Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 72nd session, 9-13 April 2018 (opening address)


9 to 13 April 2018

Good morning Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates.

First of all, Mr. Chair, allow me to congratulate you on your election as Chair of this Committee.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the seventy-second session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee.  I extend a particular welcome to those of you who are attending the Committee for the first time.

Allow me first to comment briefly on general matters of importance to the work of the Organization. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about this year's World Maritime Day theme, which is "IMO 70: Our heritage – better shipping for a better future".

Last month, on 6 March, we celebrated 70 years since the Convention establishing IMO was adopted. We were extremely honoured to receive Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II here at IMO Headquarters. Her Majesty unveiled a commemorative plaque, cut an anniversary cake and met representatives from the IMO family – I know some of you here today were able to join us on that happy occasion. 

We are planning a series of further events and initiatives to commemorate 70 years of achievement, in which the truly vital industry of shipping has become safer, cleaner and greener, thanks to the work of IMO. Whilst I look forward to your participation in some or all of those events, I would also encourage you all to embrace the theme and use this occasion to reflect and showcase how the Organization has adapted over the years as a crucial player to the global supply chain, and to be passionate about the IMO family. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of our work and our future and to improve our international image. We owe it to all those whose livelihoods and quality of life rely on shipping.

This year’s World Maritime Day will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 27 September, and the annual parallel event will be organized by the Government of Poland.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

Although not unusual for your Committee, this is another session heavily laden with many very urgent and very important items.

However, I have no doubt that once again one of the items on your agenda will dominate the discussions this week: the prevention of atmospheric pollution from ships, including the reduction of GHG emissions.

In this context, I was very pleased to note that the Pollution Prevention and Response Sub-Committee made excellent progress at its last session in February on its work on the consistent implementation of the 0.50% limit for the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, which will come into effect from 1 January 2020.

Whilst I acknowledge the concerns raised by some governments about the implementation challenges, the lower global sulphur limit will have a significant beneficial impact on human health, particularly for people living in port cities and coastal communities and on the oceans by reducing acidification due to limiting atmospheric fall-out of acidic gases . Consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit for all ships will ensure a level playing field is maintained and I was pleased to see the proposal for a carriage ban of non-compliant fuel oil used on board ships given support, and the urgency of the matter reflected in the submission to this session of draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI for consideration with a view to approval, and then adoption at MEPC 73.

You will also be considering a progress report of the Correspondence Group on EEDI review beyond phase 2. This important work includes development of revised standards for ice class ships, which is an issue of significant interest as we see potentially new shipping routes begin to open up in Arctic waters.

On 1st March, regulation 22A of MARPOL Annex VI entered into force, which includes the provisions to introduce a mandatory data collection system for fuel oil consumption of ships.  This important step to enhance the energy efficiency of ships will see ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above reporting fuel oil consumption and other transport work proxies to their flag Administration which in turn are required to report to the Organization via the IMO Ship Fuel Oil Consumption Database.  The data and information collected will provide valuable insight and evidence to support future policy decisions.  In this regard, I am pleased to report that, as requested by MEPC 71, the Secretariat have further developed the Database and it has now been launched as a new module within the GISIS platform.

Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

We stand here at one of the most historic moments in IMO when, for some years now, the global community has brought nations together in a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change. As a member of the United Nations family, IMO is encouraged by the spirit of the Paris Agreement and fully committed to further limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, bearing in mind the successful progress which has been achieved to date.

The Organization’s work to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping now features prominently in our Strategic Plan with the adoption by the Assembly last year of Strategic Direction 3 “Respond to Climate Change”.  This week, we must continue to carry on with the good progress towards achieving this objective to meet the expectations of the wider international community and honour the commitment made when the Roadmap was approved in 2016 of having an initial Strategy adopted by this session.

I welcome in particular the good progress made by the intersessional working group on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, which held its third meeting last week under the chairmanship of Mr. Sveinung Oftedal of Norway. I am extremely grateful to Member States, international organizations and non-governmental organizationsfor  their strong commitment, dedication and patience to work collaboratively, so that our response to these challenges is ambitious, realistic and balanced for a sector that is vital in supporting sustainable development of human communities worldwide.

In my address last week to the Third meeting of the Intersessional working group on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships, I urged all delegates to “to work together”. Today I reiterate this strong encouragement once again and exhort all of you to break new ground and to demonstrate the best cooperative spirit, in the interest of the Organization and above all, in the interest of maritime communities and future generations.

