Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 97th session, 21-25 November 2016 (opening address)


21 to 25 November 2016

Good morning, Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the ninety-seventh session of the Maritime Safety 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 this Organization. Our traditional World Maritime Day celebration took place here, in our headquarters building, on 29 September.  We have used every opportunity throughout this year to widen awareness of the chosen theme “Shipping: Indispensable to the world", and the annual parallel event, held in Istanbul, Turkey from 4 to 6 November. For 2017, we will build on this theme by focussing on the linkage between ships, ports and people.

Shipping today transports more than 80 per cent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. It provides a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples. A safe, secure and efficient international shipping industry is indispensable to the modern world – and this is provided by the measures and standards developed and maintained by this Organization.

But today I also want to look beyond IMO’s day-to-day functions and talk to you about what the future might hold for the Organization – in particular, about its place in a more cohesive and connected scheme of global ocean governance.

Today, we live in a global society which is supported by a global economy. The potential benefits are clear: growth can be accelerated and prosperity more widespread; skills and technology can be more evenly dispersed, and both individuals and countries can take advantage of previously unimagined economic opportunities.

The broader challenge we all face is how to ensure future growth can be achieved sustainably; how to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world’s people, and not for just a privileged few.

So, beyond its traditional regulatory function, how does IMO fit into this broader picture? As part of the United Nations family, IMO is actively supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that world leaders pledged to support last year.

I have said many times that shipping and related maritime activities are essential components of future sustainable growth for the earth’s 7 billion-plus inhabitants. But the search for growth in this sector – blue growth – is a balancing act. The overall health of the seas and oceans themselves is clearly a cause for concern.

As a maritime community, we need to ensure that growth is coordinated and planned, with input from all relevant stakeholders, and that opportunities for synergies are identified and taken, while at the same time act proactively to ensure that safety, security and protection of the environment.

In the meantime, IMO Member States must strive to better implement the measures that we have already agreed.  At a time of economic downturn and instability, it is critical that Member Governments and industry resist the temptation to cut corners to save money at the expense of safety, security and the marine environment. Looking at the progress made so far in the Organization, we have to be proud.

In the course of the weekend, some news came to my attention on the collision, in the English Channel, between the Hong Kong, China flagged general cargo ship Saga Sky and a barge. I would like to express my deep sense of relief concerning the rather fortunate ending of this event. The professionalism of the seafarers and the rescue services involved are highly commendable.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

Once again, I am addressing a packed meeting that will see intense activity over the next five days.  A total of 111 documents have been submitted under the 22 items on the agenda for this session. 

Mr. Chair, Distinguished Delegates,

I would like to highlight, some key issues amongst the various agenda items of MSC 97. As regards the implementation of the goal-based standards for new ship construction of bulk carriers and oil tankers, it is fundamental to emphasize that your Committee’s unanimous confirmation that the information provided by the submitters (12 IACS member recognized organizations) demonstrated that their rules conform to the GBS standards. The completion of this initial verification process now provides a genuine link between the classification and statutory processes and this is a significant development in the IMO rule making process which is the culmination of huge efforts by all stakeholders of the Organization over a period of more than a decade. After this significant achievement, your Committee has now to focus on developing amendments to the GBS Verification Guidelines based on the experience gained during the initial verification audits, not forgetting that the Secretariat is arranging the verification audit for the rectification of non-conformities stemming from the initial verification audit for submission and consideration at MSC 98.

With regard to the carriage of more than 12 industrial personnel on board vessels engaged on international voyages, your Committee at its last session, bearing in mind an urgent need to ensure the safe and efficient transfer of technicians serving and servicing installations in the growing offshore alternative energy sectors, agreed that a new chapter to SOLAS, supported by a new code, should be developed to address this issue. Furthermore, MSC 96 recognizing that until the proposed new code was developed there was a need for an interim solution. After taking into account the complex nature of the legal issues involved, MSC 96 requested the Secretariat to provide legal advice on this matter. To this end, your Committee will consider the legal advice with a view to finalize the interim solution along with the detailed roadmap for developing the proposed code and I am confident that your Committee will resolve this important matter to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders involved.

Turning to maritime security and related matters, we note with concern recent reports of attacks on warships and the m.v. Galicia Spirit in the Bab Al Mandab.  We appreciate that an investigation is under way but I must stress that it is important that the facts be established as quickly as possible so that the ongoing threat to shipping can be properly assessed and proportionate responses taken.  In the meantime, I would remind flag States of their obligations to conduct threat assessments and set security levels for ships in accordance with SOLAS chapter XI-2 and the ISPS Code.  Both the m.v. Galicia Spirit incident and the recent attempted piracy attack on the m.v. CPO Korea off the coast of Somalia are strong reminders of the need for diligent application of IMO guidance and best management practices; and for the presence of warships to protect shipping.

Your Committee will continue its work on progressing the important and timely issue of protecting the maritime transport network from cyber threats, consider implications of floating armouries  as well as receiving updates on piracy and armed robbery against ships, and unsafe mixed migration by sea.

I would once again take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of analyzing statistics related to maritime casualties and incidents, caused by various factors.  To this end, I feel that it is appropriate that the Organization deals proactively with safety issues, based on the analysis of maritime casualties and incidents statistics.

Furthermore, at your last session, the Committee generally agreed to improve the dissemination of lessons learned from marine casualties, with a view of establishing an effective linkage between casualty investigation and seafarers training, and instructed the III and HTW sub-committees to further consider the matter.  At this session, you will also consider the proposal on enhancement of the function of the GISIS module on marine casualties and incidents which I am sure that will get its due consideration.

Your Committee will also consider the reports of four sub-committees. These sub-committees have worked in accordance with your instructions and the results of their deliberations are the outcome of their hard work. To this end, I would like to convey my appreciation to all the delegates who attend these meetings.  Furthermore, you have many more important issues before you this week, such as the Amendments to mandatory instruments; and Formal safety assessment.

It remains for me to give my best wishes to your Chair, Mr. Brad Groves of Australia, for the task ahead in tackling the agenda of this session and finding the appropriate balance between competing demands so that the Committee may reach the best and most widely acceptable outcomes. 

The Secretariat, including Mr. Mahapatra, Director of the Maritime Safety Division and the relevant staff, will discharge our duties and responsibilities in supporting both the Chair and the work of the meeting to the best of our abilities.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

Before I conclude, I regret to inform your Committee of the demise of Captain John Briggs of Australia. Capt. Briggs was a long standing delegate and the Chair of the Drafting Committee during the 1995 STCW Conference. He was also the Chair of the first panel of competent persons established to evaluate the information communicated by a STCW Party to demonstrate compliance with the relevant provisions of the STCW Convention. I would request the delegation of Australia to convey the condolences of the Committee and the Secretariat to his bereaved family.

With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations and look forward to welcoming you all to the Bravery Awards ceremony and to the drinks reception after close of business today.

Thank you.