Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 68th session, 11 to 15 May 2015 (opening address)


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I want to welcome you all warmly to London for this session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

Before moving to the issues related to this meeting, I would like to make a statement regarding the very recent Pakistani accident. I first would like to express my sorrow of hearing of the helicopter crash last Friday in northern Pakistan. As you are probably aware, several members of the diplomatic corps and their families were victims of that crash, and I wish to express my sincere condolences for those left behind by this fatal accident.

When encountered with maritime accidents or incidents that cost human lives, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization cannot stay silent.

It was the case with the Costa Concordia grounding off the coast of Italy. I called for immediate action in relation to the casualty investigation. The Maritime Safety Committee was activated and sub-committees are now working on the issue of strengthening survivability of passenger ships after damage to the hull.

It was also the case with the capsize of passenger ship Sewol off the coast of the Republic of Korea and the loss of hundreds of young passengers, I stated that the time has come for IMO to step forward to improve safety of domestic passenger ships. The general public in our globalized world in the 21st century cannot understand nor tolerate the present state that IMO's safety standards for passenger ships only apply to international voyages.

The outcome of the recent Manila Conference to improve safety standards of domestic passenger ships was very positive and encouraging and I am grateful to the Government of the Philippines for hosting and supporting this important conference in our history of promoting safety of life at sea.

It was at the opening of Maritime Cyprus back in October 2013, immediately after the Lampedusa tragedy, I stated that we should take action to prevent unsafe sea passage of a large number of migrants onboard unsafe and unregulated boats and crafts. I called for action in the international community at a conference organized in Italy, last September, and I raised the issue at the Chief Executive Board of the United Nations in November, last year, and called for action to collaborate efforts of UN Agencies to address smugglers. At the December meeting of UNHCR Dialogue, I called for an Inter-Agency meeting and in March, this year, we agreed to establish a database on smugglers.

Three weeks ago, we encountered the loss of more than 800 migrants in the Mediterranean and I stated again that we need to take action against unscrupulous criminals who organize treacherous passage on unregulated and dangerously overcrowded vessels. I welcomed the 10-point action plan of the European Union and the recent decision of the EU Council to strengthen rescue capacity and address smugglers. Our noble tradition of search and rescue enshrined in SOLAS and UNCLOS must be maintained but our system is not designed for rescuing hundreds of thousands of people. We need to prevent the large flow of maritime passage onboard unseaworthy crafts or we need to rescue them by specifically arranged rescue facilities. I appreciate the recent decision and actions of the EU but these are not subjects of this week meeting of MEPC.

Distinguished delegates,

These are my last opening remarks at MEPC. 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 Secretary-General but also during my entire professional service for the last 26 years in the Secretariat.

I would like to take this opportunity to state something fundamental for the value of IMO. Over the last five and a half decades, IMO has achieved a global system of shared responsibilities for maritime governance under the IMO conventions. We have now four pillars of responsibilities: flag State responsibility, port State responsibility, coastal State responsibility and the responsibility of seafarers training States. We have moved beyond “flags of convenience”. States with an open registry have the responsibility of ratifying all major IMO conventions. In particular, those holding a large amount of tonnage should have proportionate responsibilities to support our global system. They have become international registries with international responsibilities.

We have recently added a significantly important mechanism to support this global system, that is, the mandatory audit of Member States. But the most fundamental element of this truly global system is its rule making authority at our committees. We promote global governance over the shipping industry by global IMO standards. We object to unilateral action imposing national or regional standards and we promote innocent passage and freedom of calling ports as far as they comply with IMO standards. This is what we have achieved and this is what future generations should fight for maintaining, sustainable shipping which would support global trade and prosperity. I have no doubt that IMO will continue to strengthen our system of global governance.

Turning now to the agenda for this MEPC 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 for two issues, Ballast Water Management and MRV.

Distinguished delegates,

The disappointingly slow pace of ratifications of the Ballast Water Management Convention continues to concern me deeply. Since MEPC 67 the Convention only gained two additional ratifications.  To date, 44 States with an aggregate of 32.86% of the world’s merchant fleet tonnage have embraced the Convention. Once this Convention is activated, we can handle all issues related to its implementation under the IMO System – that is the Ballast Water Management Convention.  44 Member Governments are waiting for the entry into force of the BWM Convention to protect their waters.

The resolution the Committee adopted at its last session on Measures to be taken to facilitate entry into force of the BWM Convention and more specifically, the ‘non-penalization’ provisions, on which I expect detailed discussions will continue at this session, will seriously reduce the initial burdens of compliance for shipowners and supports the so-called ‘early movers’ in their proactive efforts to install and operate ballast water treatment systems. This is in addition to an important decision, two years ago, by the Assembly in adopting unanimously a pragmatic implementation schedule for existing ships. This progress, together with other achievements in the field of ballast water management, such as adoption of the port State control guidelines and the approval of 57 ballast water management systems, should give us sufficient confidence to encourage ratification and global implementation of the BWM Convention. I am also glad to see that amendments to the BWM Convention to enforce the Assembly's agreement were submitted for consideration at this session and I appreciate the contribution made by Liberia.

When we deal with complex issues such as the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention, we must stick to the principles. The principle here is that ships fully complying with IMO standards, with equipment already type-approved meeting IMO standards, should be accepted by all port and coastal States and must enjoy innocent passage and port entry to carry on global trade.

