Maritime Day of China Forum

Maritime Day of China Forum

11 July, China

Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary‑General

International Maritime Organization



Ladies and gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure to be here and I am very grateful for the opportunity to address this forum to mark the Maritime Day of China.

IMO is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping. Our main task is to develop, adopt and promote the regulatory framework within which international shipping operates.

Our mandate was originally limited to safety‑related issues, but subsequently this remit has expanded to embrace environmental considerations, legal matters, technical cooperation, maritime security and other issues that affect the overall efficiency of shipping.

This year, IMO is celebrating two significant milestones – 70 years since the Organization was formed and 60 since it became operational.

During that time we have produced a long record of achievements, developing and adopting more than 50 international instruments on many different aspects of shipping.

Every year, IMO chooses a theme to highlight an important aspect of shipping. Our theme for this year – "Our Heritage: Better Shipping for a Better Future" – looks both at our past and into the years that lie ahead. It provides an opportunity to reflect and showcase how the Organization has developed and adapted while staying true to its overall mission – to promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping.

Communication and collaboration in the maritime community has been central to IMO's achievements, and I am keen that we should make every effort to enhance and improve that.

Among the many highlights I would single out the adoption earlier this year of an Initial Strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. This Strategy, I am pleased to say, sets clear reduction targets for the industry within a realistic timeframe. Specifically, it includes a cut in emissions of at least 50 per cent by 2050 and identifies a complete phase‑out of greenhouse gas emissions as the eventual objective.

This is a major political achievement as all IMO Member States, including China, had to agree to the details. Now, we turn to the equally challenging work of implementing the Strategy. I am looking forward to continued collaboration and cooperation, because this Strategy is something that everybody can, and should, support.

Let me also mention the entry into force of the new, reduced sulphur limit on ships' fuel oil on 1 January 2020 and its subsequent implementation. There can be no doubt that this is a landmark decision for the environment and for human health. The need to ensure implementation of the 0.5% sulphur limit is critically important and I strongly hope for support and contributions from China in the upcoming consideration of this issue at IMO.

Looking to the future, IMO is showing a strong commitment to facilitating new and advancing technologies in shipping. A regulatory scoping exercise is looking into the regulatory aspects of autonomous vessels, from the aspects of safety, security, legal liability, responses to incidents and protection of the marine environment.

Let me express my appreciation to all Member States, and in particular China, for their collaboration and communication in approaching these critical areas of IMO's work. The importance of collective efforts on these issues cannot be underestimated.

Looking into the future, we see a number of radical new trends, developments and challenges approaching, many driven by technology, which will affect both IMO and shipping. The so‑called fourth industrial revolution will impact shipping very soon. New technology such as big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and the availability of new energy sources are taking shipping into a new era. But there is a strong need to balance the benefits of new technologies with safety and security concerns, in particular cyber security, and its impact on the environment and people.

In a wider context, IMO and the maritime community have important roles to play in achieving the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals. This is one of the most important initiatives of the UN, setting clear goals and targets to protect the planet, its people and ensure global peace and prosperity.  Shipping will be key in delivering on many of these goals and targets, and the industry must be ready to accept those challenges. 

One of my own clear goals is to strengthen IMO's ability to deliver on its main objectives, to "promote safe, secure, environmentally sound, efficient and sustainable shipping through cooperation" in light of existing and future trends, developments and challenges facing the maritime community..

The mandate of IMO has always been to ensure that ships and the people aboard them are safe and that mandate will not waver in the future. We must positively engage in emerging environmental issues, such as efforts to control and eradicate micro plastics.

We must ensure that the opportunities presented by the digital revolution to improve efficiency in shipping are incorporated effectively into the regulatory framework: digital innovation can enhance work processes throughout the maritime industry, in ship‑to‑ship, as well as in ship‑to‑shore interfaces.

And we must continue to help developing countries and especially least developed countries build their capacity to participate in maritime activities. We must achieve full implementation of the IMO treaty regime to create the level playing field needed to facilitate the efficient flow of maritime commerce. All these objectives are of the utmost importance.

The maritime industry is a crucial part of the global supply chain on which billions rely. IMO needs to ensure shipping continues to make its contribution to sustainable growth in a way that meets modern society's expectations about safety, the environment and social responsibility. Increased communication and collaboration between the shipping, port and logistics industries will be vital to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of shipping.

Finally, I would like to mention that last year, IMO adopted a new Strategic Plan to equip the Organization for the future. This Plan affirms the Organization's mission and establishes a vision for its future. The achievement of this vision is supported by seven strategic directions that chart our areas of focus for the next six years. It is expected that this Strategic Plan will be reviewed in future, taking into account the emerging trends, developments and challenges facing the maritime community– especially the rapid technological developments and the changing environment in which shipping operates.

Ladies and gentlemen, China is one of the most influential IMO Member States, and has been continuously contributing to IMO's work. I should like to express my appreciation to the Government of China and its shipping industry for its participation and support – and, once again, for this opportunity to speak at the Maritime Day of China Forum.


Thank you.