Nor-Shipping 2019 - The sustainable development of a ‘blue economy’

Nor-Shipping 2019
4 June, Oslo, Norway
Conference theme: “How to safeguard our fragile marine environment while developing commercial activity that benefits mankind”
Speech on “The sustainable development of a ‘blue economy’”
Speech by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General
International Maritime Organization

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here with you today. Nor-Shipping is one of the landmark trade events for the shipping industry. It is a showcase for technology and a forum for innovation and leadership.

I am very aware that, as the regulatory authority for international shipping, IMO indirectly drives much of the technology developments and policy initiatives that are being exhibited and discussed here.

So, for me, the opportunity to see directly how the shipping industry and its own equipment and service suppliers are responding to new challenges is both informative and helpful.

The theme chosen by the organizers for this conference could not be more pertinent for IMO.

As part of the United Nations family, IMO's vision and strategy is clearly aligned with global efforts to improve the lives of people everywhere and to reduce the negative impact of human development on our planet.

Today, action to breathe life into these values is focused around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It is widely recognized that most of the elements of the 2030 Agenda will only be realized with a sustainable transport sector – including shipping and ports – supporting world trade and facilitating the global economy. 

SDG 14, which deals with the oceans, is central to IMO. But aspects of the Organization's work can be linked to all the individual SDGs, and I believe the Organization is making good progress in working towards these goals.

Moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil and to require strict ballast water management are just three recent examples.

You could also add to these the adoption of the Polar Code, our involvement with the Global Partnership for Marine Litter and the development our own action plan on marine plastic litter, the special protection given to Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas and the financial compensation regimes established for pollution victims.

But shipping is just one of many stakeholders competing for use of the oceans. The world's oceans provide raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live and a place to relax.

The so-called "blue economy" of ocean-related business and activity is expanding rapidly.

The blue economy must be sustainable. It must not come at the expense of the ocean and marine ecosystems. But, sadly, it has been widely documented that the global marine environment and its resources are being over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale.. Growth in this sector – blue growth – must be balanced and sustainable.

The Nor-Shipping conference theme sums up perfectly the key question we face: "how to safeguard our fragile marine environment while developing commercial activity that benefits mankind."

Small Island Developing States are on the front line of this dilemma. They are often completely dependent on shipping for imports and exports and other maritime activities– but are also the most vulnerable to environmental pollution and climate change. And that's why they have such an important voice at fora such as IMO.

Topics that are paramount for our Member States, as they address the regulatory issues that will affect shipping, today and tomorrow include: IMO 2020: with the reduction of the sulphur content of ships' fuel-oil form 3.5% to 0.5%; the greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy, with its ambitious goal to reduce emissions by 50% by 2050 and work towards decarbonization by the end of this century; an action plan to reduce marine litter – especially plastic – and discussions to address Black Carbon emissions in the Arctic, all reinforce IMO's commitment to sustainable development.

One beneficial by-product of this is to drive changes in the global fleet and promoting new and more efficient ship designs and streamlining vessel operations.

IMO also plays a leadership role in major environmental projects like GloMEEP, GloFouling, the MTCC network initiative, MEPSEAS, the newly announced GreenVoyage 2050 project and many more, all established to enhance the environmental soundness and efficiency of shipping and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. This further illustrates how the regulatory drive created by IMO Member States is backed up by practical activities to raise awareness and build capacity.

In this context, let me just briefly mention Norway's valuable contribution. Both the Government of Norway and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) are among the most generous – and effective – supporters of IMO activities. Of our current projects, both MEPSEAS (Marine Environment Protection for South-East Asia Seas) and the GreenVoyage 2050 project are funded from Norwegian sources and I am really grateful to them for their support.

I am particularly encouraged by the strong private-sector elements to many of these projects, something I am sure resonates especially well at events like Nor-Shipping.

Ladies and gentlemen,

However, we must keep our sights on the future. Shipping must meet the increasing demands of its customers, and of society as a whole, with regard to environmental and social performance. It must continually adjust to new expectations and developments. At the same time, there is an equally strong pressure to achieve economic sustainability.

Are these two ideas mutually compatible? Higher standards of safety and environmental performance often come at an initial financial cost. But they also provide opportunities to find truly effective and financially sound solutions in the long-term.

New technological developments such as digitalization, artificial intelligence, robotics, increasing automation, including issues like cyber security as well as the availability of renewable and alternative energy sources, together with enhanced hull design and improved operational procedures to optimize performance can both improve environmental performance and safety of ships and cut operating costs at the same time.

And I have no doubt that the halls of Nor-Shipping this week will be filled with great examples of the kind of innovation needed to take shipping into a new era.

I can assure you that IMO is playing its part in building digitalization and new technologies into the regulatory framework and actively supporting the maritime industry in the uptake of these technologies. We are carrying out a scoping exercise into the use of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, or "MASS", to look into the regulatory aspects of autonomous vessels, from safety, security, liability and compensation aspects.

In addition, the utilization of new technologies to facilitate trade and enhance the efficiency of maritime transport in working practices, be it in marine communication and ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore interfaces, including issues of cybersecurity are being regularly discussed at IMO.

The global shipping sector is essential for a sustainable future. But maritime activities themselves need to be sustainable. And, for a commercial industry, economic sustainability is usually the most important consideration. But this has to be set against the oceans' capacity to remain healthy and diverse in the long term.

It is a delicate balance – and an important part of IMO's role is to ensure that shipping continues to make its contribution to global trade and development in a sustainable way.

Finally, allow me to highlight this year's theme for World Maritime Day: "Empowering Women in the Maritime Community". In order for shipping to be sustainable, we must draw talent from every corner of the globe – a diverse industry is a sustainable industry. While we are highlighting gender equality in the maritime industry this year, it is a continuing effort toward attainment of SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 8, decent work for all. I hope you will join IMO's efforts to bring attention to this important initiative. 

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by thanking the organizers of Nor-Shipping for the opportunity to speak at this important conference and commending them for their foresight in selecting such an important and timely topic.

Events such as this remind us that the world is no longer prepared to accept services or industries that are simply cost‑effective. We now demand them to be green, clean and energy-efficient and safe. Through IMO, governments ensure that shipping is responding to that challenge.

I wish you, and all the participants at Nor-Shipping, a successful and fruitful event.

Thank you.