Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 102, 4-11 November 2020 (virtual session), opening remarks


Distinguished delegates, good morning, good afternoon, good evening:

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this first virtual regular session of the Maritime Safety Committee.

Before we start, I have to convey some sad news to all of you.  It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the passing of Mr. William O'Neil, IMO Secretary-General Emeritus. Mr. O'Neil passed away on 29 October 2020, aged 93. He lead the Organization from 1990 to 2004, making him the second longest serving Secretary-General.  I am sure that many of you still fondly remember Mr. O'Neil, in particular as he remained a constant part of the IMO family after the end of his tenure, actively participating in many IMO events and continuing to work tirelessly for the maritime community. Mr. O'Neil was a truly great Secretary-General whose actions and initiatives had a great and lasting impact on the work of the Organization. I would now ask all of you to observe a minute of silence in memory of Bill O'Neil.

[one minute silence]

I also wish to express my sincere sympathy to the delegations of Greece and Turkey for the victims of the earthquake that occurred last Friday in the Aegean Sea. I also commend those involved in the search and rescue operations. I wish to convey to you my compassion and solidarity, and the assurance that my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims.

And now to the business at hand.  In the second half of September, we held an extraordinary session of all IMO Committees, where administrative and procedural matters necessary to facilitate the holding of virtual sessions of all Committees during the COVID-19 pandemic were agreed. This has enabled us to demonstrate that IMO is ready and working hard to continue its mission, progressing on its policy issues, and especially that the fact that we cannot meet in person will not stop us from advancing on our work.

I am aware that the Chair is proposing a streamlined agenda for the meeting, with the consideration of a number of agenda items and documents postponed to your next session. In view of the prevailing situation, allowances need to be made since the workload of your Committee will have to be accommodate in much less time than we would usually have. You should, therefore, concentrate your efforts on the reports of the Sub-Committees in order to ensure continuity of work, leaving other matters for the next session which will take place in the first half of 2021, hopefully under much more "normal" conditions.

Consequently, the main topics at this session will be the consideration of the reports of HTW 6, III 6, CCC 6, NCSR 7, SDC 7, PPR 7 and SSE 7. Taking action on those reports is of utmost importance to ensure the continuation of the work of the sub-committees.  

As usual, your Committee will be asked to consider a number of important technical matters resulting from the work of the subsidiary bodies.  This includes the latest audits under the GBS Verification Audit Programme, interim guidelines related to the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel, revision of the inspection programmes for cargo transport units carrying dangerous goods, draft Interim Guidelines for the second-generation intact stability criteria, ship routeing measures, revised guidelines for vessel traffic services and amendments to the STCW Convention and Code, to name just a few.

Another important topic you are expected to consider will be matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As I have repeatedly emphasized, seafarers have been the silent heroes and collateral victims of this crisis, as travel restrictions have left hundreds of thousands of them stranded on ships, or unable to join ships. IMO, together with other United Nations organizations, has taken countless actions to address the serious issues that have arisen during this crisis. In this context, I would like to recall the successful outcome of the second extraordinary session of your Committee, when you adopted resolution MSC.473(ES.2), which calls on Governments to respond to the serious crisis faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this session, you have the opportunity to continue taking decisions on meaningful actions to alleviate the effects of this unprecedented situation.

This is the first regular session of your Committee to be held remotely. I am confident that the customary IMO spirit of cooperation will prevail during your deliberations and that, under the able leadership of your experienced Chair, Mr. Brad Groves of Australia, you will have open and informative discussions and will reach agreement on the agenda items under consideration to pave the way for progressing IMO's work in the following months.

Thank you.