Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80), 3-7 July 2023 - opening remarks


Good morning, excellencies, distinguished delegates, and observers.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the eightieth session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee.

First, I am very pleased to inform you of the recent accessions to the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships by Bangladesh and Liberia, which have triggered the long-awaited entry into force of the Convention on 26 June 2025. This is a truly significant milestone for IMO, and it is indeed a historical development for the international shipping and ship recycling industries, for the marine environment, and especially for workers and local communities in ship recycling countries.

I am also pleased to share the current progress on the FSO SAFER operation, an aging floating storage and offloading unit moored off the coast of Yemen. The UN-led operation to secure the FSO SAFER and remove the oil onboard, thus removing the environmental threat from a possible release of oil, is well underway, thanks to the contributions of many of the Member States represented here today.

The FSO SAFER has now been inspected and rendered safe, with the ship-to-ship transfer set to start in a matter of weeks. I also wish to extend my gratitude and thanks to those States who responded positively to IMO's request for oil spill response equipment, which has been an instrumental contribution to the ongoing preparedness efforts.

Distinguished delegates,

This MEPC will undoubtedly be a busy session, with several priority items on the agenda.

Time is of the essence so please allow me to turn to some of the major items on the agenda for this session.

The main topic at this session is the Organization's response to the global climate crisis.

You are expected to adopt the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy, and I encourage you to be ambitious in setting targets which will put shipping on a clear trajectory to phasing out GHG emissions. I am also certain that you will all closely cooperate with each other in line with IMO's long-standing spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

I have no doubt that you will reach agreements showcasing our commitment to combatting climate change in line with the Paris Agreement temperature goals. 

This is a historic moment in which all of you have a role to play. The 2023 IMO GHG Strategy will be your legacy, for which your children and grandchildren will be grateful. The time for IMO to demonstrate its global leadership is now.

Your Committee will also be invited to make further progress with the development of the basket of mid-term measures. The various updated proposals for technical and economic measures and the discussions during last week's ISWG-GHG 15 clearly demonstrate your commitment to advance the developments of these measures which should ensure that IMO will deliver on the levels of ambition in the 2023 GHG Strategy.  

Following from the discussions last week I note a broad interest in advancing the development of a fuel intensity target as technical component. I hope that this week your Committee will also be able to advance the discussions on the economic element to be further developed.

I equally expect that your Committee will be in a position to provide further guidance on the initiation of the comprehensive impact assessment of the basket of candidate mid-term measures. Assessing possible impacts on States of IMO's next set of climate measures is a key element of the process.

Now you have reached the final stage of the marathon to finish the 2023 Strategy. I urge you to do your best to reap the fruits of your efforts and achieve success.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to all Member States, and observer delegations, and especially the Chair of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships, Mr. Sveinung Oftedal of Norway, for the extraordinary effort and dedication during the intersessional meetings that have taken place in the past few years.

Once again, the Intersessional Working Group has facilitated the work of your Committee and provided a solid basis that will allow for the adoption of the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy and the identification of the basket of mid-term measures and the associated comprehensive impact assessment.

You had extensive consultations among yourselves, worked very hard until the early hours in the morning and reiterated that you remain committed to finding an agreement this week to conclude the revision of the GHG Strategy, setting the pathway for the decarbonization of the industry.

There are many other issues on the agenda where action by the Committee is as important and urgent, such as the ballast water management Convention Review Plan, marine plastic litter, the adoption of the revised Biofouling Guidelines, and the designation of the Western Mediterranean Sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, to name a few. But I will not enter into details as I know you need all the time available this week to complete your work.

Distinguished delegates,

Following almost two decades of discussions and negotiations, a new legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, was finally adopted at the UN headquarters on 19 June 2023.

Together with the Kunming-Montreal Global Framework for Biodiversity, which was adopted by the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in December last year, and the ongoing negotiations for a new legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution, under the United Nations Environment Assembly, there is no doubt that your Committee's efforts to ensure a greener, more equitable and more sustainable maritime future is of greater importance than ever before.

Enhanced cooperation is needed at all levels to support the fight against the challenges facing us on climate change, biodiversity loss and marine pollution. I am certain I can count on the continued support of the IMO family so that IMO can make a definitive contribution to addressing those challenges.

Distinguished delegates,

It is evident that you have many important issues before you this week, but I am confident that your able Chair, Mr. Harry Conway of Liberia, supported by the Vice-Chair of the Committee, Mr. Hanqiang Tan of Singapore, and the Secretariat, will steer the Committee's discussions towards a successful conclusion in the days ahead.

With that, I wish you a very successful meeting.

Thank you.