We must strengthen this principle and rigorously apply this principle for the global implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention, not only in this room but also at anytime and anywhere in the world.

Let me stress once again: MEPC 67 adopted the resolution to significantly reduce the burden on shipowners with regard to existing vessels in the initial phase of implementation. This resolution must be implemented, but this cannot be done unless the Convention comes into force.  In other words, without the Convention in force and as amended, the resolution cannot be activated. 

As mentioned, the pace of ratification of the BWM Convention is still slow. Last December, I visited Mr. Morooka, Chairman of ICS, and asked him to encourage Member Governments to ratify the Convention in view of the MEPC resolution adopted to address the concerns of shipowners and seriously ease their initial burdens to comply with the BWM Convention. I understand that ICS is still not encouraging Governments to ratify the Convention, but if anybody who wants to promote the global regulations of IMO, why can they not promote ratification of the BWM Convention? The Assembly resolution and the MEPC resolution can only be implemented on the global scale when the BWM Convention has entered into force.

The pace of ratification was not up to my expectation during last year. Nevertheless, I have been informed that several countries are making progress with their national ratification process, raising the prospect of the 35% threshold being met in the near future.

At the ICS Conference in September 2012, three years ago, I stated that the Ballast Water Management Convention must be implemented as soon as possible and asked the industry to take action and show the leadership. Since then, we have at IMO, listened, not once but twice, to the views of the shipowners at the Assembly and at your last session of MEPC to reduce the initial burdens of shipowners. IMO has responded positively to shipowners.

We have 44 contracting States waiting for entry into force. It is now time to move forward and implement IMO measures and I am confident that the Convention will come into force in the very near future.

What MEPC should concentrate on now is to establish a clear roadmap towards actual global implementation of the BWM Convention with 57 already available, type-approved management systems as soon as possible, and to prepare necessary amendments to the BWM Convention in order to implement the Assembly resolution and the MEPC resolution.

The delay of a national type-approval process of a specific country should neither be a good reason to suspend the entry into force of the BWM Convention nor an excuse for inaction in the industry. I tell this specifically to shipowners. We should rigorously pursue the global implementation of the Convention with already type-approved management systems which meet the requirements of the present D-2 standards and G8 Guidelines.  I believe that the present systems would surely be effective in significantly reducing the risk of invasive species and we should implement with the current available systems globally.  Pursuing perfection for performance of the system from the very beginning is the enemy for the global implementation of the BWM Convention in order to protect waters of a large number of Member Governments which have already ratified the Convention and are eagerly waiting for its entry into force.

If any one country effectively has a decisive power on which IMO type-approved systems could be accepted for the global system - this is not the idea of IMO. But, for me, a part of the industry seems to be preoccupied by this idea.

I have noted, over the last three years, an absence of active opinion expressed and shared across the board and in the industry calling for the early entry into force and implementation of already type-approved management systems.

All those 44 contracting States which have ratified the Convention should speak up and express their opinions and encourage the Committee to take action at this session and prepare for early entry into force of the Convention. In this context, I welcome the paper by ICS and the industry and hope that we have open and constructive discussions.

And at such discussion, I hope that we all deal with difficult issues and questions including type-approval process in any specific country, in the light of the principle I mentioned today and I hope that the Committee could demonstrate the leadership we all need towards the global implementation of the BWM Convention. We need the leadership and I am looking for in particular, leadership among the 44 contracting States.

If you do so, I tell this, particularly to the industry; there should not be any uncertainty for the implementation of the BWM Convention under the IMO System.

I look forward to fruitful discussions and positive outcomes.

Distinguished delegates, moving to MRV, at your last session you agreed, in principle, to develop a data collection system for ships with a focus on fuel consumption. I note and welcome the significant progress made intersessionally to develop draft text that can be readily used for voluntary or mandatory application of the system. I understand today we have Members of the European Parliament in this Hall and I welcome the presence and interest of the Members of the European Parliament in the work of the Organization. I hope that they will understand the way this Organization functions as the only global regulator for international shipping, and support IMO standards.

Having said that, following the recent agreement to introduce a European system to monitor, report and verify carbon dioxide emissions from international ships that use their ports, I have a concern. If such regional regulations would go beyond what IMO will adopt and if implemented on foreign ships, they would undermine the Organization's important role as the global standard setter for international shipping which has successfully supported the growth in world trade, and will be key to future sustainable development. With the complexity of optimizing the energy efficiency of existing ships, I would urge this Committee to give careful consideration to this matter and make every effort to seek an appropriate balance among all the views expressed to ensure that this Organization can continue to deliver international standards for ships.

Distinguished delegates, I know you have many other issues including fuel oil quality, EEDI and adoption of the Polar Code and many other issues on your very busy agenda but a shortage of time will not allow me to make remarks on each of them.

Your workload for this week is heavy and your time is at a premium.  I wish the Committee every success and am confident that all of you will give your full support and cooperation to the Committee’s Chairman, Mr. Arsenio Dominguez of Panama, and its Vice-Chairman, Dr. Naomi Parker of New Zealand.

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.

I look forward to welcoming you all to the customary informal drinks reception in the Delegates’ Lounge, after close of business this evening, and now hand over to your Chairman.

Thank you.