Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 98th session, 7-16 June 2017 (opening address)


Mr. Chair, Excellences, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to you all.

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to the ninety-eighth session of the Maritime Safety Committee.  I extend a particular welcome to those of you who are attending the Committee for the first time.

At the onset, I would like to direct your attention to the terrorist attacks committed in various parts of the world and, in particular, to the two recent incidents in the United Kingdom, which were deeply traumatic and shocked the world, and I convey the Organization’s, its Secretariat’s, the wider IMO Community and my own condolences to the  bereaved families, friends and colleagues of the innocent victims. In this context, I would advise all delegates to maintain the usual level of vigilance during and after the meeting.

Distinguished delegates, Excellences,

Allow me now, first to comment briefly on general matters of importance to the work of this Organization. IMO's goals and objectives can only be achieved when all Member States join together to implement IMO standards effectively in a uniform and harmonious manner. I urge you to continue working together globally, throughout the year, to create and sustain an even safer, more secure, more environmentally friendly and more efficient maritime world. I will continue my effort in acting as a bridge among Member States to ensure communication and understanding, while pursuing a more efficient Organization, flexibly adapting our resources to the changing needs.

Before turning to the most important items on your agenda for this session, I wish to say a few words about this year’s World Maritime Day theme, which is "Connecting Ships, Ports and People". The theme has been selected to build on the theme of 2016, "Shipping: indispensable to the world", by focussing on helping Member States to develop and implement maritime strategies that invest in a joined-up, interagency approach to address a whole range of issues, including safety of life at sea, maritime security, protection of the environment, facilitation of maritime transport and increasing the efficiency of shipping operations.

I believe that the theme will provide a good opportunity to improve cooperation between ports and ships and develop a closer partnership between the two sectors; to raise global standards and set norms for the safety, security, protection of the environment and efficiency of shipping operations, in particular that of ports; and to standardize procedures based on the regulations developed by the Organization by identifying and developing best practice guidance and training materials.

With respect to the theme, I want to single out the most important pillar which is "the people". The people, who are the core element of this industry. Competent and appropriately trained and qualified manpower is what the maritime industry needs most both afloat and ashore for safe, secure, environment sensitive operations thereby developing and sustaining the blue economy.

To this end, it is also important that shipping is portrayed as an industry that can provide a career path matching the aspirations of the ambitious and capable young people it urgently needs to attract and retain. Safety, security, shipping's environmental credentials and the entire future sustainability of the shipping industry are overwhelmingly dependent on the availability of a competent and capable workforce. Therefore, if the global pool of competent and efficient seafarers is to meet demand, then seafaring must be presented to young generations as an option for their future careers at sea, or on shore, based on their expertise and experience at sea.


Distinguished delegates,

Nowadays, shipping accounts for more than 80 per cent of global trade, delivering goods to people 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 people. 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 and you.

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.

Presently, 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.

In line with this aspect, I would like to inform you that this week the UN Ocean Conference is taking place at the UN Headquarters in New York, jointly organized by the UN and the Governments of Sweden and Fiji. Taking into consideration the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14, the conference is addressing challenges and opportunities for ocean sustainability. IMO is actively participating in the event as one of the key stakeholders. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Governments of Sweden and Fiji for the excellent organization.

I have mentioned 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 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 States 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 much to be proud of.


Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

Once again, I am addressing a packed meeting that will see intense activity over the next eight working 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 98. As regards the implementation of the goal-based standards for new ship construction of bulk carriers and oil tankers, it is fundamental to emphasize your Committee’s unanimous confirmation at its ninety-sixth session that the information provided by the submitters (12 IACS member recognized organizations) demonstrated that their rules conform to the GBS standards. This was a significant achievement as it now provides for the first time a genuine link between the classification and statutory processes.

After this significant achievement, your Committee is now focussing on developing amendments to the GBS Verification Guidelines based on the experience gained during the initial verification audits, not forgetting that your Committee will consider my report relating to the verification audit for the rectification of non conformities stemming from the initial verification audit.

Moreover, your Committee will also be invited to review the outcome of the SSE Sub-Committee on the development of functional requirements of SOLAS chapter III and make a decision on the future direction of the far-reaching concept of "IMO goal-based standards safety level approach".

It is also important to carefully consider the issues relating to early implementation/application of mandatory requirements, as identified by the Committee at its previous session, and, in particular, carry out an analysis of the concept for "early implementation" of amendments to existing mandatory requirements, with a view to avoiding potential conflict between flag State and port State authorities.

Maritime security remains a concern.  The number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, reported to the Organization, has increased last year with 59 incidents recorded in GISIS in 2016, as against 35 in 2015, and the number of people kidnapped from ships in 2016 was 40 with several particularly violent incidents, a source of particular concern.  17 attacks have been reported off West Africa so far this year. Although international, regional and national efforts are becoming increasingly effective, much remains to be done.  Accuracy of reporting is of course critical and it is within the power of both flag States and industry organizations to promote a high standard of accuracy of reporting to the Organization.

In the western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden area, disruption by warships, the application of IMO guidance and best management practices, and better maritime situational awareness had contributed to containing the piracy situation.  However, since the beginning of this year two SOLAS ships have been boarded by pirates and two dhows have been taken.  Furthermore, recent reports of attacks emanating from Yemen against merchant ships and warships in the southern Red Sea, and against shore installations, are also a cause for concern.

Flag States should therefore continue to monitor the threat to ships flying their flag and set appropriate security levels in accordance with the ISPS Code.  Flag States and the industry should also continue to maintain levels of implementation of IMO guidance and best management practices and Governments must continue to provide naval assets.

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 and in particular, your Committee deals proactively with safety issues, based on the analysis of maritime casualties and incidents statistics.

Your Committee will also consider the reports of five 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 those meetings. 

In this regard, I would mention two important issues related to the outcome of NCSR 4, namely draft amendments to SOLAS chapter IV and performance standards to allow new GMDSS providers; and activation of the IMO/IHO Harmonization Group on Data Modelling, which is relevant to e-navigation.

Furthermore, you have many more other important issues before you this week, such as the Amendments to mandatory instruments; and Implementation of IMO instruments.  In particular, with regard to the Polar Code, which entered into force this year, I would stress the need for careful consideration of the possibility to expand the application of its provisions to all ships operating in polar waters, including small cargo ships, fishing vessels and pleasure yachts, with a view to developing a pragmatic approach for such an expanded application, and defining its scope and timing, which will require an evaluation of implementation of the Polar Code.

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. 

As for the Secretariat, 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.

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

Thank you.