Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 101 session, 5-14 June 2019 (opening remarks)

5 to 14 June 2019

Good morning Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, 

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 101st session of the Maritime Safety Committee. 

Before I continue with my speech, I have to mention with great sadness the recent casualty of the Hableany, a tourist boat operating on the river Danube in Budapest, Hungary. I understand that 21 of the victims of the accident have still not been recovered. On behalf of the IMO membership, the Secretariat and myself, I would like to send our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the crew members and passengers who perished in the accident, as well as those that remain missing. I would also like to commend all those involved in the rescue operations. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy during this most difficult time.

Last year, we celebrated our 70-year heritage under the theme of “Better shipping for a better future”. Indeed, a key component in better shipping is to make sure that we have all available talents on board to help us navigate the challenges of the future. That is why this year's World Maritime Day theme "Empowering women in the maritime community" is an important recognition of the professional contribution of women to the maritime industry. 

The participation of women in the economy, political decision-making and society at large is key to addressing maritime challenges, but gender equality in the maritime sector is an issue too often overlooked. The maritime sector needs "all hands on deck", both male and female, if it is to take on the challenges of carrying the world's goods in an efficient, safe and clean manner. I would like to thank WISTA, the Women's International Shipping & Trading Association, which is providing a very enthusiastic support to IMO’s campaign.

This year's World Maritime Day will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 26 September, and the annual parallel event will be organized by the Government of Colombia in Cartagena, from 15 to 17 September. While I look forward to your participation in some or all of those events, I would also encourage you to embrace the theme and use it to promote greater empowerment of women in the maritime community. 


Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

Once again, I am addressing a packed meeting that will see intense discussions of many important items.  Let me highlight some of the key issues.

The regulatory scoping exercise for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, or MASS, is ongoing, and at this session you will review the progress made with regard to instruments related to maritime safety and security. You will also consider proposals for the development of guidelines for MASS trials. 

It is important that we remain focussed on completing the high-level review of IMO instruments and performing an overarching analysis to ensure that MASS operations are addressed in the most efficient manner in future, keeping in mind the need to maintain or, if possible, enhance safe navigation and operations, without overlooking the human element aspect. I am pleased that a new GISIS module for the regulatory scoping exercise was made available at the beginning of this year to facilitate and speed-up the process of the high-level review. 

Distinguished delegates, 

Technologies are evolving faster than ever, and we should ensure that an appropriate regulatory framework is planned well in advance to accommodate these developments. Testing these technologies in a real environment is also important. While I recognize the challenges ahead, having guidelines available for the conduct of MASS trials as soon as possible will certainly assist with the safe and secure testing of these technologies. 

A second key issue on your agenda this week is ensuring continuous conformity of classification societies' rules with the goal-based new ship construction standards for bulk carriers and oil tankers, as mandated by SOLAS regulation II-1/3-10. Several GBS verification audits are currently underway or have been planned to be conducted later this year. These include the rectification on non-conformities audit of Türk Loydu and the re verification audit of DNV-GL, as well as the annual maintenance of verification audit of the remaining 11 IACS class societies. 

In this respect, I am glad to announce that the Secretariat has established a new GISIS functionality which allows the nomination of GBS auditors by Member States and international organizations directly, so as to enable a more varied composition of the audit teams and to ensure up-to-date information on the currently nominated GBS auditors. I encourage all delegations to use the new GISIS functionality to nominate many more suitable experts in order to help me establish adept and effective teams to carry out the audits.

Another very important area of work of your Committee is the development of further measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of fuel oil. At your last session, you reaffirmed that concerns over fuel safety should not affect Member States' commitment to implement the 2020 sulphur limit. At the same time, you agreed to include a new output on "Development of further measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of fuel oil" in your biennial agenda. 

With the entry into force date of 1 January 2020 being just over six months away, I am encouraged to see that your Committee is expected to concurrently approve the draft MSC-MEPC circular on delivery of compliant fuel oil by suppliers, which was already approved by MEPC 74. This is one of the urgent actions to address the safety implications associated with the use of low-sulphur fuel oil. I also encourage you to set up a clear action plan for long-term solutions.

Significant efforts have been made by this Organization to support the shipping industry to prepare for the 2020 entry into force date and I urge all stakeholders involved in the provision and supply of fuel oil to ships to re-double their efforts to ensure they are doing all that they can to be ready in time. 

With regard to piracy and armed robbery against ships, 223 incidents occurred worldwide in 2018 as compared to 204 incidents reported in 2017, an increase of about 9% at the global level. So far in 2019, incidents in West and Central African waters have accounted for about half of all reported incidents, and you will discuss at this session both the efforts made by Member States, industry, and other stakeholders to address this problem, and what more action may be needed. 