This Strategy that you decided to adopt this week is designed as a strong statement addressed to the outside world and, as a platform, will pave the way forward for future work related to reduction of GHG emissions from ships. In that sense we should all keep in mind that this initial Strategy is not a final stage but rather a key starting point.

I am very confident that, with IMO’s renowned spirit of cooperation, you will rise to the challenge, respond to the global expectations and, thus, serve well the noble cause of protecting the environment for future generations.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

This is the first session of the Committee since the entry into force of the Ballast Water Management Convention and, understandably, the focus is now shifting to the effective implementation of the Convention. In this regard, the Committee has some important tasks ahead of it at this session.

First and foremost, you will be adopting the amendments to the Convention and the Code for approval of ballast water management systems.

A particular topic that is expected to dominate your discussions, not only at this session but also in the years to come, is the experience-building phase, which was also approved at the last session and will be very important during the early implementation phase of the Convention, which will undoubtedly be a learning period for both shipowners and Administrations. In this regard, you will consider specific arrangements on how the experience-building phase will be administered and executed; this is a critical step in allowing this phase to kick off and start generating the information and insights we all want and expect.

You are also expected to consider the adoption of the Code for approval of ballast water management systems and a number of amendments to the Ballast Water Management Code, following its recent entry into force on 8th September 2017.

I am confident that these items, following on from the remarkable progress achieved at recent sessions on many fronts, will ensure a smooth and uniform implementation of this long awaited and important Convention.


Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

At MEPC 71, your Committee agreed to include a new output on "Development of measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters" in its 2018-2019 biennial agenda, assigning PPR as the associated organ, with two sessions needed to complete the work. MEPC 71 also agreed that a decision would be made by the Committee, in the future, on the mandatory or recommendatory nature of the measures, after detailed consideration of such proposed measures.

At this session, you will therefore be expected to review concrete proposals on what type of measures should be developed, including the scope of the work on the new output, with a view to giving clear instructions to PPR 6 to start the work.

Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates

As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO has an important role to play in helping to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14.  At this session, the Committee will also be considering the issue of marine plastic litter, which is at the heart of the United Nations SDG 14.  The 30th session of the IMO Assembly recognized the ongoing problem of marine plastic pollution, as addressed in MARPOL Annex V, which requires further consideration as part of a global solution within the framework of ocean governance, in pursuance of SDG 14's target to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.  The Assembly referred the matter to this Committee for detailed consideration and action as deemed necessary.  I am confident that the Committee will do its utmost to find a way ahead to further address the issue of marine plastic litter from shipping.

An important IMO Convention on my radar of concern with respect to the need for speedy ratification and implementation is the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.  To date, six States, Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, Panama and the Republic of the Congo, have ratified or acceded to the Hong Kong Convention, whose combined merchant fleets constitute 21.23% of the world's merchant shipping, and whose combined maximum annual ship recycling volumes constitute a gross tonnage of 107,478.  This is not sufficient for the Convention to enter into force.

It is my view that the Hong Kong Convention is the only workable instrument currently available for international shipping, taking into account the particular characteristics of maritime transport.  Therefore, we must accelerate the process of ratification and ensure its early entry into force in order to ensure the safety of workers and the protection of the environment.  It is encouraging that leading international associations of shipowners have agreed to support voluntary adherence to the requirements of the Convention prior to its entry into force; some leading shipping and ship recycling countries are now accelerating their efforts towards the ratification of or accession to the HKC.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to urge recycling and flag States to make every effort to bring the Convention into force as soon as possible.

Many other items which deserve careful attention feature on your extensive agenda this week and time does not allow me to elaborate on all of them.  However, I would highlight, in particular:

 .1 amendments MARPOL Annex VI concerning ECAs and the required EEDI for ro-ro cargo and ro-ro passenger ships; and

 .2 information on technical cooperation activities related to the protection of the marine environment.

Distinguished delegates,
To conclude, your agenda places heavy demands on you this week in the course of which you are expected to finalize, or make progress on, a large number of important issues.  I am confident that, with your unswerving commitment to promote the cause of a clean, green and healthy environment, and with the customary IMO spirit of cooperation, you will succeed in all your objectives and make the sound, balanced and timely decisions that have been the Committee's hallmark of success over the years.  The leadership skills of your Chair, Mr. Hideaki Saito of Japan, supported by his Vice Chair, Mr Harry Conway of Liberia, I am sure, will guarantee a successful outcome.  I am also sure that all of you will assist them to lead the Committee successfully throughout the session.
Finally, I would like to invite you all to a welcome cocktail after the closure of today's meeting, in the Delegates' Lounge.

With this, I wish you good luck and every success in your deliberations.
Thank you.