact assessment study now and finalize it by 2013 so that you can decide on the specific MBM.  I look forward to a meaningful and productive debate this week.
Distinguished delegates,
Two and a half years have elapsed since the Hong Kong Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted, yet until now it has not secured a single ratification.  I would urge countries with major ship recycling capacity, in particular, to redouble their efforts to ratify the Convention in view of the environmental and safety benefits they would derive from such action.  The mandatory standards established by the Convention take account of the realities of the ship recycling industry, and IMO has done much work to facilitate their global implementation by progressing work on the development of six sets of guidelines, as required under the terms of the Convention.  At this session with two further sets of guidelines to be adopted, you would thus have completed the four sets of guidelines that are necessary to enable the early, voluntary application of the Convention’s provisions, ahead of its entry into force.  The IMO Secretariat, on our part, will do all we can to support the ratification process with the resources available under its Integrated Technical
Co-operation Programme.
It is imperative to secure the widest possible ratification of the Hong Kong Convention also in the context of promoting the Convention as providing at least an equivalent level of control to that of the Basel Convention.  As you will be aware, the question of equivalency was discussed extensively at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention last October, and I am particularly encouraged by the strong support given to the Hong Kong Convention by Member States who had already been actively involved during its development.  Further in this context, I would urge all maritime administrations to liaise with their counterparts in ministries of environment so that everybody concerned is fully informed of the distinct benefits of the Hong Kong Convention in establishing binding requirements for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling that are practicable, achievable and globally enforceable, while at the same time taking account of the particular characteristics of world maritime transport.
Many other important items feature on your extensive agenda this week.  I would highlight, in particular:
• adoption of MARPOL amendments on regional arrangements for port reception facilities;

• finalization and adoption of the 2012 Guidelines for the implementation of MARPOL Annex V;

• OPRC and OPRC-HNS related matters; and

• review of progress of technical co-operation activities executed by the Marine Environment Division through IMO’s Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, including major projects. 
Distinguished delegates,
Once again, the Committee faces a heavy and complex workload that will pose a challenge to meet in the available five days, bearing in mind also that you are expected to consider quite a number of documents that could not be considered at MEPC 62 due to time constraints.  The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping is, obviously, a priority item.  Other issues are also important and I encourage you to work together and to support your Chairman, Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou of Cyprus, in finding the right balance so that you may reach the best and most widely acceptable conclusions. For our part, the Secretariat will play its role in supporting both the Chairman and the meeting to the best of our abilities.
This is the first time that the Marine Environment Division’s preparation for, and running of, an MEPC session are coordinated by Mr. Stefan Micallef, who was appointed MED Director, taking over from Mr. Jo Espinoza-Ferrey, who was appointed Director of Administration and Finance, both with effect from 1 January of this year.  I am sure you will give Mr. Micallef all the support and co-operation he may need to succeed in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities and I thank you for that, and I wish you, Stefan, the best of luck.
Before I conclude, I invite you all to a welcome cocktail which I will be hosting this evening, in the Delegates’ lounge, following the presentation by Sweden.
With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations. 
Good luck and thank you.