With respect to the issue of migration, I would like to take this opportunity to express my concern in relation to the recent incident of the Palau-flagged tanker Elhiblu 1 off Libya, which was hijacked by some of the 100 rescued migrants onboard as a response to their being informed they would be returned to Libya. A group of migrants forced the Captain to proceed to Malta, where the Maltese authorities took actions to safely resolve the situation. Merchant ships are fulfilling their legal and humanitarian obligations, and our seafarers should not be facing these kind of incidents. I commend the crew concerned for their service and dedication. I would also like to thank the Government of Malta for the prompt and efficient action on this matter.

As usual, your Committee, as a result of the work of your subsidiary bodies, will consider the adoption of amendments to various mandatory and non-mandatory instruments. At this session, you will consider proposed amendments to the SOLAS Convention and the FSS, IBC, IGF and LSA Codes, as well as the very first consolidated edition of the IMSBC Code incorporating amendment 05-19 and amendments to the BCH and SPS Codes. You will also consider the approval of a draft Assembly resolution for the adoption of the consolidated 2019 ESP Code.


I would also like to use this opportunity to highlight some issues which deserve special attention in regard to the reports of your subsidiary bodies.

I would first like to refer to the outcome of NCSR 6 which met for eight working days in January of this year. You are invited to consider the effect of the longer duration of NCSR 6 on the huge workload of the Sub Committee. I encourage you to agree to a long-term arrangement so that the matter of a sustainable workload of this body can be addressed. 

NCSR 6 produced many draft circulars and resolutions for your approval and adoption. Of special importance are the instruments related to the provision of maritime safety information through Inmarsat Fleet Safety and Iridium Safety Cast. It is imperative that the guidance material needed to implement those new services is available as soon as possible. 

Concerning the outcome of SSE 6, I would like to single out the preparation of draft amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 on onboard lifting appliances and anchor handling winches. 

Moreover, the SSE Sub Committee completed its work to develop functional requirements for SOLAS chapter III on life saving appliances and arrangements, and agreed to include the output on "Revision of SOLAS chapter III and the LSA Code" in its biennial agenda and provisional agenda for SSE 7. This will be an extensive task and I have no doubt that the Sub-Committee will be grateful for your guidance in the matter.


Lastly, I wish to highlight the discussions at HTW 6 on issues related to the implementation of the STCW Convention and the "White list". Thanks to the openness and collaborative will of Member States, it was possible to make significant progress on this very sensitive matter that will be noted by your Committee so that constructive measures to address the issue can be considered by HTW 7.


In relation to new outputs, you have been asked to consider 21 proposals at this session. This is the highest number of proposals received in the last 15 years. I note at the same time that several of those proposals require the expertise of Sub-Committees which are already extremely heavily loaded with work.  Therefore, you are invited to consider the items bearing in mind the workload of the respective sub-committees.


Finally, I wish to draw your attention to the upcoming Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and IUU Fishing, which will be held in Torremolinos, Spain, from 21 to 23 October 2019.  The Conference is co-hosted by IMO and the Government of Spain, with the support of FAO and Pew Charitable Trusts.  

The purpose of the Ministerial Conference is to promote the ratification of the 2012 Cape Town Agreement and combat the proliferation of IUU fishing by establishing internationally binding safety standards for fishing vessels. There is a great deal of concern regarding the fact that, almost seven years after its adoption, the Agreement has still not entered into force in spite of the repeated pleas by your Committee, the Council and the Assembly, and the sustained efforts of the Secretariat to increase awareness of its positive impact and explain its provisions. At present, only 11 States with approximately 1,400 fishing vessels have consented to be bound by the Agreement, against its entry-into-force conditions of 22 States with a minimum of 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and above operating on the high seas.  

I would encourage all Member States and international organizations concerned about fishing vessel safety and illegal fishing matters to actively participate both at the Ministerial level and at the delegation level.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Spain for the effort and cooperation. Last month, the Marine Environment Protection Committee, at its 74th session, discussed extensively the issue of Marine Plastic Litter, which arises mainly from fishing vessels. 

Therefore, the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement will be very important in this respect and I urge Member States to take this into consideration.


Distinguished delegates,

In conclusion, the agenda for the coming eight days places heavy demands on you and you are expected to make progress on a large number of important issues.

I am sure that the proven leadership skills of your able Chair, Mr. Brad Groves of Australia, supported by his Vice Chair, Mr. Juan Carlos Cubisino of Argentina, will guarantee that, once again, the agenda of this session is tackled successfully. I am sure that all of you will contribute in finding the appropriate balance between competing demands so that the Committee may reach the best and most widely acceptable outcomes.  The IMO Secretariat, ably led by the Director of the Maritime Safety Division, Ms. Heike Deggim, are ready to provide you the best assistance.

With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations and look forward to welcoming you all to the customary drinks reception I will be hosting in the Delegates’ Lounge after the close of today’s session.
Thank you.