Maritime Safety Committee, 104th Session, 04-08 October (opening remarks)


(4 to 8 October 2021)

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, observers, good morning, good afternoon, and good evening,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this virtual meeting of the 104th session of the Maritime Safety Committee. I particularly welcome those delegates who are participating in a meeting of the Committee for the first time.

You will have another busy session of the Committee with an agenda compounded with the inclusion of the documents deferred from the previous two sessions. 

You have several very important items on your agenda, including key topics related to seafarers. I would like to take this opportunity to stress that the well-being of over 1.2 million seafarers working on board seagoing ships every day to deliver goods to the populations around the globe continues to be my highest priority.

In this context, I would like to draw your attention to this year's World Maritime Theme: "Seafarers: at the core of shipping's future". As I have repeatedly emphasized, seafarers have been the silent heroes and collateral victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, as travel restrictions have left hundreds of thousands of them stranded on ships, or unable to join ships. The professionalism, dedication, and personal sacrifice of seafarers throughout the pandemic has been truly outstanding, and we must continue to support them.

Distinguished delegates, in 2021, crew change figures on seafarers requiring repatriation after finishing their contracts, and those waiting to join ships as part of crew change, continues to be worrying. This complex situation has been impacted by new COVID variants, such as the Delta variant, and the steep increase of COVID-19 related abandonment cases, which have further exacerbated the crew change crisis. Current figures indicate that there is still a long way to go before the return to normal crew change regimes and these concerns are still keeping the IMO Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) busy. An update of the SCAT work will be considered by your Committee.

In this connection, the Secretariat has also submitted a report on the crew change situation during the COVID-19 pandemic based on the work of IMO for consideration at the seventy-sixth session of the UN General Assembly, as requested in resolution A/75/L.37 on International cooperation to address challenges faced by seafarers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support global supply chains.

Another relevant matter in your agenda is the consideration, following the request from MSC 103, of a draft Assembly resolution consolidating issues related to crew change, access to medical care, ʺkey workerʺ designation and vaccination to further highlight the relevance of these problems, with a view to adoption at the 32nd session of the Assembly. This resolution should further encourage relevant stakeholders to persist with the efforts made to preserve seafarers' rights and ensure continuity of the global supply chain.

Distinguished delegates, in terms of the agenda, at this meeting you will receive a draft update of the resolution on Prevention and suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships and illicit activity in the Gulf of Guinea. The resolution was developed at MSC 103 and is presented to be finalized and approved.

You will also receive an update on IMO initiatives in the Gulf of Guinea, outlining how we are endeavouring the support of the region through preventative measures. On a particular note, I have invited the heads of ECOWAS, ECCAS, the GGC and the Peace and Security Commissioner at the African Union to the IMO later this year. The meeting will allow the IMO to present findings and provide feedback from a number of IMO facilitated, regionally led expert level meetings. Additionally, in view of the impending ten (10) year anniversary of the signing of the Yaounde Code of Conduct, the meeting could serve as a timely occasion to initiate discussions on whether a review of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct could support long-term effective and sustainable collaboration and cooperation in this regard.

Actions by Member States have been broadly successful in containing piracy and the improvements in regional capabilities both at sea, and in prosecuting offenders ashore, is pleasing. However, we must not underestimate how the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic may drive up higher levels of maritime criminality in the coming months and years. The continued strong cooperative effort of all stakeholders remains the key to countering these threats.

Also at this session, the Committee will be once again considering matters pertaining to domestic ferry safety. A related working group is intended to be established with the main aim of finalizing the recommendatory Model Regulations on Domestic Ferry Safety with a view to adoption at MSC 105 in April next year.

The model regulations along with guidance on their incorporation into national legislation, explanatory notes, the development of an online training platform and continued technical support through the Technical Cooperation Division will foster existing measures to strengthen domestic ferry safety.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am hopeful that you will also make progress on the other substantive items on the agenda for this session, such as:

  1. amendments to mandatory instruments; 
  2. goal-based new ship construction standards; 
  3. and the reports of several sub-committees.

I am confident that the customary IMO spirit of cooperation will prevail during your deliberations and that, under the capable leadership of your Chair, Ms. Medina of the United States, and Vice-Chair, Mr. Mozas of Greece, you will have open and informative discussions and will reach agreement on the agenda items under consideration to pave the way for further progress on IMO's work in the following months.

With this, I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.