Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 99th session 16-25 May 2018 (opening address)

16 to 25 May 2018

Good morning Mr. Chair, excellencies, distinguished delegates, 

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

And I am also delighted to inform you that we are welcoming our latest Member State – Nauru – to the Organization, bringing our membership to 174.

Allow me first to comment briefly on general matters of importance to the work of the Organization. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about this year's World Maritime Day theme, which is "IMO 70: Our heritage – better shipping for a better future".

As you may know, yesterday IMO hosted the IMO 70 Forum, which inspired a very interesting and successful discussion on a wide range of topics and which was well attended and welcomed by the entire IMO family, from Member States to representatives of the industry.

On 6 March, we celebrated 70 years since the Convention establishing IMO was adopted. We were extremely honoured to receive Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II here at IMO Headquarters. Her Majesty unveiled a commemorative plaque, cut an anniversary cake and met representatives from the IMO family – I know some of you here today were able to join us on that happy occasion.  

We are planning a series of further events and initiatives to commemorate 70 years of achievement, in which the truly vital industry of shipping has become safer, cleaner and greener, thanks to the work of IMO. This year’s World Maritime Day will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 27 September, and the annual parallel event will be organized by the Government of Poland in Szczecin, from 13 to 15 June 2018. We are sure that this year’s celebrations of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event will be another success, like the previous sessions.

I would encourage you all to embrace the theme and use this occasion to reflect and showcase how the Organization has adapted over the years as a crucial player in the global supply chain, and to be passionate about the IMO family. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of our work and our future and to improve our international image. We owe it to all those whose livelihoods and quality of life rely on shipping.

As I stated at last year’s Assembly, the regulatory framework for shipping must be based firmly around goals and functions rather than prescriptive solutions. I believe this is the only way to ensure that measures adopted by IMO are not rendered obsolete by the time-lag between adoption and entry-into-force. We have already made good steps in that direction and I take this moment to again encourage you all to go still further and faster.


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. 

One of the most eagerly anticipated items at this session will be the regulatory scoping exercise for the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, or MASS, to use the short form. The 19 documents submitted will form a sound basis for fruitful discussions to agree on the best way to tackle this highly relevant matter. It is important that we remain flexible to accommodate new technologies, and so improve the efficiency of shipping while at the same time keeping in mind the role of the human element and the need to maintain safe navigation, further reducing the number of marine casualties and incidents. 

As the main regulatory body for international shipping, IMO has a fundamental role to play in addressing this matter and leading future developments. To support this new development, I have established, for coordination purposes, an interdivisional MASS task force within the Secretariat, under the general direction of the Maritime Safety Division, which will meet periodically to review developments and provide assistance and advice, as appropriate.

As you are well aware, the Organization has embarked in recent years on a new way of rule-making following a goal-based approach which aims at making ships safer while, at the same time, providing the necessary flexibility for ship designers to meet any new regulatory requirements.  This process started with the development and eventual adoption of goal-based ship construction standards for bulker carriers and oil tankers, which are mandatory under the SOLAS Convention, and resulted in the Committee’s confirmation, at your last session, that the initial verification audit of ship construction rules submitted by 12 classification societies had been successfully completed. In this regard, I would like to express my deepest thanks to all the classification societies for their devoted cooperation and to the expert consultants for their hard work.

You will now be embarking on the second stage of this process, the maintenance of verification, involving audits of the rule changes of those classification societies. At the same time, you will continue the development of amendments to the GBS Verification Guidelines, based on the experience gained during the initial verification audits, with a view to finding a practical approach to verify continuous compliance with the GBS without compromising safety.

Maritime security remains a concern.  The Organization received reports of 203 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships worldwide in 2017, the lowest for over 20 years, confirming the current downward year on year trend, with a reduction of about 8% at the global level. Although encouraging, it is clear that still more needs to be done, particularly in relation to the kidnapping of seafarers for ransom.  Accuracy of reporting is critical and it is within the power of both flag States and industry organizations to promote a high standard of reporting to the Organization.

In this connection, I would reiterate the importance of flag States monitoring the threat to ships flying their flag and setting appropriate security levels in accordance with the ISPS Code, and for flag States and the industry to maintain levels of implementation of IMO guidance and best management practices, including using the Maritime Security Transit Corridor.

With regard to the Polar Code, which entered into force last year, you will consider expanding the application of its provisions to all ships operating in polar waters, including cargo ships of less than 500 gross tonnage, fishing vessels and pleasure yachts, with a view to developing a pragmatic approach to such an expanded application, defining its scope and timing. Taking into account the overriding concern of many to maintain the pristine polar environments where those vessels operate, I very much hope that you will come to a decision that serves both maritime safety and the marine environment, so that the necessary detailed technical work can start in the SDC Sub-Committee without delay.

As usual, a substantial amount of time will be dedicated to the reports of your subsidiary bodies and you will consider this time the outcome of six of the sub-committees and I would like to use this opportunity to highlight a couple of issues which deserve special attention.

I would first like to refer to the outcome of NCSR 5 which, among many other things, had extensive discussions with regard to the recognition of Iridium as a maritime mobile satellite services provider under the GMDSS.  Due to widely differing views, the Sub-Committee did not manage to arrive at a consensus decision and subsequently invited the Committee to provide guidance on the way forward. A number of submissions addressing the issue have been received and I hope that you will come to a decision that will settle this matter.  I note that another application for recognition as a service provider under the GMDSS will be considered at this session and I would like to stress the need to treat all applications in the same manner, in order to ensure fair and equal treatment, based upon agreed processes and criteria.

With regard to the work of the HTW Sub-Committee, I feel it is appropriate and timely to draw your attention to the requirement for Parties to the STCW Convention to systematically communicate information to the Organization on the measures adopted to implement its requirements nationally. That information is subject to scrutiny to ensure that the requirements are being given “full and complete effect” and, if this has been found to be so, the Party features on the lists of STCW Parties confirmed by the Committee for initial communication of information and subsequent Reports of Independent Evaluation.  I would like to strongly emphasize the need to keep to the time windows established in the Convention to carry out and report the results of such evaluations to me so that I may report them to you. Strict compliance with the process will provide the credibility and robustness that the maritime community needs when it comes to compliance with the STCW Convention.

Many other important issues which also deserve careful attention feature on your extensive agenda for the coming eight days. Time does not allow me to elaborate on all of them, however, I would highlight, in particular, the amendments to a substantial number of mandatory instruments which have been tabled, with a view to adoption at this session.


Distinguished delegates,

To conclude, the agenda places heavy demands on you during the coming eight meeting days during which you are expected to make progress on a large number of important issues.  I am confident that with your unswerving commitment to promote the cause of safe and secure shipping and with the customary IMO spirit of cooperation you will make the sound, balanced and timely decisions that have been the hallmark of the Committee over the years.

The proven leadership skills of your Chair, Mr. Brad Groves of Australia, supported by his Vice-Chair, Mr. Juan Carlos Cubisino of Argentina, will guarantee that the agenda of this session will be tackled successfully.  I am sure that all of you will assist in finding the appropriate balance between competing demands so that the Committee may reach the best and most widely acceptable outcomes. 
At the same time, the IMO Secretariat, ably led by the Director of the Maritime Safety Division, Ms. Heike Deggim, will be, as always, ready to best serve you. This is the nine-ninth session of this committee, and I am sure that the director of MSD is planning something special for the hundredth session!

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 after close of business today in the Delegates’ Lounge.

Thank you.