Malta Maritime Summit, Keynote address - Legislating for the Maritime Industry

Malta Maritime Summit
Valetta, Malta, 4 October 2016
Keynote address
Legislating for the Maritime Industry
By Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the organisers of this event for the invitation to speak at this maritime summit. It is always a pleasure to visit Malta and I am delighted to have this opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

Malta may be a small country but, in the maritime world, it is a big player. Its location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea means Malta has been a beacon for traders and seafarers throughout history. In the modern era, Malta has one of the world’s largest ship registries, is a global centre for ship repair and ship supply, and a valued contributor to the work of IMO.

So holding a maritime summit here in Malta is highly appropriate, and I am sure this will prove a highly successful event.

I have been asked by the organisers to say a few words on the topic of Legislating for the Maritime Industry – again, a highly appropriate topic, given the role and function of IMO.

As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Our main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and implemented.

IMO's mandate was originally limited to safety-related issues, but subsequently this has expanded to include environmental considerations, legal matters, technical cooperation, security and maritime crime, as well as issues that affect the overall efficiency of shipping.

Today, IMO has developed and adopted more than 50 international conventions and protocols, supported by more than 1,000 codes and recommendations. Between them, they govern just about every facet of the shipping industry – from the designer’s drawing board to the recycling facility.

But the really important thing about IMO regulations is that they are global – global in terms of their creation, global in their adoption and global in their application.

Why is this so important?

Because global regulations apply equally to all participants in shipping. They do not allow anyone to gain an advantage, either by cutting corners or by imposing unilateral requirements. They create a level playing field. And, perhaps most importantly, they ensure that ships have to comply with the same rules and technical standards wherever in the world they operate and regardless of which flag they fly.

Imagine how impractical it would be if different regulations applied to the same ship at either end of its voyage. It would place shipowners in an impossible situation and seriously jeopardise the flow of global trade.

Global, uniform implementation is absolutely vital to the success of IMO instruments. This is an important principle. Everybody suffers if it is undermined, not just the shipping industry but the billions of people all over the world who depend on it.

While this is true of all IMO measures, it is perhaps most striking in the Organization’s continuing efforts in the environmental area. Here, we can point to many measures that will not only make shipping’s environmental footprint a lighter one, but will also have a direct and beneficial impact on the lives of ordinary people who are not, themselves, involved in shipping.

Let me list just a few of them:

• moving shipping towards an era of cleaner fuels and the consequent reduction in harmful exhaust emissions;
• the positive steps being taken to improve ships’ energy efficiency and thereby control greenhouse gas emissions;
• implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention, which I am pleased to say will enter into force next year;
• our efforts to address marine biofouling on ships’ hulls.

The various efforts and initiatives underway in these areas will benefit people all over the world and help ensure that shipping can play its part in delivering the sustainable development that is essential to our future.

As far as IMO itself is concerned, I can foresee the future bringing a marked shift in emphasis away from its legislative role. IMO has a strong mandate to help its Member States and the industry ensure that the regulatory framework and its provisions are effectively and uniformly implemented. And, by so doing, IMO helps ensure that the ability to participate effectively in maritime activities is not just confined to the traditional shipping countries. In this, I see a much wider benefit that gives IMO a broader significance than ever before – something that is very important for us, as a UN agency.

So, with the regulatory framework for shipping now very comprehensive, I believe we will see an increasing emphasis on implementation and capacity building. These two go hand-in-hand; one supports the other.

I also place great value on communication, between all stakeholders. The more we talk to each other, the better we can understand each other’s problems and the easier it will be to find common ground on which to build mutually beneficial solutions. And, from a practical perspective, I strongly believe in decision-making based on detailed analysis of real data, and I will look to strengthen IMO’s ability to support its members in that respect.

In essence, my vision is one of strengthened partnerships – between developing and developed countries, between governments and industry, between individual IMO Member States and regional organizations. I see IMO acting as a bridge between all these stakeholders.

Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude: when it comes to legislating for the maritime industry, the extensive network of global regulations that IMO has developed and adopted over the years mean that, today, shipping is a safe and secure mode of transport; clean; environment-friendly; and very energy-efficient.

However, the search for growth in the maritime sector as a whole is a balancing act. Many varied and sometimes conflicting stakeholders all have a legitimate interest in the process, while the overall health of the seas themselves is a common concern.

An integrated approach, with a long-term focus is required: an approach that responds to the world’s resource, climate and environmental challenges. 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.

As the only truly viable means of transporting the vast majority of global trade, shipping is indispensable to the world. It is central to the concept of sustainable growth, which is at the heart of the UN’s post-2015 agenda. As such, the mission of IMO, to continually improve the safety and security, efficiency and environmental performance of shipping, is one that reaches out far beyond the Organization’s immediate constituency and touches the life of nearly everyone on the planet.

I believe that a major challenge for IMO and the maritime community in the years ahead will be to assess and define their roles, and those of all the various stakeholders, in the establishment of cohesive and all-embracing ocean governance structures. IMO has its mandate and I believe is ready to do more, within the UN system, to help integrate maritime policies on a global scale.

As I said when standing for election as Secretary-General, I am keen that IMO, its Member States and the industry should embark on a voyage together: if we can do that, I am confident that the shipping industry can be well placed to emerge stronger from its current difficulties and effectively meet future global demand.

Thank you