Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR 7), 15-24 January 2020 (opening address)


(15 to 24 January 2020)

Good morning, distinguished delegates,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the seventh session of the Sub‑Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue. I particularly welcome those delegates who may be attending this Sub‑Committee for the first time. As this is the first meeting of 2020, I wish you all, and the maritime community at large, a happy, healthy, productive and successful new year.

Distinguished delegates,

2019 was a busy but also very successful year and all its achievements would not have been possible without our well established system of collaboration and cooperation. I will do my utmost to open even further our communication channels in order for us to face together the challenges that lie ahead for the shipping industry.

I urge you to be proactive and to deliver on the key issues you will be addressing, not only during this meeting but throughout the year and beyond, fulfilling the expectations and objectives set for the Organization and creating and sustaining an even safer, more secure, more environmentally friendly and more efficient maritime world.

I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about this year's World Maritime theme, which is "Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet". This theme will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and showcase the work that the International Maritime Organization and its Member States are undertaking to achieve the targets set by the SDGs.

The year 2020 will mark the beginning of a decade of action and delivery for the SDGs, not only for shipping but for life on the planet.

The shipping industry, supported by the IMO regulatory framework, has already started the transition towards a sustainable future through the adoption and continuous development of measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil, implement the Ballast Water Management Convention, protect the polar regions, reduce marine litter, improve the efficiency of shipping through the electronic exchange of information, meet the challenges of the digitalization of shipping and enhance the participation of women in the maritime community.

This year's World Maritime Day will be celebrated at IMO Headquarters on 24 September, and the annual parallel event will be organized by the Government of South Africa, in Durban, from 28 to 30 October.

Before turning to the important items on the agenda of this meeting, let me remind you that the submission of nominations for the 2020 IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea is open until 15 April 2020. For those of you who are not familiar with this prestigious annual Award: it was established by the Organization to provide international recognition to individuals who, sometimes at the risk of losing their own life, perform acts of outstanding bravery while attempting to rescue persons in distress at sea or to prevent catastrophic pollution of the marine environment. I look forward to receiving your nominations.

Distinguished delegates,

I would nw like to highlight some key issues among the many and various items on the agenda of NCSR 7.

According to the Modernization Plan of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, the GMDSS, you will be considering at this session draft amendments to SOLAS chapters III and IV and related consequential amendments to other existing instruments. This work will enable the use of modern communication systems in the GMDSS, while removing the requirement to carry obsolete systems. Given that this work should be completed in a timely fashion for the new GMDSS provisions to enter into force in 2024, I would encourage you to continue to progress this matter as a priority at this session since much work still remains to be done, in particular with respect to the related and consequential amendments to other existing instruments.

Connected to GMDSS services, you will also be considering a revision of the International SafetyNET Manual; reports on the performance of mobile satellite services recognized for use in the GMDSS; and a number of issues related to the dissemination of Maritime Safety Information and search and rescue related information through multiple recognized GMDSS services. I look forward to fruitful discussions.

Another important item on your agenda is the consideration of safety measures for non-SOLAS ships operating in polar waters. Noting the relevance of this matter, the Assembly, at its last session adopted resolution A.1137(31) on Interim safety measures for ships not certified under the SOLAS Convention operating in polar waters. The resolution urges Member States to implement, on a voluntary basis, the safety measures of the Polar Code, as far as practicable, for non-SOLAS ships operating in the Arctic and Antarctic, including fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and above and pleasure yachts of 300 gross tonnage and above not engaged in trade.

You will also be considering the revision of two important sets of guidelines, the Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services (resolution A.857(20)), adopted in 1997 in connection with SOLAS regulation V/12; and the Guidelines on places of refuge for ships in need of assistance (resolution A.949(23)). I look forward to seeing the outcome of your work in this regard.

Finally, I would also like to emphasize the importance of continuing to address search and rescue related issues to ensure that appropriate plans and procedures are in place to quickly assist persons in distress at sea.

Distinguished delegates,

I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully as usual, inspired by the customary IMO spirit of cooperation and under the competent leadership of your Chair, Mr. Ringo Lakeman of the Netherlands. I am sure that, ably supported by the staff of the Secretariat, you will make sound, balanced and timely decisions and I extend my best wishes to all of you for every success in your deliberations.

Finally, as is customary, all of you are cordially invited to a cocktail reception that I will be hosting in the Delegates' Lounge this evening, after the closure of today's session.

Thank you.