Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 103, 5-14 May 2021 (virtual session), opening remarks


delivered live on 5 May 2021 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, good morning, good afternoon, good evening: 

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this second remote session of the Maritime Safety Committee. 

This will be another intense session of your Committee with a busy agenda compounded with the inclusions of the documents deferred from your previous session.  

While we move ahead with important changes to regulations, we have also had to respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its serious impact on global trade and travel, and particularly on seafarers.  

We in the Secretariat are continuing to work tirelessly together with our UN sister organizations and industry partners to encourage Member States to recognize seafarers as "key workers"as also advocated by the UN General Assembly Resolution adopted in December 2020, and to prioritize their vaccination, thereby facilitating seafarers' safe movement across borders. In this regard, I would again impress on all Member States the need to designate seafarers as “key workers”. So far we have received only 58 relevant notifications, marking about a third of our membership.  

Recently, we could observe the positive effects of our efforts, with the number of seafarers awaiting repatriation or joining of ships significantly reduced from 400,000 to 200,000. I remain confident that by working together we will eventually overcome this difficult and challenging situation for global shipping. Rest assured that this Organization will continue to do all it can to assist the maritime community and in particular our seafarers. 

We must put our commitment to this year's world maritime theme: "Seafarers: at the core of shipping's future", into action. The theme provides a unique opportunity to send a clear message to the world to help protect seafarers' rights and raise awareness of their exceptional contribution as key and essential workers, as always on the front line of delivering world trade despite the ongoing pandemic.  

In this regard I must convey to you my concern regarding the COVID 19 pandemic upsurge in many parts of the world. In particular, the current situation in India  gives cause for grave concern I offer my heartfelt support to all those suffering loss and hardship. Seafarers in particular remain vulnerable as the impacts continues to escalate. 

I urge enhanced global collaboration and cooperation among all nations to support the supply of vaccines for the benefit of all and to make a difference in the fight against this pandemic. 

In terms of the agenda of the meeting, you will at this session have a dedicated Working Group to deliberate on ways to address the security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea. IMO is supporting Member States to develop a coordinated “whole-of-government” approach to maritime security. Actions by IMO Member States have been successful in most areas in containing piracy – but this has required a strong cooperative effort between many stakeholders: Governments, their navies and law enforcement agencies, the shipping industry, and non-governmental as well as intergovernmental organizations to achieve these results. Although this session is being held remotely, I am confident that the customary IMO spirit of cooperation will prevail during your deliberations, and that it will take us a step closer to solving the security crisis in the Gulf of Guinea. 

Turning to the ongoing regulatory scoping exercise for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, I am aware that work is now delayed for about a year due to the pandemic. We must keep in mind that the objective of the regulatory scoping exercise is to identify items for further discussion in the future. The objective is not to discuss or decide on recommendations at this stage. However, it is clear that many delegations would like to start the actual regulatory work as soon as possible. I encourage you to do all you can to finalize the scoping exercise at this session, so that further regulatory work can be considered as soon as possible to ensure that regulation keeps pace with development. 

At this session your Committee is expected to adopt draft amendments to eight mandatory instruments, including SOLAS; the STCW Convention and Code; and the 1988 Load Lines Protocol. Related amendments to two non-mandatory instruments will also be finalized for approval. 

Another key issue is the development of further measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of fuel oil.  

It has now been more than year since the entry into force of the 2020 sulphur limit MARPOL regulations. Indications are that the transition has been extremely smooth, a testament to the thorough preparations of all stakeholders prior to the new rules becoming effective 

At your last session, you adopted a resolution on recommended interim measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of oil fuel and endorsed the related action plan. At this session, your Committee is expected to carefully consider safety issues associated with blended fuels. I urge you to develop comprehensive solutions, to ensure that the safety risks associated with oil fuel can be mitigated appropriately.  

Finally, related to the agenda, it is my pleasure to report that the GBS Audit programme has been carried out as planned and you will be invited to consider the report of the combined GBS audit on the rectification of non-conformities of IACS and DNV-GL ship construction rules. The next scheduled GBS audits will be conducted in early 2022 when the first three-year maintenance audit cycle begins, in accordance with the Revised GBS Verification Guidelines. 

You have a highly diverse set of subjects on your agenda at this  session and the remote conduct of the meeting will not make things easier, but I am confident that with the usual IMO spirit of cooperation you will prevail. 

The Committee will elect a new Chair and Vice-Chair, following the stepping-down of Mr. Groves and Mr. Cubisino from their respective offices as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively at the end of last year. I am sure you will join me in thanking them for their sterling work for the Committee over many years and in wishing them all the very best for their future endeavours. 

have no doubt that the Committee will elect a suitable new Chair and Vice Chairto continue the good work of the Committee and to ensure that you make progress on the important agenda items under consideration. 

Thank you.