Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 105), 20-29 April 2022- opening remarks


(20 to 29 April 2022)

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

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this virtual 105th session of the Maritime Safety Committee. This will be another busy session, with the inclusion of documents deferred from previous sessions.

At this grave time, the global maritime community remains seriously concerned about the safety and welfare of seafarers, the safety of ships and the impact on shipping operations in the wake of the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine.

I note with great sadness information of the death of two seafarers, and the damage to numerous ships and their crew in the midst of the military conflict. Many ships remain reported as stranded in ports in the region and some ships now also lack food, fuel, fresh water, medicines, and other vital supplies. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased, and with those of the numerous seafarers and their families affected by this ongoing situation.

At the start of the conflict, I immediately established an Emergency Task Force in the Secretariat to deal with the fall-out and, further to the decisions of the 35th extraordinary session of the Council, the Secretariat has worked tirelessly, engaging with all stakeholders to address the safety and security issues for global maritime shipping and support seafarers.

At present, the efforts to establish a safe blue maritime corridor are severely hampered by the ongoing security risks, which constrain the option for ships to depart safely from ports in Ukraine. Nonetheless, the IMO Secretariat remains committed and is working with both Ukraine and the Russian Federation as well as other relevant parties including the UN and other relevant UN agencies in order to assist with the safe departure of the ships and their crews trapped in the ports.

I strongly urge all Member States and the industry to continue to share relevant information, collaborate with a view to take necessary steps to ensure the protection of seafarers and ships as this time of ongoing heightened tensions.

There have now been more than two years of extraordinary sacrifices and challenges for the entire world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seafarers have been especially affected their well-being continues to be a high priority.  

 In this regard we will continue to work with governments, industry and other international organisations to maintain recent positive trends with respect to crew changes, vaccinations and access to healthcare

The Secretariat continues to work tirelessly to deal with those challenges by means of a multi-pronged approach, including policy development, direct interventions by our Seafarer Crisis Action Team SCAT and interagency and industry partnerships.

New high-level initiatives are currently commencing within the UN, where an ad-hoc UN interagency task force and a joint action group have been established, with participants from ILO, WHO, ICAO, IMO, and relevant social partners. The task force will review the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world's transport workers and the global supply chain, including on seafarers' fundamental rights and on the shipping industry in general, and suggest solutions.

You are all aware that IMO actively pursues the transition of the shipping sector into a sustainable greener future, showcasing maritime innovation, research and development, as well as the active promotion of new technologies. The commitment of the Organization to sustainable shipping is reflected in this year's World Maritime Theme: "New technologies for greener shipping".

The theme will allow for a range of activities to delve into specific topics related to the promotion of innovation and the uptake of new technologies. It will focus on the importance of clean maritime transport and also the need to build back better and greener in a post-pandemic world.

Distinguished delegates,

Let me now turn to some of the major items on the agenda for this session.

Your Committee is expected to commence work on the development of a goal-based instrument regulating the operation of maritime autonomous surface ships, or MASS. This is following the successful conclusion of the regulatory scoping exercise and is expected to culminate in the adoption of a goal-based mandatory MASS Code in 2025, to ensure that, whatever degree of autonomy a ship may have, it will operate safely and reliably under all conditions. In this respect, I urge you to finalize the road map for the work to be carried out at this session, so that developments can proceed as planned.

Concerning maritime security, you will consider the update on global trends relating to piracy and armed robbery against ships. I am pleased to report that the number of incidents has continued to fall, notably in the Gulf of Guinea, with 38 incidents reported in 2021 compared to 90 in 2020. I would also note that the UN Security Council Resolution 2608(2021), which gave authorization to Member States to provide naval assets off the coast of Somalia, expired on 31 March 2022. Despite the global decrease in piracy and the ending of the Security Council Resolution, we must remain vigilant. I call upon international organizations, littoral States and industry stakeholders to continue their efforts to reduce the threat of piracy and armed robbery; and encourage Member States to continue to monitor the threat to ships flying their flag operating off the coast of Somalia and to set appropriate security levels in accordance with the ISPS Code. 

At this session you are scheduled to complete your work on domestic ferry safety. I encourage you to adopt the draft MSC resolution on Model Regulations on Domestic Ferry Safety. These model regulations are providing a framework to ensure the safe operation of domestic ferries which can be adapted by countries, as necessary, to suit their respective national conditions and requirements.

You are also expected to continue your consideration of further measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of oil fuel. A related working group is expected to be established, with the main aim of finalizing draft SOLAS amendments addressing the reporting of confirmed cases where oil fuel suppliers have failed to meet the flashpoint requirements, action against oil fuel suppliers in confirmed cases of deliveries of oil fuel not complying with the flashpoint requirements and documentation of the flashpoint of the actual fuel batch. I urge you to finalize these amendments to ensure that the safety risks associated with oil fuel can be mitigated appropriately. 

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

  • consideration of amendments to mandatory and non-mandatory instruments, in particular those addressing the modernization of the GMDSS;
  • goal-based new ship construction standards; and
  • the actions requested of you emanating from the reports of several sub-committees.

I am confident that you will apply the usual customary IMO spirit of cooperation in all your decisions and that, under the capable leadership of your Chair, Mrs. Medina of the United States, supported by the Vice-Chair, Mr. Mozas of Greece, you will have constructive discussions and reach agreement on the agenda items under consideration.

My best wishes to you all for a productive session.

Thank you.