Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), 73rd session, 22-26 October 2018 (opening address)


22 to 26 October 2018

Good morning Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the seventy-third 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.

As I am sure you are aware, throughout this year, the Organization has been celebrating two significant milestones – 70 years since the Organization was formed and 60 years since it became operational. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all for your contributions in making this year a memorable one for IMO and in particular for the host country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I exhort you to continue to look forward under our World Maritime Day theme - "IMO 70: Our heritage – better shipping for a better future".

This year the Organization has engaged in a number of global discussions that aim to identify ways and means of supporting development of blue economies. Several of the policy discussions and decisions that you take in your Committee have direct relevance to the blue economy concept. This is especially true since these decisions would be influencing the development of national maritime transport policies. In this context, I would like to present you a new short video that we launched recently which explains what a national maritime transport policy is and how it can give a country the tools it needs. 


Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

This is another session heavily laden with many urgent and important items. First, I want to mention the prevention of atmospheric pollution from ships, including the reduction of GHG emissions.

Six months ago we experienced in this room a historic moment when you adopted the Initial IMO Strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships. I believe that the Initial Strategy provides a balanced and future-oriented approach showing the spirit of cooperation, dedication, unity and hard work that IMO has enjoyed over its 70 years of history.

In this regard, I would like to convey my deepest congratulations to all of you, to the Member States, the NGOs, the IGOs and the industry for the excellent spirit of cooperation displayed during the discussions that brought to the achievement of this historic moment. This was highly commended at global level and by the whole United Nations system.

When addressing at IMO in May this year, the UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres highlighted the important contribution of IMO's work towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). He welcomed, in particular, the adoption of the Initial IMO Strategy, as a major step forward in global action to combat climate change.

The adoption of the Initial Strategy was just a starting point, and to make it a success in the short-, mid- and long-term, the Organization needs to continue to work, keeping the momentum on this important issue.

Last week, the intersessional working group on the reduction of GHG emissions from ships made significant progress in developing a draft programme of follow-up actions of the Initial Strategy. It is expected to be the framework for action up to 2023. Therefore, I encourage you to set up a clear plan, in line with the vision, principles and levels of ambition of the Initial Strategy to make it alive.

Noting the importance that the Initial Strategy attaches to the related technical cooperation and capacity building needs, I am very pleased to see the successful outcomes from the two related global projects that the Organization has been implementing, namely the European Union-IMO Global Maritime Technology Cooperation Centre Network Project (GMN) and the GEF-UNDP-IMO Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships Project (GloMEEP). Your committee will be discussing the sustainability of these efforts and strategies to build on the foundations these projects have established.

I am also encouraged to see that several submissions highlight the important role of ports to achieving the ambition set out in the Initial Strategy, and I wish your Committee will further consider enhancing the cooperation with ports.  I would like to thank the International Association of Ports and Harbours and its members for submitting a document to this Committee, providing an important contribution which is much appreciated.

In regards to the mandatory energy efficiency requirements for international shipping, the Committee will consider the interim report of the correspondence group on EEDI review beyond phase 2, in particular recommendations by the group on the phase 3 EEDI requirements including the bringing forward of the entry into effect date to 1 January 2022 instead of 2025 for containerships.

You will also be invited to consider the preparation for the Fourth IMO GHG Study, using data from 2012 to 2018, to be initiated at MEPC 74.

I look forward to our renewed cooperation and collaboration in the immense work ahead of us to respond to the global expectations, bearing in mind the IMO decision-making approach based on building consensus and collaboration.

Distinguished delegates,

Another very important work of your Committee is the global sulphur limit, referred to as "IMO 2020". Your Committee has decided 1 January 2020 as the date for a significant reduction in the sulphur content of the fuel oil used by ships, from the 3.5 per cent limit to 0.50 per cent.

I cannot stress strongly enough how significant this landmark decision was for the environment, for human health and this Organization. It demonstrates a clear commitment by IMO to ensure shipping meets its environmental obligations.

Our challenge now is to ensure consistent implementation of the 0.5 per cent sulphur limit. On this aspect, I take particular note of the concern raised by Member States and the industry related to the safety issues with regards to low-sulphur fuel oil. I am also aware of extensive work that is being undertaken by your Committee to ensure the consistent implementation of the requirement as well as to address potential safety issues.

Your continued work on developing the various guidelines to assist with the implementation of the requirements, will, no doubt, send an important message to the global community. We need to demonstrate that the IMO can be trusted to deliver on commitments it has already agreed.

Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

At this session, your Committee will start work on the development of an action plan to address marine plastic litter from ships. While the discharge into the sea of all plastics is generally prohibited through MARPOL Annex V, marine plastic pollution is an ongoing problem that requires further consideration in pursuance of the target of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025. This was recognized by the 30th session of the IMO Assembly and, subsequently, MEPC 72 approved the new output. It is encouraging to note that many proposals and comments have been submitted to this session, which could be included in the action plan. I urge the Committee to finalize the action plan as soon as possible in order to begin the follow-on work.

Let me turn my attention to the Ballast Water Management Convention which has now been in force for just over a year and the focus is now on its effective and uniform implementation.

A key topic is the experience-building phase (EBP) and the data gathering and analysis plan was approved at the last session. In this regard, you will consider how to provide the necessary support for the EBP to be administered and executed.

You will also have before you other specific proposals on various matters including guidelines, which remains an integral part of your work at every session with a view to supporting the uniform implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

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. 

To conclude, your agenda places heavy demands on you this week. 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 a clean, green and healthy environment, and with the IMO spirit of cooperation and collaboration, you will succeed in all your objectives and make the sound, balanced and timely decisions. The leadership skills of your Chair, Mr. Hideaki Saito of Japan, supported by his Vice-Chair, Mr Harry Conway of Liberia, will guarantee a successful outcome.  I am also sure that all of you will assist them to lead the Committee successfully throughout the session.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome the new secretary of this committee meeting, Mr Hiroyuki Yamada who has recently taken on the responsibilities of the Marine Environment Division as Director. Mr. Yamada has a long experience at IMO as former Senior Deputy Director of the Maritime Safety Division and Director of the Conference Division. I am sure that his professional and human qualities will bring an advantage to the work of this Committee and that he will do his best to serve you.

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.